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Characteristics of winning teams...and the Dallas Cowboys - Part 2

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The last time Dallas scored a rushing touchdown the Cowboys won: is there a correlation?

There are only five scoring plays in the NFL:

(1) Extra points (1 point)

(2) Extra points (2 points)

(3) Safeties

(4) Field goals

(5) Touchdowns

Touchdowns can be scored on defense, on special teams, and on offense. On defense, teams can score touchdowns from interception and fumble returns. On special teams, the ways to score touchdowns are more varied: a blocked punt or kick returned for a touchdown, a fumble returned for a touchdown, or a return of a punt or kick for a touchdown. On offense, like defense, there are only two ways to score a touchdown: passing or running the ball into the end zone.

For more of an explanation regarding the data used in this article, please depress this link:

http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2013/1/5/3839328/characteristics-of-winning-teams-and-the-dallas-cowboys-part-1

Successful teams score more touchdowns than unsuccessful teams. There is a correlation between wins and touchdowns scored (large red squares) which becomes stronger when the 0-16 Lions and 16-0 Patriots are removed (small blue dots).

Graph7_medium

The 2011 and 2012 Dallas Cowboys scored 38 and 37 touchdowns respectively. The Cowboys scored touchdowns consistent with teams that finished with 7 to 9 wins.

Dallas Cowboys

Offensive TD's

Wins to Offensive TD's

2012

37

7-9 wins: 35.58

2011

38

10-12 wins: 40.58

Breaking down the touchdowns further reveals the root of the Cowboys problems. Dallas compares favorably with teams winning at least 10 games a season thanks to the arm of Tony Romo.

Dallas Cowboys

Passing TD's

Wins to Passing TD's

2012

29

10-12 wins: 25.20

2011

33

13-15 wins: 33.07

Tony Romo had a decrease in touchdown passes (28) from 2011 (31). Despite this decrease in production, Romo posted his third best season in regards to touchdown passes (2007: 36 TD passes). Tony also had a good season in terms of completion percentage. His consistency is quite impressive considering the loss of Laurent Robinson and the development of Dez Bryant.

Dallas Cowboys

Completion %

Wins to completion %

2012

65.96%

10-12 wins: 62.19%

2011

65.96%

13-15 wins: 66.01%

As could be suspected, completion percentage also has a good correlation to winning. The better teams boast a more effective passing game than those teams that do not win. The Cowboys boast an elite passing offense that should be garnering more wins.

Graph8t_medium

Since the passing offense seems to be operating at elite levels, it can be surmised that the run offense must be lagging. There is a correlation between rushing touchdowns and wins, but it is not as strong as other correlations to winning described above. Removing the outstanding 2007 New England team and the abysmal 2008 Detroit team improves the correlation between winning and rushing touchdowns.

Graph9_medium

The Dallas Cowboys are beyond dreadful in running the ball into the end zone. For those that hoped for someone like Norv Turner to handle the offensive play calling in order to improve scoring, be advised that the San Diego Chargers had 4 rushing touchdowns this season.

Dallas Cowboys

Rush TD's

Wins to Rush TD's

2012

8

4-6 wins: 10.18

2011

5

1-3 wins: 8.31

Playoff teams rush for significantly more touchdowns than the Cowboys. Even teams that win 7-9 games rush for many more touchdowns than Dallas.

Wins

Rush TD's

7-9

13.25

10-12

15.38

13-15

16.07

The dearth of rushing touchdowns could be due to play calling, less than capable running backs, and/or poor offensive line play. There are certain statistics that suggest the Dallas offensive line has been primarily responsible for the inability of the team to score rushing touchdowns. Only having Murray starting 18 games over the last two seasons has also left the team without a power runner.

On the 52 carries where two yards or less were required by the offense to gain a first down or touchdown in 2012, the Cowboys managed to gain the necessary yardage 37 times: for a conversion rate of 71.15%. That includes gaining first downs on 17 of the 24 rushing attempts (70.83% success rate) on third or fourth down when two yards or less were necessary for a first down.

A success rate of 70.83% on third and fourth down and two yards or less is comparable with some of the worst teams in the league. The Jaguars converted 70.37% in similar situations and are ranked just above Dallas in rushing this season.

It is very possible that the Cowboys will continue to struggle to score more touchdowns until the team is able to develop a consistent power game. Considering that the last two times Dallas has made the playoffs (2007 and 2009) the Cowboys registered 14 rushing touchdowns, reestablishing an effective running attack in the red zone may be necessary for Dallas to move forward.

The eye test suggests that a significant investment should be made to upgrade the offensive line. The only two members that graded out well as run blockers (according to PFF: http://www.bloggingtheboys.com/2013/1/4/3834658/dallas-cowboys-roster-2012-positional-rankings-where-are-the-biggest-holes) last season were Tyron Smith and Nate Livings. Tyron and Nate had excellent run blocking scores, but Smith struggles on the left side with his pass blocking. The poor pass blocking by four of the five offensive linemen is further reinforced with the number of sacks Tony Romo has suffered the past two seasons: not to mention two sets of broken ribs, a pneumothorax, a bruised throwing hand, and countless strains and contusions.

Dallas Cowboys

Sacks

Wins to Sacks

2012

36

7-9 wins: 33.45

2011

39

4-6 wins: 39.64

During the 2009 off season, Jerry coined the term, "Romo-friendly". This quasi-strategy under Wade led to the release of Terrell Owens. Unfortunately, Jones, the General Manager of the Cowboys, spent the team's 2009 resources on acquiring 18 players through trades, free agency, and the draft. Only one player was an offensive lineman (and only two were linemen).

2009 player acquisition:

Roy Williams (WR), John Kitna (QB), Keith Brooking (ILB), Igor Olshansky (DE), Matt Stewart (LB), Gerald Sensabaugh (S), Jason Williams (LB), Robert Brewster (OT), Stephen McGee (QB), Victor Butler (OLB), Brandon Williams (OLB), DeAngelo Smith (CB), Michael Hamlin (S), David Buehler (K), Stephen Hodge (S), John Phillips (TE), Mike Mickens (CB), and Manuel Johnson (WR)

It seems that the shortsightedness of not investing in offensive linemen has finally caught up to the team. It is not surprising that team representatives are suggesting that offensive and defensive linemen are priorities in the 2013 NFL Draft.

More chances to score will also help this team. That will be explored next.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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