This is one of those Sesame Street questions. Which one of these doesn’t belong? If you picked 14.06, then here’s a cookie. If you didn’t, you might want to start watching Sesame Street again. So what exactly do these numbers represent? These are Romo’s YPA (yards per attempt) in each game so far this season. Now, I can go on and on about the merits of YPA, but most BTBers have heard ad nauseam about this stat. Suffice it to say, YPA is a good indicator of how easily your offense gets down the field. The lower the number, the harder it is for your offense to move the ball on passing plays.
For his career, Romo has been one of the best in the NFL in terms of YPA. A true gunslinger. His career average for YPA is 7.93, which is outstanding. This means that every time he passes the ball, we move 8 yards down the field, on average. That’s higher than Drew Bress, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning. That’s even almost 1 YPA higher than the original gunslinger, Brett Favre.
As a result, the Cowboys have never had a problem going up and down the field on average during the season. Our main culprit for many years was our inability to score TDs in the red zone. That has drastically changed this year. So why are we still 3-3? Besides a suspect defense (which I will get to shortly), we’re not moving the ball as well as we have in the past. Boy, wouldn’t it be great if we could finally combine a good red zone team with our offense of the past few years? Let’s expound on that.
Romo’s lowest YPA in a season was in 2010, in which he posted a very respectable 7.54, despite missing most of the season and playing for a very bad team. His lowest 16 game season total was last year, 7.57. He has 4 seasons of an YPA higher than 8. So basically, Romo can move the ball. That has never been his problem…until this year.
But wait, you say, his YPA this year is 7.77! Lucky 7s! Ahh, but that’s why I started this post with a list of his YPA for each game this season. The Denver game was awesome. That was a Romo we have never seen before. Each pass seemed magical, destined for huge chucks. What a game, what a game…but even Romo’s staunchest supporters will agree that was a once in lifetime game. That is to say, it won’t be repeated anytime soon. An outlier. Take out the Denver game, and Romo’s normally robust YPA shrinks down to 6.71 on the season.
Romo has already posted YPA under 7 in three games so far. He had 5 all of last season, his lowest 16 game season total of his career. He had 3 in all of 2011, and 2 of those came in back to back blowouts (Rams win and Eagles loss). He had 4 in 2009, including a career stinker of 4.38 in that first ever game in Jerry World (Weird side note: his previous career low came in the last game at the old Cowboys stadium. Keep Romo away from opening/closing of stadiums!). (Another weird side note: Romo’s career outlier of under 7 YPA games? 8 games. You probably wouldn’t guess it, but it was the 13-3 2007 season. He had 4 consecutive games under 7 to end the season. Why? Probably because we already wrapped up the #1 seed. The offense was so explosive that year that Romo still averaged 8.10 for the season Crazy. Side note to the side note: I’ve always been mad at how they finished that season. After the huge win over the Packers, which essentially decided the #1 seed, they clearly let up and had absolutely no momentum going into the playoffs). Point is, he only averages 4 or so games of an YPA under 7, and he already has 3 in 6 games, on pace for 8 games, and there will be no 13-3 excuse if that happens.
Boys and girls, that’s bus driver territory. This appears to be by design, as either Romo or Callahan, or both, or Jerry, or Garrett…(sorry I digress) decided he needed to be more conservative and to “take what the defense gives you.” That’s what they teach in Bus Driving 101. Alex Smith is the star student of that class, who has a laughable career average of 6.52 and is driving Andy Reid’s bus this year at a 6.16 pace. So how does this correlate to us being 3-3 again?
Our defense failed us in the Denver game. That’s a loss no matter how you cut it. Let’s take a look at the Kansas City and San Diego games. Romo’s YPA in those games was 7.10 and 6.65, both way below his career average. And the only reason Romo had an YPA over 7 in the KC game was due to Dez Bryant’s 1st quarter. Had Romo kept up that pace, his YPA would have been outstanding and we would have won that game. You can argue that Romo’s ribs were still sore, and that may be true, but it is what it is. We only scored 16 points, no matter the excuses. We also only scored 14 points on offense against the Chargers.
Our defense has failed us this year. YPA or no, that much is clear. No way should we have lost after scoring 48 points against Denver. No way should we have allowed Rivers to torch us for 400 yards and 30 points. No way should Eli-I-throw-interceptions-just-getting-out-of-bed-Manning torch us for 400 yards and 4 TDs. So in a year of a very bad defense, we’re going the bus driver route? Really? Of all the years of Romo’s gunslinging, we’re going conservative this year? Do you know why Alex Smith is 6-0 this year? It’s sure in the heck not because of their putrid offense. Bus driving is great when you have an awesome defense.
In the year of finally having a stellar O-line, we’re going to take the dinks and dunks? It’s ok, though. One thing a good bus driving team needs is a good running game. Oh, wait…we’re really going to bus drive when we don’t even run the ball? We’re going to run a high-flying, spread offense that…dinks and dunks? We’re asking Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams and Miles Austin and Jason Witten to hop aboard the bus? Really?
There’s only one way to mask a bad defense. And the people over in Denver already know the answer. You just gotta come out hot against each opponent. Be relentless. Run up the scoreboard. Make the other team react to your offensive pace. Good things will happen, I promise you. But we only did that against Denver. And that’s why we’re 3-3 instead of 5-1. Our conservative offense has gone stagnant in 4 out of 6 games and our defense has been shredded this year.
Garrett, I’m begging you, UNLEASH THE GUNSLINGER!