Cowboys vs Lions: Offensive Efficiency 2009-2013...

With the move from Bill Callahan to Scott Linehan as the offensive play caller for 2014, I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast some offensive numbers from 2009 - 2013. In these Seasons it was Linehan running the offense for Detroit and Jason Garrett then Bill Callahan running it for Dallas.

A caveat:

In 2009 Detroit was coming off of the worst season in professional football history, going 0-16 and were now breaking in their rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford (and also some Shaun Hill because of injury). So the numbers here are going to be a bit of an aberration to the other years that we'll be looking at, but let's look at them nonetheless.

In looking at the tables, I want to make a few observations.

Red Zone Touchdown Percentage
Dallas Detroit
2009 51 (18) 47 (26)
2010 60% (10) 64% (2)
2011 49% (20) 66% (1)
2012 51% (20) 60% (7)
2013 69% (3) 63% (4)

Red Zone Touchdown Percentage. We saw that the Cowboys improved in that area last year, but as you can see in years past, and typically under Garrett as the play caller (2009-2012), this team struggled in the Red Zone. Only in the Callahan year of calling the plays and once with Garrett, did the team begin to convert better than 60% inside the Red Zone. Is it play calling or better play from the team. I think a bit of both. Down near the Red Zone you want to be able to throw more of the West Coast type routes (slants, out routes, short hitches) and let your players do more work. I also think that as the offensive line improves, it increases your ability to convert in the Red Zone. They area to throw the ball decreases and sometimes you need more time to let your receivers find soft spots in the zone. I also think that the running game is key in the red zone. The better you run it overall, the better your chances of converting inside the 20. Teams can't just sit back in zone and expect you to throw it. That's what this team did last year. What you can see is that Linehan led offenses seemed to do really well consistently once they got inside the 20. Converting at more than 60% every year aside from the 2009 Stafford rookie season finishing higher than 7th each season.

Dallas Detroit
2009 17.7 (25) 18.3 (27)
2010 14.8 (13) 15 (15)
2011 16.3 (20) 13.4 (5)
2012 15.9 (19) 17.6 (27)
2013 12.4 (1) 15.9 (23)

What the Yards/point stat tells me is that neither team outside of the 2013 Cowboys and the 2011 Lions were all that efficient with the yards they gained. It's like Home Runs per at bat. You want to have the least amount of at bats per home run as possible. The higher the number the worse you were at converting your yards into points. We have seen this in the past with Cowboys teams. Great between the 20's, but struggling to put touchdowns on the board. I think last years version of the Cowboys offense was just a better offense. Better weapons with the emergence of Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, DeMarco Murray, Lance Dunbar to help Jason Witten and Dez Bryant. This team has a slew of weapons that can hurt you now. You can't just double Witten and double Bryant and make Miles Austin beat you. This team has multiple players that are capable of finding a soft spot in the defense and making them pay. Tony Romo is great at finding the open guy. He doesn't zero in on people. I think this is a stat that will hold up this year as well. With the Emergence of Gavin Escobar, I envision more of their drives ending in scores rather than stalling at the defenses' forty yard line and having to punt.

Dallas Detroit
2009 2.6 (13) 1.8 (27)
2010 2.9 (8) 2.6 (15)
2011 2.4 (15) 3.6 (4)
2012 2.6 (16) 2.4 (19)
2013 3.2 (6) 3 (8)

Dallas has typically been at the top half of the league in TD's/game (This only takes into account Offensive touchdowns). Never finishing worse than 16th, while Detroit has been similar in their ability to score touchdowns (aside from 2009). I like this kind of consistency in my offense being able to score TD's. Hopefully this will improve this year with the further growth and development of the young offensive weapons to go with the offensive line. Sustain more drives on third down. Get into the red zone more and get 7. I think they scored more TDs last year because they had more guys to help out in the Red Zone.

Dallas Detroit
2009 22.1 (16) 16.4 (27)
2010 24.6 (9) 22.6 (15)
2011 23.1 (15) 29.5 (4)
2012 23.5 (14) 23.2 (16)
2013 27.4 (5) 24.7 (12)

Points per game is another area where both teams have been pretty consistent. Again, aside from Stafford's rookie year in Detroit both teams finished in the top half of the league in points scored. Detroit in similar fashion to the Cowboys has been plagued by a pours defense over the last several years. Dallas has a great chance at maintaining a top 5 ranking in points/game. Throw in the weapon that is Dan Bailey who accounted for nearly 2 FG's a game last year to the 3 Touchdowns per game that the offense scored and you have the recipe for a team that will put up a lot of points.

Field Goals Made/Game
Dallas Detroit
2009 1.3 (25) 1.3 (24)
2010 1.5 (17) 1.6 (14)
2011 2 (3) 1.4 (25)
2012 1.8 (10) 2 (5)
2013 1.8 (12)

1.2 (31)

I like this stat. Not because I like field goals, but because I think FG made/game along with points/game can be a telling sign of how efficiently your offense performs. If your offense is consistently getting within field goal range, but still scoring Touchdowns and finishing in the 20's in points per game, then you probably have a pretty efficient offense. If they aren't scoring a lot of points, but are making a lot of field goals, then they probably aren't very efficient. Look at the 2011 version. They made 3 FGs per game but scored less than 2.5 TD's per game and only averaged 23.1 points per game. If they convert just one of those field goals made into another touchdown, then they probably finish better than 8-8. Field Goals help you win games, but too many and you probably aren't winning very many. Seattle, New England, San Fran, and Indianapolis all finished inside the top 10 in FG made/game. They all, also finished inside the top 13 (San Fran at 13) in points per game. But lets look at the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets who finished 5th and 6th respectively. They also finished 22nd and 29th in the NFL in points per game.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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