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Sunday Morning Bloody Mary: Containing Big Game Performances Key To Cowboys Future Success

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300+ yards passing, 100+ yards rushing and 100+ yards receiving are statistical milestones that are correctly labeled as 'Big Games' for the players who achieve them. When a player puts up those kinds of numbers, he was at least very successful, perhaps even dominant against the opponent.

Depending on the type of fantasy football league you were playing in, 100-yard rushers, 100-yard receivers and 300-yard passers could be highly rewarding if you had them on your roster. But do big game performances help teams win games in the real world of the NFL?

Few things are more exciting for a Cowboys fan than watching Tony Romo or Jon Kitna pass for more than 300 yards (and win), Miles Austin notch another 100+ yards receiving day and the occasional 100+ yards rushing game by one of the three Cowboys running backs. But few things are more disheartening than seeing opposing offenses do the same to the Cowboys. After all, for every big game performance by an offensive player, there is a defense that allowed those performances.

Despite their 6-10 record, the Cowboys did manage to put together a number of big game performances. But they also gave up quite a few. Read on to find out who the big game players were last season and which teams came out ahead in the big game column.

1. 300+ Passers

Player Team 300+ games
Drew Brees Saints 7
Peyton Manning Colts 7
Matt Schaub Texans 7
Kyle Orton Broncos 6
Philip Rivers Chargers 6
Aaron Rodgers Packers 5
Tom Brady Patriots 4
Jon Kitna Cowboys 4
Eli Manning Giants 4
Carson Palmer Bengals 4

Quarterbacks passed for 300 or more yards 96 times in 2010. That's just shy of the NFL record of 104 set in 2009, but easily ahead of the third place mark of 76 from the 2008 season. If you needed any more evidence that the NFL has become a passing league, this is it.

In 2009, Tony Romo had his highest career season total with eight 300+ games. He had notched 2 more to start the season before his injury. Jon Kitna added four more 300+ games to give the Cowboys a total of six such games last year, tied for fourth in the league.

But passing for more than three hundred yards was by no means a guarantee that a team would win. The combined record of the 10 Sir Pass-A-Lots in the table on the right is 24-30, or .444. In 2009, the nine QBs with five or more 300+ games had a W/L record of 48-13, or .787. This could be an indication that the passing game hit a bump in 2010, but is more likely due to some of the big game offenses (DEN, DAL, HOU, CIN, IND) fielding some of the worst defenses in the league last year.

In total, 35 QBs threw for 300+ yards at least once in the 2010 season. The combined W-L record of all QBs in 300+ passing games: 47-49, or .489.

The Dallas defense last year allowed five 300+ yard passing games, up from just one the year before. That Peyton Manning and Drew Brees would each record a 300+ passing fest against the Cowboys is not surprising. That Eli Manning did it twice is perhaps less surprising than infuriating, and that even Rex Grossman would have one against the Cowboys is downright shameful.

2. 100+ Receivers

Player Team 100+ games
Mike Wallace Steelers 7
Andre Johnson Texans 6
Brandon Lloyd Broncos 6
Miles Austin Cowboys 5
Dwayne Bowe Chiefs 5
Greg Jennings
Packers 5
Roddy White
Falcons 5

In total, a receiver notched more than 100 yards receiving 181 times last season. 93 different receivers recorded at least one 100+ yards receiving game in 2010, eclipsing the old record of 78 set just a year earlier in 2009.

The combined W-L record of the seven receivers listed on the left in games in which their receiving yards exceeded 100 is 19-20, or .487.

Miles Austin holds the dubious distinction of being the only one among this elite group of receivers to have recorded all his 100+ yard receiving efforts in losses. His five-game total in 2010 matches his total from the 2009 campaign. Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Roy Williams each had one 100+ yard receiving game, bringing the Cowboys total to eight games, tied for sixth most in the league.

Overall, a 100+ yard receiving game was not strongly correlated to winning in 2010. The W/L record of teams in games with a 100+ yard receiver is 97-84, significantly down from the 103-60 in 2009, another indication that some of the big play offenses did not have the success they had in previous years.

The Cowboys allowed nine receivers to rack up 100 yards or more against them in 2010, including two in one game when the Giants' Hakeem Nicks and Steve Smith ran all over the Cowboys secondary in week 7. Those nine receivers are tied for third most allowed in the league. In 2009, the Cowboys allowed only four receivers to surpass the 100 yards mark. It should not come as a big surprise that three out of the four were to Giants wide receivers: Steve Smith (twice) and Mario Manningham, as well as the Chargers' Vincent Jackson

3. 100+ Rushers

Player Team 100+ games
Arian Foster
Texans 8
Chris Johnson Titans 8
Michael Turner Falcons 7
Darren McFadden Raiders 6
Maurice Jones-Drew Jaguars 6
Adrian Peterson Vikings 5
Peyton Hillis Browns 5

44 different Running backs rushed for 100+ yards 124 times in 2010.

The combined W-L record of the seven running backs listed on the right in games where they rushed for 100+ yards is 32-14, or .696,  the W/L record for all 124 100+ yard games is 90-34, or .726.

No Cowboys running back came close to the top of this list. Felix Jones and Tashard Choice each had one 100+ yards rushing game, Marion Barber did not.

The Cowboys did play against three of the running backs in the list, Foster, Johnson and Jones-Drew. All three gashed the Cowboys for more than 100 yards. In total, the Cowboys gave up five 100+ yard rushing performances. In 2009, the Dallas defense allowed exactly zero, nada, zilch, 100+ yards rushing games by a single running back. Those were the days.

The Cowboys' big play performances on offense dropped from 19 in 2009 to 16 in 2010, quite remarkable considering that the starting QB was out for the majority of the season.

In 2009, the Cowboys defense gave up five big play performances (1x passing, 4x receiving). In 2010 that number ballooned to 19. Rob Ryan's assignment for next season is to figure out out how to keep the opposing offense's big game weapons in check. Especially the Giants' wide receivers.

Ranking NFL teams by Big Game Performances, 2010 (Click on the column heading to sort by column)

Team 300+ yds passing games
100+ yds receiving games 100+yds rushing games 300+ yds passing allowed 100+ yds receiving allowed 100+ yds rushing allowed
Big Game Differential
SD 6 9 4 0 4 3 12
PIT 3 11 3 2 5 0 10
NO 7 6 2 2 2 3 8
NYG 4 9 6 3 5 4 7
GB 5 10 1 3 4 3 6
OAK 2 5 8 2 3 5 5
SF 2 6 5 2 6 0 5
CIN 4 8 3 2 5 4 4
HOU 7 9 8 6 10 4 4
IND 7 8 2 2 4 7 4
KC 2 5 6 1 5 3 4
PHI 4 7 6 3 9 2 3
MIN 1 4 5 1 4 3 2
NE 4 7 2 5 6 1 1
DEN 7 8 2 5 4 8 0
MIA 3 6 0 2 5 2 0
ATL 1 6 8 5 7 4 -1
NYJ 2 4 3 2 7 1 -1
CAR 1 1 4 2 2 4 -2
JAC 1 3 9 5 5 5 -2
DAL 6 8 2 5 9 5 -3
STL 1 1 4 2 4 3 -3
DET 3 7 1 3 6 6 -4
BUF 2 5 3 1 5 9 -5
CLE 0 1 5 2 5 4 -5
CHI 1 3 3 4 7 2 -6
TB 0 2 4 0 4 8 -6
BAL 1 4 2 5 6 3 -7
TEN 1 4 8 8 9 3 -7
WAS 5 4 3 4 10 5 -7
ARI 1 6 2 2 8 7 -8
SEA 2 4 0 5 6 3 -8

 

ENJOY WITH ABSOLUT RESPONSIBILITY®