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Dallas Cowboys: Seven Statistical Nuggets To Feel Good About

Yeayyy, stat nuggets!
Yeayyy, stat nuggets!

Seven random statistical thoughts and musings as we revel in the warm afterglow of the win against the Redskins.

1. A tough schedule: Every team has now played three games, and only three teams remain unbeaten, the Packers, Bills and Lions. With the Lions coming to Dallas on Sunday, this means that for the first four weeks of the 2011 season, the Cowboys will have gone up against teams that were undefeated on game day (if we generously count the 0-0 Jets in week one as undefeated).

The current combined record of the first four Cowboys opponents: 9-3. No other team in the NFL will have had a tougher first four weeks as measured by the current 2011 W/L records. Six other teams have faced opponents with a combined 8-4 record (MIA, CIN, IND, DEN, OAK, KC). Predictably, the combined W/L record of these six teams is 4-14.

2. Too close for comfort: As brought to us courtesy of the Cowboys PR department, the last nine Cowboys games have been decided by three points or less, which is the longest streak of games with a point differential of three or less in NFL history. The previous long was held by the Raiders (six) from 2004-05. The Cowboys record in these games is 5-4. Auspiciously - and the Cowboys PR guys make no mention of this - the last game decided by more than three points was the 35-19 win against the Lions in week 11 last year.

3. Passing time: Tony Romo has been playing hurt through two games. Miles Austin missed the Redskins game. Dez Bryant missed the 49ers game and and wasn't his usual self in most of the two other games.

Yet the Cowboys are second in the league with 8.9 passing yards per attempt behind only the Patriots (10.0). The Cowboys' 1,003 passing yards in three games are ranked third in the league behind only the Patriots and Saints. And what's even more surprising: The Cowboys lead the league in big catches of more than 25 yards with 13. Whoever said the Cowboys don't go deep?

"He motivated me to go out there tonight when I obviously wasn't 100 percent," said Bryant, who was slowed by a thigh injury but still managed to make the critical third-and-21 catch that kept the Cowboys' final scoring drive alive. "I mean, broken rib, punctured lung, and he's out there. You've got to be willing to put yourself out there for a guy like that."

One passing streak did come to an end yesterday: Prior to Monday night, Tony Romo had thrown at least one touchdown pass in 20 straight games, dating all the way back to 2009. Romo's streak was the second-longest current active streak in the NFL behind only Drew Brees, who has a 30-game active streak, and who just tied Dan Marino's streak this weekend.

4. Looking Eastward::

  • The Eagles' star-studded defense has allowed 77 points so far this season and is ranked a tied 23rd in the league and 30th against the run. Did I mention that Michael Vick thinks "You can't design a defense to stop me"? Man, I will never tire of posting that link. Cue jokes about the dream team.
  • Eli Manning has only thrown two interceptions for the Giants this year, which must be some kind of record (though I can't be bothered to look it up). Sitting pretty at number one and two atop the INT leader board so far this year are Philip Rivers (6) and Tom Brady (5).
  • The mighty, undefeated, target-on-QB's-ribs-painting Redskins got DeAngelowned (hat tip to vvps). Today they'll be sounding off about how they'll stomp all over the woeful 0-3 Rams next week. We'll wait and see.

Here's another way to look at the NFC East standings: I've added the opponent W/L record and their cumulative points differential for the first three weeks of 2011.

Own Record Opponents through week 3
  W/L   W/L 
Opp. points differential
Dallas 2-1 6-3 53
Washington 2-1 5-4 14
New York 2-1 3-6 -46
Philadelphia 1-2 3-6 -68

At this point in the season, this year's opponent records start to matter. Who cares whether the 3-0 Bills were 4-12 last year? So what if the 3-0 Lions were 6-10 last year? Every season brings with it a significant shift in the fortunes of NFL teams. As you think about comparisons with other teams, keep this year's opponent record in mind. For example, you may be tempted to compare the 2-1 Cowboys with the 2-1 Texans or the 2-1 Browns. But the Cowboys got their wins against a combined 6-3 opponent W/L record, while the Texans got their record against a combined 2-7 opponent W/L record and the Browns sport a 1-8 opponent W/L.

And as you smile benignly upon the Bills and Lions fans and their transformation from losers to winners, keep in mind that the Cowboys are also smack in the middle of their own transformation. In just three weeks of the new season, they've moved from a last place finish in 2010 to the top of the division.

5. 300-yard games: There were 11 individual 300-yard passing performances in week three, which brings the season total to 34 individual 300-yard passing performances so far in 2011, the most ever through the first three weeks of a season. The second highest total through three weeks was 21 in 2009. For a change, Tony Romo was not among the 300-yarders this week.

6. The kicking game. I know it's early, but after three games, Dan Bailey has a 90% field goal percentage, converting 9 out of 10 tries. Kicking off for the injured David Buehler, Bailey even reached the endzone four times, notching two touchbacks in the process.

7. "Almost" Anthony no more? Not only did Anthony Spencer seal the deal against the Redskins with his fourth quarter strip sack, but he has quietly extended his streak of consecutive games with a sack to four, his career best.

"Spence was awesome," linebacker Bradie James said. "I was so excited. I mean, I was running on the sideline with him. I felt like I was making a play. And that’s the feeling that you have from the defensive side of the ball, because guys are really making plays all over the place, whatever their role is. Spence stepped up when we needed him, and that was great."

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