In the next couple of weeks, I will be offering a series of posts on five key moments, decisions, or events that impacted the Cowboys 2013 season. As I was looking over the individual games in the process of compiling the raw material for those posts, I was struck by the amount of historical numbers produced by the team this year. As might be expected for a season during which the defense was historically bad, not all of these numbers will warm your Cowboys-lovin' hearts. Not all of them are about "bad defense," however; in general, 2013 featured a cornucopia of unusual - nay, anomalous - statistical feats. Lets take a look at them, considering them as hors d'ouvres designed to whet our appetites for the five-course (er, five post) meal to come.
- The Cowboys' offensive skill position players achieved some milestone numbers this season. Dez Bryant had 1,233 receiving yards; DeMarco Murray churned out 1,121 yards on the ground, and Tony Romo amassed 3,828 passing yards. Surprisingly, this is the first time this happened since the tail end of the triplets' heyday in 1997. Since then, they have had numerous 1,000 yard receivers (seven different guys, for a total of 16 1,000-yard seasons) and a goodly amount of 3,000-yard passers (four QBs, nine seasons over three grand in the air). The key has been rushers. Since Emmitt Smith's last 1,000 yard season, in 2001, the Cowboys had registered only one such milestone, with Julius Jones' 1,084 in 2006.
- Tony Romo's average yards per attempt against Denver, on 36 attempts, was a staggering 14.06. This total was exceeded only once in his career as a starter, in the 2007 opener, a 45-35 victory over the Giants.
- In NFL history, the winning percentage for quarterbacks with a passer rating of 140.0 or more (on at least 30 attempts) is .979; teams are 97-2 when their QB achieves these numbers. Stunningly, both of those losses belong to Tony Romo - in the epic loss to the Broncos and at home against the Giants in 2011.
- Against Green Bay, the Cowboys had the most productive offensive first half in their history, piling up 327 yards (and limiting the Packers to 120 yards in the process).
- Before the collapse against Green Bay, the Cowboys were 42-0 in games in which they led by 20 or more points at halftime. Their record now stands at 42-1.
- Against the Vikings, the Cowboys passed on 87 percent of their plays from scrimmage, an NFL season high. (on nine rushing attempts, a franchise low). And, according to ESPN's Stats and Information gurus, the Cowboys' 51 attempted passes marked only the sixth time since 2006 that a team won despite dropping back at least 80 percent of the time.
- In their blowout loss at New Orleans, the Cowboys were outgained by 431 yards by the Saints, the third-largest margin in the last 25 years. It was the largest margin since the New England Patriots outgained the Tennessee Titans by 439 yards in a 59-0 win in 2009.
- In the same game, the Saints reeled off 40 first downs, an NFL record. The Saints never faced more than two third downs on any of their drives; on one of those in which they did, the second occasion was a third and goal that resulted in a 1-yard Pierre Thomas scoring run. On the night, New Orleans was 9-12 on third down conversions, meaning that 30 of their conversions happened on first or second down plays.
- In another lopsided loss, on a frigid night in Chicago, the Bears punted exactly zero times. The last time Chicago didn't have a single punt in a game occurred more than forty years ago, in October, 1972. And, to make matters worse, the Bears had no turnovers or failed fourth-down conversions. Chicago was 8-11 on third down, with the three failed conversions coming in field goal range. In other words, with eight opportunities to stop a drive, the Cowboys went O-fer. And they weren't all easy, short-yardage jobs; the Bears converted third downs of 8, 9, 10, 10, 12, and 14 yards.
- On that night, the Bears amassed a grand total of 33 first downs, marking the third time in 2013 wherein the Cowboys surrendered 30 or more first downs (a figure that could be worse; they yielded 26 to the Packers, 27 to the Chargers and 29 to the Lions). A bit of perspective is in order: in the 814 games in franchise history, this has happened only on ten occasions. And three of them have happened during the 2013 campaign.
- After the New Orleans and Chicago debacles, the Cowboys were last in the league in yards differential, having allowed 1,280 more yards than they gained. Solid performances against the Packers (I know, right?!), Redskins and Eagles lifted them out of the cellar, to 31st in the NFL, behind only Jacksonville. At season's end, Dallas was outgained by 1,188 yards, or 74.2 yards per contest.
- The Cowboys are the first team in NFL history to allow four opposing quarterbacks to throw for at least 400 yards in a single season, a feat they managed to accomplish at the halfway mark.
- The Cowboys defense yielded at total of 388 first downs, the worst mark in the league, and second most in history, behind (or in front of?) only the 1981 Colts.
- The Cowboys fielded 41 different defensive players in 2013, the most in the NFL. A staggering 19 of those were defensive linemen. What would you have said if I told you a year ago that Nick Hayden would take the most defensive line snaps in 2013? Probably that the Cowboys would go 4-12...
- In weeks 16 and 17 of the season, Dallas' starting linebacker trio was Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman and Bruce Carter. That was the sixth starting combo the team fielded on the season.
- Only twice in their history have the Cowboys had a +5 turnover margin and won by less than a touchdown. The first occurred in 1992, in a 31-27 win at Denver. The second was in the season opener, at home against the Giants. Before that night, the Cowboys had been involved in twelve games in which they enjoyed a +5 turnover advantage; the average margin of victory in those games was 21.75 points.
- Along these lines: in Jason Garrett's three-plus seasons, the Cowboys have lost only three times when they had a positive turnover differential (in 2012, for example, every game in which they had a plus margin ended in a victory and every time Dallas had a "minus" TO differential they lost). Curiously, two of the three plus-differential losses cam in a three week period in the middle of the 2013 season. The lone outlier was the 2011 contest at New England, when the Cowboys generated four turnovers - and a +2 margin - and fell 20-16).
- In 57 total road games since Jason Garrett took over the offense in 2007 (including the playoff loss at Minnesota in 2009), the Cowboys have failed to score 20 or more points in 23 of them - that's 40%. In 2007, there was one such loss, the meaningless season-ender at Washington. Since then, the Cowboys have suffered from three to five such offensive misfires. And here's the (unsurprising) kicker: in those 23 games, the Cowboys are 5-18, with most of those 18 losses numbering among the most frustrating and controversial in recent years.
- In his career, Tony Romo has lead a comeback in the fourth quarter or overtime 23 times - a mark that is second in the NFL during that span only to Peyton Manning. Moreover, Romo has now completed 72 percent of his fourth-down passes, the highest completion percentage of any active quarterback. And the tighter the game, the more clutch Romo gets in this regard: with his final pass of the 2013 season, his scintillating toss to DeMarco Murray, Romo stood at 21 for 26 on fourth-down throws in the fourth quarter or overtime.
- For his career, Dan Bailey now has eight game-winning kicks in the fourth quarter or overtime. Dude has ice in his veins.
- In Garrett's three and a half seasons as head coach, the Cowboys have played 56 games. 37 of those have been decided by a touchdown or less - that's just at two-thirds of their games. Given the vagaries of the NFL game, which all but ensure that all teams' records in close games (regardless of quality) hover around .500, the Cowboys are essentially giving up a touch above five losses per season by playing it close to to the vest and waiting for Romo and Bailey to work their magic in the fourth quarter.
Hope you liked the appetizer. Your next courses will be out shortly...
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