DeMarco Murray just set a new NFL record by rushing for 100+ yards for seven consecutive games to start an NFL season. 100+ yard passing, just like 300+ yard passing or 100+ yards receiving, remain key statistical achievements, even in this day and age of offense-friendly football.
In general, when a player hits those kinds of numbers, he was at least very successful, perhaps even dominant against his opponent. Depending on the type of fantasy football league you're playing in, 100-yard rushers, 100-yard receivers and 300-yard passers are highly rewarding if you have 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 DeMarco Murray rush for 100+ yards, Tony Romo pass for more than 300 yards, and Dez Bryant notch another 100+ yards receiving day. Murray has seven such Big Games this year, Romo uncharacteristically only has one, and Dez Bryant has two such Big Games. How does that compare to other teams in the league, and more importantly, how does the Cowboys defense compare versus other teams in terms of Big Games allowed?
1. 300+ Passers
9 tied at two games each: Kirk Cousins, Jay Cutler, Andy Dalton, Austin Davis, Mike Glennon, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Ryan
In 2012, Tony Romo had his highest career season total with nine 300+ games. With just nine more games to go in the 2014 regular season, and only one 300+ yard game on his stat sheet, it's unlikely that Romo will match his season total from 2012. Especially now that the Cowboys have a running game worth talking about.
In any case, passing for more than three hundred yards is by no means a guarantee that a team will win. In 2013, the combined record of QBs throwing for 300+ yards was a decidedly average 60-58.
The numbers are a little more QB friendly this season. Through Week 7, the record of QBs in 300+ yard games stands at 30-17.
In 2013, the Cowboys defense allowed six 300+ yard passing games, losing five and winning just one (the season opener against the Giants). This year, the Cowboys have allowed two such games (against the Saints and Rams) so far and have won both.
2. 100+ Receivers
9 tied at two games each, including Dez Bryant
In total, 51 receivers notched 100+ yards 79 times so far this season.
The combined W/L record of those receivers is 45-33, which is roughly in line with the winning record of the Sir-Pass-A-Lot QBs listed above.
But that W/L record may not last very long. Last year, the wins and losses were much more evenly distributed at 114-94.
Among the receivers listed on the left, DeSean Jackson holds the dubious distinction of being the only receiver among this elite group to have recorded all his 100+ yard receiving efforts in losses.
The Cowboys allowed 10 receivers to rack up 100+ yards against them in 2013, including three different Giants players. This year, the Cowboys have allowed just one such performance over seven games, and that wasn't even to a wide receiver: tight end Delanie Walker of the Titans had 142 receiving yards in a losing Week 2 effort against the Cowboys.
3. 100+ Rushers
27 different running backs rushed for 100+ yards 45 times so far in 2013. Most impressive among those backs is DeMarco Murray, who rushed straight into the NFL record books with his performance over seven games.
The combined W-L record of all running backs in games where they rushed for 100+ yards this season is 32-11, even better than the 61-34 record last season, though you probably have to be careful about cause and effect here: teams with a lead tend to run a lot more than teams attempting to come back from a deficit.
The Cowboys have allowed one back to run for 100+ yards so far this year when Arian Foster totaled 157 yards in Week 5, but outside of that, they've kept it clean.
Last year, the Cowboys allowed six 100+ rushers, with all of those six performances coming in the last eight games of the season, when the Cowboys defensive line was running on fumes and street free agents.
Overall, the Cowboys have had 10 Big Game performances so far this year, and have only allowed four such performances on defense for a Big Game Differential of +6, which is a significant improvement over last year's -6 differential (16 big games on offense, 22 big games allowed on defense).
Here's how the Cowboys compare across the league so far in 2014; for your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).
|Ranking NFL teams by Big Game Performances, 2014|
|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|
Looking at the table above, it's hard not to argue that Big Games by individual players can have a significant impact on a team's fortunes. The 2014 Cowboys rank at the top of the league in Big Games by their offensive players, thanks in large part to the re-invigorated ground game. But the real surprise here is the turnaround on defense. Where Dallas used to be a reliable enabler of Big Games by opposing players, Rod Marinelli's defense has been highly effective at containing Big Games by opposing players. And that's a good thing.