This was my final thought after Sunday's victory against the Rams, expressed in a tweet.
One quick thought. On a day when we fell behind by 21 in the first half: 23 passing attempts 29 rushing attempts.— Jason Thomas (@neithan2000) September 21, 2014
Let that sink in, I'll wait. Okay ready? So after reflecting on those numbers, can you guess what we've learned about the Dallas Cowboys after three weeks?
Dallas is a run first offense: In two out of our three games so far this season, Dallas has fallen behind by at least 21 points. Yet despite playing from behind for most of the season here are the number of run and pass plays through three games:
Pass Plays: 89
Run Plays: 95
That's right ladies and gentlemen. The Tony Romo led, Jason Garret coached, Scott Linehan coordinated Dallas Cowboys have run the ball more than passed it threw three games. Who saw that coming? And this isn't the case where one game is completely skewing the results; we've run more than passed in each of the past two games, one of which we dominated from start to finish, the other where we fell behind by 21 points by the second quarter.
When was the last time Dallas started a season with at least 95 rushing attempts in the first three games? You have to go all the way back to 2003, when we rushed 101 times in the first three games. Of course, we also lined up Quincy Carter under center for those games, so running made sense. You have to go back another three years, to 1999 to find a time we've rushed this much with a decent quarterback under center.
Actually, this amount of rushing was pretty common back in the Triplet years. In the five years from 1992 to 1996 the Cowboys only missed the 95 rush mark once, in 1993. Here are the numbers:
|Cowboys rushing performance through first three games|
|Year||Rush Attempts||W/L Record||Yards/Carry||Total Yards|
|2014||95||2 – 1||4.95||470|
|1996||95||1 – 2||3.52||334|
|1995||96||3 – 0||5.71||548|
|1994||109||2 – 1||4.35||474|
|1992||100||3 – 0||4.23||423|
Right now this year's running offense fits right in with the glory years of the early 90's. Even better, take a look at the YPC and total yards for 2014 and compare them to the others. Except for Emmitt Smith's insane 1995 year, the 2014 rushing offense is off to a better start than any year of the triplet era.
Let's all take a moment and bask in the glory of that thought.
So What Did We Know?
Maybe it's better to say, what did we remember? Well we remembered that Dallas is an explosive offense. We knew that going into the season. It's what we talked about this offseason, how Dallas's offense might be explosive enough to overcome our historically bad defense. But I think many Dallas fans forgot this fact sometime between shooting ourself in the foot against San Fransisco and methodically running over Tennessee. Romo looked shaky, Witten wasn't being targeted much, and we all kind of forgot just how good our offense could be.
Well, Dallas decided to remind us in week three. In a 26 minute stretch (or a little less than a half), Dallas scored 27 points against a Rams defense filled with first-round picks. It was an offensive clinic, with methodical drives interspersed with big plays (the DeMarco Murray 44 yard run, the Dez Bryant 68 yard TD).
And it's not like the offense just woke up against the Rams. The scoreboard didn't reflect it, but Dallas's offense had its way against the 49ers moving up and down the field at will, when it wasn't shooting itself in the foot with turnovers. Four of our drives were 10 plays or more. We had 26 first downs, and averaged 6.1 yards per play.
The offense wasn't quite so explosive against the Titans, but then again, when you're rushing for 5.1 yards a pop over 40+ carries, you don't really need to be.
What It All Means
A lot of people have commented that Jason Garrett seems to be trying to replicate the early 90's teams that he was on and so far that seems to be the case. Like those early 90's teams this team is a run first team that wants to wear down the opposition and control time of possession. But sometimes that gameplan doesn't work and you fall behind by 21 points and have to catch up. You have to be explosive. The last time Dallas came back down from 21 points the Triplets were wearing the star. It seems fitting that this team joined them.