By any measure, the Dallas Cowboys have had a fantastic season in 2016. Here are just a few of the accolades, accomplishments and steps forward the team has taken so far, laid out in a “by the numbers” approach.
13. The Cowboys number of games won in the regular season, tying for the most wins in franchise history. Since the NFL went to a 16 game schedule in 1978, this is only the third time the Cowboys have won 13 regular season games: 1992, 2007, and now 2016.
13. The number of victories led by Dak Prescott, tying him with Ben Roethlisberger for most victories by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
11. The number of games in the row the Cowboys won, between the September 11th opening day loss to the Giants and the December 11th loss to the Giants at the Meadowlands. This blows away the previous franchise record of eight wins in a row held by the 1977 Super Bowl winning team led by Roger Staubach and Tony Dorsett.
8. The number of consecutive 400-yard games posted by the Cowboys, tying them with two of the most prolific offenses of all time. The Cowboys broke the team record of eight 400-yard games on a season by posting 449 yards against Tampa Bay.
104.9. Dak Prescott’s regular season quarterback rating. This ranked him third in the NFL, behind Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, and slightly ahead of his first-round playoff opponent, Aaron Rodgers. It’s the highest passer rating for a rookie quarterback in NFL history, besting Robert Griffin III’s 102.4 rating from 2012.
10.8. The passer rating differential between Dak Prescott and Dallas’ 2016 opponents. This would rank Dallas 6th in the NFL for this season. We took the liberty of eliminating the passing of Mark Sanchez, Cole Beasley, Dez Bryant and Tony Romo from the Dallas side of this equation, which boosted the passer rating from 103 to 104.9. If you plugged this into the PRD formula for winning (Projected Wins = PRD*0.16 + 8), it would have Dallas as a 9.7 win team. Does that suggest that Dallas is equipped to win games when it loses the passer rating differential?
81.6. Dak Prescott’s regular season number under ESPN’s proprietary QBR stat. He finished third in the NFL to Matt Ryan and Tom Brady (but was essentially tied going in the last game, when Ryan and Brady had to win to preserve playoff seedings, but Dak was only left in for two series in a game where the Cowboys rested many starters). It’s the 11th best QBR season for any quarterback, and by far the best for any rookie quarterback.
5. The number of Cowboys to make first team all-pro - Ezekiel Elliott, Sean Lee, Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin. It’s also the number of Cowboys to be voted to the Pro Bowl, with Dak Prescott taking Sean Lee’s spot. This is the first time a team has had a rookie quarterback and running back selected to the Pro Bowl.
5. The points-scored and points-allowed rank for the Dallas offense and defense. This is the only time since the Cowboys last won the Super Bowl in 1995 that they have been ranked in the top-5 in both of these categories. In the four year run from 1992-1995, when they were winning three Super Bowls, the Cowboys did this every season.
176. The number of consecutive passes without an interception thrown by Dak Prescott, breaking the record held by Tom Brady for most passes without a pick to start a career.
.009 Interception rate for Dak Prescott, with 4 picks in 459 pass attempts. Also a rookie record.
1,631. The rushing yards for Ezekiel Elliott. This shattered the Cowboys rookie record of 1,007 yards established by Tony Dorsett in 1977, and is third all-time for rookie rushers, behind Eric Dickerson and George Rogers. It was reached in only 15 games, as Zeke was rested in the final game of the year with Dallas’s first seed locked up.
15. Rushing touchdowns for Ezekiel Elliott, passing the Cowboys’ rookie record of 12 rushing touchdowns held by Tony Dorsett.
4. The number of rookie starters for the Cowboys - Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown. The first three received the most snaps for their respective positions, while Brown was second among cornerbacks to Brandon Carr. This was the second highest number of snaps for a rookie class dating back to 2007.
213. Number of starts for Jason Witten in his Cowboys career, passing Ed “Too Tall” Jones. He also passed Lee Roy Jordan for more consecutive starts than any player in Cowboys history, and has by far the longest such streak among NFL tights ends. He’s a true ironman. He still needs 17 yards to pass Michael Irvin for most receiving yards in Cowboys’ history.
67. Career touchdowns caught by Dez Bryant, moving him into second place all time among Cowboys’ receivers, just four behind Bob Hayes for the lead.
And that leaves the most important number:
3. The number of wins Dallas still needs this season to add it’s sixth Lombardi Trophy to the team’s lavish trophy case.
Which leads us to the article that motivated this exercise in the first place - a great piece on Jason Witten in ESPN.
In the article, which is well worth your time, Jason Witten says:
"The only thing that matters," he says, "is what we do now."
In other words, this has been a great season, but it will all be for naught, again, if the Cowboys don’t win a championship. This is how that article finishes.
It isn't until Witten walks by, though, that the most significant, telling space inside The Star comes into focus. It's not the Italian marble, the 19,200 LED lights, the helipad, the training room mantras, the blue board containing the sacred players' creed, or even Witten's giant portrait. It's the large, noticeably blank section of wall right next to the collage of Super Bowl XXX images. The wall is empty, reserved for the day when the Cowboys need space to commemorate their next championship.
It’s time for the Cowboys to finish the fight and return to their championship ways.