Hopefully, your heart rate is back to normal and you enjoyed a great victory Monday. The Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles was wild, flawed, and one that should be remembered for a long time. There were also several records set, which have already been covered here (although more seem to keep popping up).
But looking at the stats from the game shows more. Here are some things that pop out.
93 to 48
That is the advantage in offensive plays run (not counting those wiped out by penalties) for the Cowboys over the Eagles. Almost double. It was padded by the soul-sapping final drive in overtime that never let Philadelphia get their hands on the ball (except for when Rasul Douglas tipped the ball into the air for Amari Cooper to put the dagger in the Eagles to end it all), but that is still phenomenal. The lost turnovers and red zone failures hid just how dominant an offensive performance this was from Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Cooper, and company. If they just clean up those far too plentiful mistakes, this is an offense that is fully capable of going deep into the playoffs. Add in the way the defense is playing (at least for the first three quarters in recent games), and Dallas could become the most dangerous team in the NFL.
-2 turnover margin
But we can’t ignore the bad. And this should have been -3, because despite what the referees said, the Cowboys actually lost that fumble on the opening kickoff (which should never have been run out of the end zone to begin with, Jourdan Lewis).
This is something that falls squarely on Prescott, who threw two picks and lost a fumble. The interceptions were something he had been avoiding during the win streak (the announcers said he had gone 165 passes without a pick before his first in the game), but the fumbles are a continuation of a disturbing trend. He has to get this under control, because there is nothing that makes it harder to win a game than giving the ball away to the other team.
11 for 111
Dallas’ penalties for the game, and it is a simply horrendous stat. It almost seemed like the officials were trying to make up for missing on that call to open the game - except for them also making some highly questionable calls in Dallas’ favor.
Officiating has been bad across the league this year, but still, the Cowboys have to do better. When you add this to the turnovers, plus the way the defense started giving up touchdown passes late in the game, well, Dallas really should not have won this game.
NFL teams are 1-73 all time when incurring 100 penalty yards, allowing three touchdown passes, and losing the turnover battle by two or more.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) December 10, 2018
The one victory occurred yesterday when the Cowboys beat the Eagles.
32 to 16
That is the advantage the Cowboys had in first downs. It is perhaps even more impressive than the 576 to 256 total yards advantage, since it shows how many sustained drives the Cowboys had. Both those statistical data points show just what an offensive explosion this was for Dallas.
45:33 to 22:21
This edge in time of possession is just ludicrous. True, the Cowboys’ number was padded by the long drive in overtime, but limiting the opponent to that low total will win you a lot of games, if you can score some points with your own possessions. The Cowboys did enough, though they could certainly have done better.
Here’s the third down conversion rate for the Cowboys. And that is superb by any measure. It is perhaps the most significant turnaround of the five-game winning streak.
Don’t believe me? Here is what Bob Sturm had to say about it at The Athletic.
The improved third-down offense is a product of having Cooper to off-set the threat of Elliott. The Cowboys have converted more third downs than anyone in the sport since Cooper’s arrival and that margin over the entire NFL is actually growing. They have 43 third-down conversions over the last six games (since the trade) and nobody else in the NFL is over 36. They also have the second highest conversion rate. They have bounced from 29th to second. That is not a misprint! For the season, the Cowboys have jumped all the way to 12th in this category with only one month of competent third-down play. And to convince you even more of the corner being turned, here is the real convincing number: since the bye week, no team has converted more third downs through the air than Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, who have 30. So, yes, take your Saints, Chiefs, Rams, Patriots, or whichever team’s passing attack makes you jealous — since the trade, the Cowboys have moved the chains with their passing game more capably than anyone.
Keep doing that, and who knows just how far this team can go.
The flip side, Philadelphia’s success rate on third down. Or, should we say, failure rate?
In the first meeting with the Eagles, the Cowboys were repeatedly victimized by Zach Ertz, who Carson Wentz found to the tune of 14 catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns - and it seemed like almost every third-down conversion they had that game. Finding a way to stop that combination was vital for Dallas’s chances in their second time around.
Well, after Ertz converted the first opportunity of the game, the Cowboys did exactly that. One thing they used was putting Byron Jones on Ertz for third downs, and it clearly paid off. Kudos are probably due to Kris Richard for that. Without the ability to extend drives, the Eagles were nearly shut out for most of the game until the wheels sorta came off the Dallas defense late. And they still were not giving up third downs since the Eagles were doing all their damage without facing them.
Keep doing that and . . . I think you know what I’m saying here.
That is the fourth-down conversion rate for the Cowboys. (It is also for the Eagles, but who cares?) What is not important is how they went to the tried and true method of letting Zeke get it done.
What matters is the situation. It was overtime, the Cowboys had driven to the Philadelphia 19-yard line, there was 4:01 left on the clock, and Jason Garrett could have elected to kick a field goal and turn it over to the defense rather than try to convert the fourth-and-one.
As you may recall, this was the second overtime game for the Cowboys this season. In the first one, against the Houston Texans, Dallas had also won the toss for overtime and had driven into Texans territory. But with a fourth-and-one at the 42, Garrett elected to punt and put it on his defense.
It didn’t work, and Houston went on to win on a field goal. With that in mind, as well as how the Eagles had suddenly found a way to score touchdowns with some ease, Garrett elected to go for it and never give Philly a chance.
Elliott made the yard (barely), three plays later Cooper caught a deflected pass for a touchdown, and it was over. Garrett got that decision right.
Here’s one more negative number, the Cowboys’ red zone efficiency. This is one thing that has continued to plague them in almost every game this season. They need to improve this significantly.
Or, maybe, just throw the ball to Cooper from outside the 20 and let him do that voodoo he does so well.
That, this time including plays that didn’t count because of penalties, is how many snaps Connor Williams was on the field filling in for the injured Zack Martin. And those were for the most important possessions of the game for the Cowboys, as they scored all three of their touchdowns after Williams came in.
This has not been talked about enough. Williams was the starting left guard to begin the season. He had his struggles before he was injured and replaced by Xavier Su’a-Filo. After Williams recovered, he did not get his starting job back, even though Su’a-Filo had his own difficulties, partly due to injury issues.
But when the team needed him, Williams came in, on the opposite side, and was instrumental in the drives that won the game. Now, with the NFC East all but locked up, the Cowboys have to consider the health of Martin for the playoffs. It could be beneficial to let Martin have as much rest as they can manage, as long as Williams continues to do a good job.
3 holding penalties
Those were on Tyron Smith, and may be an indication that he is still not 100%. Again, with the Cowboys having a 99% chance of making the playoffs (according to some), it may be worth considering giving the starting job back to Cameron Fleming and also just having Smith in an emergency mode. We’ll let the coaches decide that, of course, but it is worth mentioning.
9 different receivers
While the bulk of the receptions went to Elliott, Cooper, and (somewhat surprisingly) Blake Jarwin, the fact Prescott found so many targets is something that should not be overlooked. He has been completing a lot of his passes in the win streak, with a 78% rate in this game. Combine that with the ability to spread the ball around and you put the defense in a real bind. That has a lot to do with a 455 yard, three touchdown day at the office.
It was a quiet day for Chris Jones, as a combination of scoring drives, one failed field goal, and turnovers kept him idle (except for holding the ball for Brett Maher). But he certainly made the most of limited opportunities, with a 63-yard punt in the game. It is always good to see very few punts, just not for those reasons.
That is the combined total for Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch. It looks a bit paltry, given the way they have played up to this game, and it wasn’t their greatest performance by any means.
But the Eagles only ran 48 offensive plays, as mentioned earlier. The fact is that Van Jaylon were in on almost a third of all defensive plays. While LVE did have one missed tackle, this is not terribly concerning at all - just a bit interesting.
Those are some of the numbers that you may not have seen before. But the most important one is this.
One very big win.