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NFL history suggests Cowboys defense will continue on a positive trajectory in generating turnovers

Turnovers win games, and it seems like the Cowboys are getting good at causing them.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Los Angeles Chargers Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Through two weeks of the season no defense in the NFL has generated more turnovers on defense than the Dallas Cowboys. Read it again.

We are talking about an extremely small sample size to be clear; it is literally going to grow by 50% this coming week, but it is still nice to see the Cowboys atop the league when it comes to taking the ball away from other offenses.

There were different levels of “quality” for the turnovers that the Cowboys had during their season opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. DeMarcus Lawrence punched the first one free which was great to see, and Damontae Kazee used his helmet to force out a fumble toward the end of the game. But Trevon Diggs’ interception came off of a tipped ball by Leonard Fournette, and Jourdan Lewis’ interception came off of a Hail Mary attempt.

The Cowboys have gotten great play out of their safeties so far this season, but do we trust it moving forward? Checking out the latest episode of Talkin’ The Star as we discuss. Make sure to subscribe to the Blogging The Boys podcast network as well! Apple devices can subscribe right here and Spotify users can subscribe right here.

If there was any doubt that the Cowboys would continue to have at least mild success in this department it was quickly quieted when they visited the Chargers this week as Trevon Diggs picked off Justin Herbert on Los Angeles’ first series of the game. Damontae Kazee went on to get his own interception, his second turnover of the year just like Diggs, giving the Cowboys their grand total of six through two games.

We have been scarred as Cowboys fans, though. We are hesitant to believe in a defense that generates turnovers. Lucky for us, an enormous amount of NFL history suggests that this trend will continue.

NFL history suggests the Dallas Cowboys defense will continue on a positive trajectory in generating turnovers

Considering the unpredictability of turnovers we wanted to dig in and figure out how real this phenomenon really is. Obviously we can’t predict the future but we can look to the past for an idea at how predictable some things are.

With the help of BTB’s Aidan Davis, we looked at the number of turnovers in the first two weeks of the season for each team since the merger (1970) against the number that they had from Week 3 through the rest of the season. Remember that the Cowboys currently have six turnovers through two weeks.

As you can see there is generally an upward trend where those who generate a higher number of turnovers in a season’s first two weeks average more across the rest of the season. Given that this data set spans over 50 years it is fairly reliable and can weed out any outliers.

166 teams have generated precisely six turnovers in the first two weeks of the season since 1970, and they have gone on to average 28.54 takeaways over the rest of the season, which works out to about two turnovers per game. Who doesn’t want the ball an extra two times in a given game on average?

In case you were wondering, the Cowboys generated 1.4 turnovers per game last season so increasing things by over 25% is a significant boost defensively, and the bulk of those turnovers came in the last stretch of games of the year. The Cowboys are starting early this year.

An underrated element to turnovers is that they sometimes flip field position in a dramatic way. Consider the starting field position obtained after each of the Cowboys turnovers (excluding Jourdan Lewis’ interception at the end of the first half against Tampa):

Against Tampa Bay Buccaneers:

  • Tampa Bay 27-yard line (DeMarcus Lawrence forced fumble), led to touchdown
  • Tampa Bay 21-yard line (Trevon Diggs interception), led to field goal
  • Dallas 10-yard line (Damontae Kazee forced fumble), led to field goal

Against Los Angeles Chargers:

  • Dallas 20-yard line (Trevon Diggs interception), led to interception
  • Dallas 20-yard line (Damontae Kazee interception), led to field goal

The Cowboys have scored points on four of the five measurable possessions that they stole. That is remarkable and those are points that have proven to be critical in both games that they have played so far. The only touchdown that they scored came when they only had 27 yards left to go, it really is a shame that they settled for a field goal after the Diggs interception against the Buccaneers.

These are the types of things that swing games. Let’s hope they keep happening for the Cowboys.