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2022 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas takes a step back after Texans game

The Cowboys didn’t play up to expectations against the Texans.

Houston Texans v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The Cowboys didn’t play up to expectations against the Texans and very nearly lost to a team they were favored to beat by three scores. Dallas may have pulled out the win at, quite literally, the last minute, and the win counts just as much as all the others, but their efficiency has taken a hit as a result.

As we look at this week’s roundup of analytics, keep in mind that all DVOA grades are accounting for quality of opponent. That’s why the Cowboys have dropped several spots in nearly every category; squeaking out a win over the lowly Texans is going to ding you in efficiency results. Let’s take a look at the damage.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Week Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Week Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
Offense 4.2% 15th 11th 6.1% 13th
Defense -17.5% 1st 1st -15.6% 2nd
Special Teams 2.5% 7th 5th 2.3% 7th
Overall 24.2% 4th 2nd 24.1% 4th

The defense remains at the top of the leaderboard, but that’s more a testament to how good they were coming into Sunday’s game. Offense and special teams both dropped multiple spots in the rankings, and the team’s overall efficiency now sits at fourth. They’re also fourth in weighted DVOA, where they led the NFL a week ago. Almost losing to the Texans will do that.

Another thing to point out is that Dallas’ special teams have been steadily declining in DVOA each week for a while now. Whether it’s been penalties, poor punt coverages, a rare miss from Brett Maher, or KaVontae Turpin’s muffed punt this week, John Fassel’s unit has been uncharacteristically sloppy in recent weeks. They’re now seventh in special teams DVOA after having peaked at second earlier in the year.

2022 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-14, courtesy of

It’s easy to miss the Cowboys’ placement in the EPA-based team tiers, as they’re pretty squarely overlapped by the 49ers. Depending on how you feel about San Francisco, that may or may not be a good thing. Still, Dallas remains inside the top five in total EPA/play and, despite the rough day against Houston, are in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive EPA/play. That’s not bad, but more performances like this past week will change that real quick.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA 4.2% 15th
Pass DVOA 10.3% 17th
Run DVOA 8.8% 4th

The offense started and ended the Texans game on fire; they practically walked down the field for a touchdown on the opening drive and then took command on the game-winning drive. That said, everything in between was a bit of a nightmare. Dallas dropped four spots in their DVOA rankings, a disappointing setback for a unit that was making legitimate progress.

A big part of the problem for this offense has been the frequency of turnovers, which are efficiency killers. Our Twitter friend, Cowboys Stats & Graphics, penned this informative thread that highlighted just how much of the Cowboys’ negative offensive production has come from turnovers.

In other words, ball security has been the one consistent problem for this offense. Dallas has won four in a row in spite of this, but they’d be winning by even larger margins if not for the turnovers. That’s a bit of a given to some, but it does offer some optimism: the offense isn’t necessarily failing to execute their plan, they’re just a little sloppy.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 52.4 19th
EPA/play 0.203 6th
CPOE 0.3 17th
DVOA 9.7% 10th
DYAR 354 17th

Speaking of turnovers, Dak Prescott has been uncharacteristically loose with the ball. Entering this season, Prescott was throwing an interception on 1.7% of his passes. In 2022 alone, he’s doing so at a 3.6% rate, easily a career high for him. Granted, some of those interceptions have come on plays where receivers ran the wrong route or the ball got tipped up in the air, but that still affects Prescott’s efficiency metrics.

But Prescott was also nails on that game-winning drive, dropping dime after dime to lead the Cowboys to the win. It marked his 18th career game-winning drive, which is the fourth-most since Prescott entered the league, ahead of both Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. It’s no surprise, then, to see Prescott’s efficiency metrics represent a mixed bag of sorts. We know Prescott can be better, but he’s also still playing at a fairly high level.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Adjusted Line Yards 4.73 7th
RB Yards 4.85 4th
Adjusted Sack Rate 4.3% 3rd
Pass Block Win Rate 48% 31st
Run Block Win Rate 73% 5th

The big story on this offensive line right now is Terence Steele, who’s been lost for the year after suffering a torn ACL against Houston. Steele was having a phenomenal year and was arguably the best run blocker on a line that’s top 10 across the board in run blocking. That said, he was also second on the team in pressures allowed, and pass protection has been this unit’s weakness all year.

Elsewhere, Tyler Smith is about to be moved inside to left guard with Tyron Smith returning. Like Steele, rookie Smith has been great in run blocking but has had his struggles in pass protection. Moving him inside and inserting a future Hall of Famer next to him is sure to yield positive results from the left side of this line, even as the right side goes through some uncertainty now.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -17.5% 1st
Pass Defense DVOA -18.9% 1st
Run Defense DVOA -15.9% 6th
Pass Rush Win Rate 53% 2nd
Run Stop Win Rate 28% 26th

The Dallas defense didn’t have its best game against Houston, but similar to their performance against Philadelphia earlier this year, several of their drives began with the Texans already in scoring position. That’s why their efficiency grades haven’t dropped too much.

In fact, their run defense has improved to sixth in run defense DVOA. Only one team, the 49ers, are top five in both pass and run defense DVOA at the moment but Dallas is knocking on the door after this week. How their run defense fares with Johnathan Hankins seemingly out until the playoffs remains to be seen, but the Cowboys are looking good in that area right now.

Cowboys Pass Coverage

Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
Targets Completions Completion Rate Passer Rating Allowed ADOT When Targeted Air Yards Allowed Yards After Catch
Trevon Diggs 66 44 66.7% 86.7 9.8 263 257
Anthony Brown 86 46 53.5% 90.7 11.8 412 177
Kelvin Josph 15 10 66.7% 138.9 12.3 136 14
Jourdan Lewis 26 19 73.1% 74.2 6.2 51 119
DaRon Bland 37 30 81.1% 81.8 5.7 114 160
Jayron Kearse 26 19 73.1% 97.0 5.8 121 91
Malik Hooker 20 16 80.0% 99.4 9.3 119 68
Donovan Wilson 32 19 59.4% 78.1 8.9 75 69
Israel Mukuamu 9 6 66.7% 38.4 8.7 14 30
Micah Parsons 11 9 81.8% 128.0 0.5 -9 91
Leighton Vander Esch 30 24 80.0% 96.4 3.9 87 127
Anthony Barr 18 14 77.8% 89.4 4.1 43 55

This game marked Kelvin Joseph’s first start since Anthony Brown was lost for the year, and Joseph played a very similar game to the guy he replaced. No Dallas defender was targeted more than Joseph in this game, and he got beat bad on a 36-yard bomb that likely should’ve been overturned as incomplete. Aside from that, though, Joseph played a strong game in coverage, giving up just seven yards after the catch on four completions.

It also didn’t help that Joseph’s first start coincided with the pass rush having one of their worst games of the year. The same goes for DaRon Bland, who allowed completions for a first down on both of his targets. Both young corners showed enough to feel hopeful going forward, especially if the pass rush gets back on track, but they still merit a close watch.

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