The Dallas Cowboys are a good football team. The only thing we don’t know is just how good of a football team they are. Should we expect this to be just another “rinse and repeat” playoff letdown, or does this 2022 unit have it in them to be something special? We’ve been hurt before, so naturally, we’re guarded, but there are some things going on with this current group that could indicate things could be a little different this time around.
The biggest thing is this new and improved Cowboys defense. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a Cowboys defense this good. But it doesn’t stop there. The offense is starting to heat up. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something is different about the offense lately.
Many teams can be really good at something. In fact, the Cowboys have been pretty darn snazzy at certain things in prior seasons, but look where that has gotten them.
What separates this group from past teams is that the Cowboys are really good at many things, and they just so happen to be some of the most important statistical categories in the NFL. Let’s examine.
1. The Cowboys are top 10 in POINTS SCORED (7th overall)
After watching this team finish tops in the league in both points scored and yards gained a year ago, being seventh probably doesn’t impress many; however, we have to keep in mind that this is while playing with a backup quarterback for five games this season. When you put it that way, this is an impressive feat that’s only likely to keep getting better with Dak Prescott under center.
2. The Cowboys are top 10 in POINTS ALLOWED (2nd overall)
We are all pleasantly surprised with how fantastic this defense has been this season. They were red-hot early as they didn’t allow an opponent to reach 20 points in each of the first five games of the year. The Cowboys have yet to allow a first-quarter touchdown. Their point totals are only going to get smaller with a date with the AFC South on the horizon as three of those teams are in the bottom seven in points scored this year, including two of the three worst-scoring teams in the league, Indianapolis and Houston, who just so happen to be the Cowboys next two matchups.
3. The Cowboys are top 10 in GIVEAWAYS (4th overall)
The Cooper Rush run was largely aided by his ability to take care of the football. In the four games they won with him, Rush never threw an interception. Sure, he did throw three against the Eagles, which sunk that ship, and Prescott has had a couple of multi-pick games recently, but outside of that, this team takes care of the football. The Cowboys are tops in the league with the fewest fumbles lost this year. Ezekiel Elliott has had zero fumbles. Tony Pollard has had zero fumbles. CeeDee Lamb, no fumbles. Michael Gallup, nada. Even Dak Prescott hasn’t been hit from behind causing him to lose the ball. The Cowboys just don’t put the ball on the ground very much (knock on wood) and that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
4. The Cowboys are top 10 in TAKEAWAYS (7th overall)
Last season the Cowboys led the league in takeaways creating 34 turnovers on the year. We all knew regression was coming, but this team is still an aggressive group that comes at you. While they haven’t flourished in the interception department as they did a year ago, they are knocking the ball out of their opponent's hands. They have 16 forced fumbles on the season, second-most in the NFC.
5. The Cowboys are top 10 in SACKS (1st overall)
Who would’ve thought that the Cowboys would lose out on Randy Gregory only to turn around and lead the league in sacks? Dan Quinn unleashes an arsenal of edge rushers that starts with Micah Parsons (12 sacks) and ends with rookie Sam Williams (3 sacks). Between those two are Dorance Armstrong (8), DeMarcus Lawrence (6), and Dante Fowler (5), the Cowboys' edge rushing group has 34 of the team’s 45 sacks (75%).
6. The Cowboys are top 10 in SACKS ALLOWED (1st overall)
Who would’ve thought that the Cowboys would be playing without their All-Pro left tackle Tyron Smith all year only to turn around and allow the fewest sacks in the league. And did we mention they released La’el Collins this offseason? The play of third-year tackle Terence Steele has been sensational and rookie Tyler Smith has filled the left tackle position like a champ. Whether it’s the quick-releasing Rush or the mobility of Prescott, the Cowboys quarterbacks are staying upright.
7. The Cowboys are top 10 in RED ZONE % (4th overall)
This team doesn’t mess around when it gets inside the red zone. Between a strong rushing attack, creative tight end usage, and a couple of athletic receivers who know how to woo the crowd with dazzling catches, this offense has been really good at finishing. Helping their cause is a handful of explosive plays that have led to big scores outside the red zone. Whether it’s CeeDee Lamb getting loose in the secondary or Tony Pollard outrunning defenders, these big plays keep the offense from even having to finesse their way through the red zone.
8. The Cowboys are top 10 in RED ZONE % ALLOWED (10th overall)
Teams don’t get to the red zone that often against Dallas as the Cowboys defense is third-best in the league in red zone attempts allowed (27). And their 14 red zone touchdowns allowed are the second-fewest in the league. If teams can’t get there, they can’t score from there. The defense is just really good regardless of where they are on the field.
9. The Cowboys are top 10 in 3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS (8th overall)
The offense is doing a great job of keeping the chains moving. They’ve done a good job putting themselves in manageable situations, but even when they’re not, they have shown the ability to convert some third-and-longs. With great blocking up front, some well-executed blitz pickups, and a quarterback that is fast on his feet, the Cowboys' offense is showing up on the money down.
10. The Cowboys are top 10 in 3RD DOWN CONVERSIONS ALLOWED (5th overall)
The defense has gotten in a pickle against the run at times this year and that has created some easier down and distances for their opponents. However, when opponents don’t have success on early downs, they run into trouble. The Cowboys’ defense only allows on average 9.4 passing first downs per game, which is second-best in the NFL. Putting opposing offenses behind the sticks plays right into their strength and this is why this team is one of the best when it comes to getting off the field.
11. The Cowboys are top 10 in OPPONENT’S PASSING YARDS/GAME (1st overall)
While the run defense can leave something to be desired for this defense, the same is not true for their pass defense. Sure, opponents will convert a nice play once in a blue moon, but for the most part, this defense is very stingy against the pass. Aided by hefty sack totals that pad those yardage stats, the secondary also does their part as this Cowboys’ team is hard to pass on.
12. The Cowboys are top 10 in DEFENSE DVOA (1st overall)
Fewer numbers are more accurate in determining how good things are than the Defense Adjusted Value-over Average metric. With all other things being equal, DVOA will sort out the rest and tell us a very reliable performance score. Over this past week, the Cowboys moved into the top spot with a -17.8% defense DVOA. If you don’t understand how this stat works, don’t fret. The main thing to take from it is that a large sampling of data is telling us that this Cowboys' defense is no fluke.