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3 statistical takeaways from the Cowboys’ loss to the Buccaneers: No sign of life from the offense

No matter which statistic or number you look at from Sunday night, it was a disaster.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys were thoroughly embarrassed on Sunday night. Since 2005, the Cowboys have failed to exceed three points in a game only three times. One of those was in 2018 against the Colts, one was in 2020 with Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci at QB, and the third was the 2022 season opener.

It was ugly, boring, hopeless, and injury-riddled. The outlook of this team is significantly worse than it was one week ago. With the disastrous performance properly contextualized, what did fans learn in this game?

3 statistical takeaways from the Cowboys' loss to the Buccaneers

Dak was the primary reason for the offense’s ineptitude on Sunday

There is little need to provide evidence about how poorly the offense played against the Buccaneers. By EPA per play, according to, Dallas trotted out the worst offense in week one of the 2022 season, and it wasn't remotely close. Even more disappointing, the second and third worst offenses both committed three turnovers. The Cowboys managed to put up the ugliest offensive performance so far this year with only one turnover.

It was horrific across the board, but there is a clear reason why Dallas finished the game with three points. Here is where the Cowboys’ offensive position groups rank after the first week, per PFF:

  • Offensive line: 14th by pass blocking, 18th by run blocking
  • Receivers and tight end: 28th
  • Running back: 8th

Clearly the receivers did not provide any assistance, but none of these position groups were dead last in week one. So, how did the Cowboys finish so low in the offensive rankings if every position group other than QB averaged a PFF ranking of 17th? Well, the answer lies in the question itself. Here is where Dak Prescott’s week one performance ranked among the rest of the league by various metrics:

  • PFF: 33rd out of 33
  • EPA per play: 31st out of 31
  • QB rating: 33rd out of 33

In case you weren’t aware of the competition, here are the QBs who definitively put up a better game than Prescott: Cooper Rush, Davis Mills, Mitch Trubisky, Justin Fields, Jared Goff, Baker Mayfield, and Jacoby Brissett. Trace McSorely, the Cardinals backup, also put up a better QBR than Prescott in week one.

This is not to say that Prescott is a bad quarterback or that he can’t rebound from a bad night, it would be difficult to repeat such a poor showing. But the offensive line, running game, and receivers cannot be used as excuses to mask a brutal quarterback performance. With that said, all the best to Dak in his recovery. The Cowboys are obviously a better team with their franchise quarterback at the helm.

The Dallas rushing defense has not changed at all from last season

Interpret this takeaway as you wish. If you believe the rushing defense was solid last year, you likely disagree with this headline. But if you saw a flawed rushing defense in 2021, maybe this is too optimistic.

However, not much has really changed. Last season, the Cowboys finished 23rd by rushing yards per attempt allowed, 20th by rushing EPA per play allowed, and 27th by PFF grading. By most accounts, the Cowboys were right below the league average against the rush.

On Sunday night, it was more of the same. By rushing yards per attempt allowed, they were 15th in week one, 23rd by rushing EPA per play allowed, and 22nd by PFF grading. Granted, this is a one-week sample size, but this type of performance against Leonard Fournette should have been expected.

The Cowboys did virtually nothing to upgrade their defensive line, and while they lost Randy Gregory, he rarely contributed against the run. So there was no significant change from last season that would either cause the Dallas defense to improve or regress against the rush.

The only difference is that it was more noticeable on SNF. In 2021, the Cowboys frequently got out to big leads and forced the other teams to pass. Thus, the run defense was masked by a Dallas offense that limited the other team's playbook. On Sunday Night Football, that was not the case, and the Cowboys seemed to struggle against the run. But unless the run defense gets worse over the remainder of the season, nothing has changed.

Trevon Diggs is good at football, even without the interceptions

Here is a quick game. Which cornerbacking season is better without knowing who either is?

  • Player A: 96 targets, 48 receptions (50% completion percentage), 528 yards allowed, 11 yards per reception, 32 pass breakups, 192 yards after the catch, and 0 interceptions.
  • Player B: 96 targets, 47 receptions (49% completion percentage), 624 yards allowed, 13.3 yards per reception, 13 pass breakups, 214 yards after the catch, and 6 interceptions.

It is pretty easy to say that player A is better in coverage than player B outside of one completion and the six interceptions. Other than that, A dominates B across the board. Well, player A is Trevon Diggs if his week one line was extrapolated across a 16-game season. Player B is Stephon Gilmore in the season he won Defensive Player of the Year.

Will Diggs be able to maintain this statline through an entire season? Probably not. But the third-year cornerback played a near-perfect game on the six targets he saw, which is tied for the 27th most targets among the 90 CBs who started in week one.

There are two criticisms against Diggs’ play on Sunday:

  1. He allowed a touchdown to Mike Evans. Not only was the touchdown catch an incredible effort from Evans, but it was a five-yard touchdown. When you get that close to the goal line, even the NFL's best CBs surrender touchdowns.
  2. He didn’t pick off Brady. Diggs will never be able to have his cake and eat it too. Either he is pressing the receivers and trying to force incompletions, or he is playing back and baiting the QB into a bad throw. Diggs is a great cornerback at both, but he will never be able to do the two simultaneously.

In a game where the Cowboys' CB1 only surrendered 33 yards while primarily covering a top-10 NFL receiver being thrown at by the greatest quarterback of all time, there are still questions about his performance. Diggs is a great CB, and he once again proved it on Sunday night.

The Cowboys' season opener was a game they will likely try and move on from as quickly as possible. But they shouldn’t. There were a small number of positives that they can build on and a lot more negatives that need to be improved. Now it is up to Mike McCarthy to assemble his own takeaways and figure out the best way to move forward with a team that got dismantled on SNF. The next few weeks in Dallas should get interesting.

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