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2023 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas is in a good spot as they prepare for 49ers

The Patriots game has the Cowboys flying high once again.

New England Patriots v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Never let it be said that the Cowboys don’t know how to wash the bad taste of a loss out of their mouths. After losing to the Cardinals on the road, the Cowboys returned to AT&T Stadium to absolutely smoke the Patriots. The 38-3 final score was the worst loss of Bill Belichick’s career.

That has fans everywhere once again feeling confident, and it couldn’t come at a better time with the 49ers up next on the schedule. So is all this confidence really real, and how do the Cowboys stack up against the team that’s ended their season each of the last two years? Let’s take a look at the analytics to get a clearer picture.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank DAVE DAVE Rank
DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank DAVE DAVE Rank
Offense -0.2% 16th 15th 6.9% 9th
Defense -27.3% 1st 3rd -11.0% 2nd
Special Teams 1.9% 12th 16th 0.7% 10th
Overall 29.0% 5th 7th 18.6% 3rd

The headline is the Cowboys have moved up two spots from last week and are the fifth-most efficient team in the NFL by DVOA. They’re also the third-most efficient team in the NFC behind the 49ers and Lions, the latter of whom leapfrogged Dallas by jumping six spots in total team DVOA after throttling the Packers last week.

Looking at the Cowboys’ DAVE rankings, which combines their DVOA-based preseason expectations with their actual efficiency thus far, the team is mostly on track. According to the preseason expectations, Dallas should be third in total DVOA right now, and the biggest reason they’re not is the offense. We’ll have more on that in a moment, but that’s a solid spot to be in for the Cowboys.

2023 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-4, courtesy of

The EPA-based team tiers are a little nicer to the Cowboys, placing them as the third best team in the NFL. Notably, they’re second in the NFC behind only the 49ers. As you can see on this chart, the 49ers have a better offense but the Cowboys have a better defense; of course, both teams are really, really good through the first four games of the year. This week’s matchup will certainly be appointment television.


Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA -0.2% 16th
Pass DVOA 15.2% 17th
Run DVOA -6.7% 17th
EPA/Play 0.090 6th
EPA/Dropback 0.172 5th
EPA/Rush -0.013 9th

Let’s talk offense. The Texas Coast offense has largely been a success so far, and Mike McCarthy’s return to calling plays has the team in pretty good position by most statistical categories. The Cowboys offense has scored the fourth most points thus far, with 53.8% of their drives resulting in points (third best in the NFL). They’re also inside the top 10 in all three EPA/play categories.

However, Dallas ranks 16th in DVOA and 17th in both run and pass DVOA. How does that make sense? It really boils down to the red zone offense, third worst in the league after four games. The beauty of DVOA compared to other advanced metrics is that it measures a team’s performance in context of each play; so a five-yard run on third and short is more valuable than a five-yard run on second and 15, for example.

To this end, an offense that gets into the red zone but only comes away with field goals is not very efficient by DVOA standards. The Cowboys have the most red zone appearances so far this year, but their 36.8% touchdown rate is terribly low. So the formula for DVOA recognizes those plays as very inefficient plays, even though the Cowboys are playing very efficient football to get to the red zone in the first place. Their EPA figures reflect an offense that moves the ball really well - and they do just that - but the DVOA numbers are reflecting an offense that doesn’t finish their drives, which they haven’t yet.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 67.3 9th
EPA/play 0.186 7th
CPOE 3.8 14th
DVOA 13.3% 10th
DYAR 234 10th

Dak Prescott had a great game against a very good Patriots defense. He posted a 83.2 QBR in this game, the fourth best mark for any quarterback in Week 4. To put that into perspective, the quarterbacks that faced the Patriots in the first three weeks averaged a 45.5 QBR; Tua Tagovailoa had the highest score at 78.6.

Prescott posted an outrageously good completion percentage over expectation (CPOE) as well, which brought up his total CPOE numbers on the year after a down game against the Cardinals.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Pressure Rate 14.8% 4th
Adjusted Sack Rate 4.9% 6th
Blown Block Rate 2.30% 4th
Pass Block Win Rate 52% 21st
Run Block Win Rate 73% 4th
Adjusted Line Yards 4.43 9th

The offensive line got Zack Martin and Tyler Biadasz back in the lineup and they were better off for it, to no one’s surprise. Prescott took three sacks on the day, with two of them attributed to the offensive line: one given up by backup left tackle Chuma Edoga and another by Terence Steele. This offensive line remains one of the best in pass protection, though Prescott’s 2.49 seconds per throw (fourth in the NFL) on the year is making their jobs a little easier.

Tyler Smith deserves special praise for two stellar performances thus far. He’s been his usual dominant self in the run game but Smith has shown noticeable growth in pass protection. After giving up the most pressures on the team last year, Smith has surrendered zero through two games.


Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -27.3% 1st
Pass Defense DVOA -36.0% 1st
Run Defense DVOA -14.7% 12th
Pass Rush Win Rate 61% 1st
Run Stop Win Rate 31% 15th
EPA/Play -0.269 2nd
EPA/Dropback Allowed -0.322 1st
EPA/Rush Allowed -0.174 8th

The Dallas defense is back, putting on a clinic against a struggling Patriots offense. The Cowboys lead the league in the following categories:

  • total defensive DVOA
  • pass defense DVOA
  • pass rush win rate
  • EPA/dropback allowed
  • total points allowed

There are a handful more categories where they rank second or third as well. This defense is playing great football, and the run defense has had three very good games around that lone Cardinals game. Of course, that aspect of their defense in particular will be put to the test against one of the more run-heavy offenses in the 49ers this week.

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 8 2 25.0% 1.0 15.9 6 20
Stephon Gilmore 20 9 45.0% 86.9 11.1 100 66
DaRon Bland 18 10 55.6% 34.5 7.7 73 38
Jayron Kearse 12 9 75.0% 67.7 8.6 72 37
Jourdan Lewis 8 4 50.0% 56.3 6.5 14 8
Malik Hooker 4 3 75.0% 77.1 16.5 52 67
Donovan Wilson 4 4 100.0% 80.2 0.3 1 12
Leighton Vander Esch 5 3 60.0% 64.6 0.2 -3 18
Markquese Bell 8 7 87.5% 92.7 1.9 13 37
Damone Clark 8 7 87.5% 81.3 -0.4 -2 30
Juanyeh Thomas 2 1 50.0% 56.3 0.0 -5 10

DaRon Bland’s second game taking over for Trevon Diggs went considerably better than his first. Bland was targeted a game-high eight times (Diggs was targeted eight times in two games) and only gave up four completions. He broke up one pass and, of course, intercepted two others, returning one for a score.

It’s not just Bland, though. Stephon Gilmore didn’t allow a single completion on his three targets last week, and Jourdan Lewis has the third-lowest passer rating allowed in the NFL when targeted in the slot. These cornerbacks have all flashed their immense ability, and they’ll need to be on their game against a ferocious 49ers offense this week.

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