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2023 Cowboys analytics roundup: Dallas drops after crushing Bills’ loss

How much did last week set the Cowboys back in your mind?

Dallas Cowboys v Buffalo Bills Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images

Well, that happened. The Cowboys went up to Buffalo and got utterly bullied in every phase of the game, losing 31-10 and shaking the confidence of just about every Cowboys fan. Lost in all the madness was the fact that Dallas clinched a playoff berth right before kickoff, though their odds of hosting even one playoff game decreased after the loss.

So the Cowboys are definitely going to the playoffs, and they’ve been good enough to clinch that up just one game into December. But where do they stack up against the best of the best, and how much did the embarrassing loss to the Bills set them back? As always, it’s the time of the week where we turn to the analytics to find out.

Cowboys Efficiency at a Glance

DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
DVOA DVOA Rank DVOA Rank Previous Rank Weighted DVOA Weighted DVOA Rank
Offense 9.4% 9th 6th 12.3% 7th
Defense -6.9% 6th 5th -4.5% 9th
Special Teams 2.7% 7th 8th 3.4% 6th
Overall 19.0% 6th 4th 20.2% 6th

Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys have taken a few steps back in the DVOA rankings after that game. They dropped from fourth in overall DVOA to sixth, with a healthy distance between them and the two teams directly ahead of them. By the way, one of those teams is the Dolphins, who host the Cowboys this week.

That said, the Cowboys still have the second-best DVOA grade in the NFC. The Lions are right behind them, seventh overall, at a distant 14.2% grade. There’s a large chasm between the 49ers and Cowboys, but also a good deal of space between Dallas and the rest of the conference.

2023 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-15, courtesy of rbsdm.com

This is also reflected in the EPA-based team tiers. There’s a good chunk of space between them and San Francisco, but the Eagles and Lions are also well behind the Cowboys. All in all, this is still a good spot to be in, but the drastic discrepancy between the top two teams in the NFC has to be concerning when thinking about playoff longevity.

It’s interesting and a bit comical that the Cowboys are pretty much the exact same as the Dolphins in terms of total EPA/play the week they face each other. Obviously the two teams are very different in terms of scheme and personnel, but the team efficiency numbers suggest that this should be a very evenly matched game.

Offense

Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA 9.4% 9th
Pass DVOA 23.9% 10th
Run DVOA -3.2% 13th
EPA/Play 0.114 4th
EPA/Dropback 0.204 2nd
EPA/Rush -0.037 9th

This was a bad game for the Cowboys offense, easily their worst performance since that Week 5 catastrophe against the 49ers. Some external factors played a part in it, but Buffalo also just played really well on offense, frequently taking away the first and second read while their pass rush got to work.

Having said all that, the offense didn’t drop all that much in their various efficiency rankings. To be clear, they declined across the board, but not significantly. This is still a top 10 offense by nearly every metric, and there’s reason to believe they’ll return to form this upcoming week in a much more beneficial environment.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 72.7 2nd
EPA/play 0.225 2nd
CPOE 3.3 7th
DVOA 18.2% 6th
DYAR 1023 5th

In his very first game as the definitive betting favorite for the MVP award, Dak Prescott served up a stinker of a performance. His 39.4 player grade from Pro Football Focus was his worst of the year, and Prescott was just never on in this one. He completed just 61.8% of his passes and had four turnover worthy plays and an interception after posting just three turnover worthy plays and an interception over his previous eight games.

Much like the offense as a whole, though, Prescott’s really bad game doesn’t erase how great he’s been this season. He’s still putting up one of the very best seasons at quarterback this year, and remains in the top four of MVP odds with most sports books. Of course, Prescott faces an uphill climb to get back into the MVP race proper, and his play over these final three weeks will go a long way towards shaping the discussion around him.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Pressure Rate 15.0% 3rd
Adjusted Sack Rate 7.0% 13th
Blown Block Rate 2.44% 11th
Pass Block Win Rate 57% 18th
Run Block Win Rate 72% 5th
Adjusted Line Yards 4.33 8th

Surprisingly, the Cowboys offensive line didn’t take much of a hit in the metrics this week despite Prescott being sacked three times. In fact, the offensive line was only charged with one sack and five pressures. That’s because Prescott held the ball for an average of 2.93 seconds per throw, an alarmingly high and unsustainable number in any offense. That uncharacteristically high time to throw for Prescott also reflects how often the Bills took away his initial reads, forcing the quarterback to move around more than usual.

Further underscoring this factor is that the offensive line’s win rates, both in the pass and run game, remained static this week. Both metrics measure a line’s ability to hold their blocks for 2.5 seconds, regardless of what happens after those 2.5 seconds are up. Prescott was getting hit a lot in this game, but his offensive line was holding up their end of the bargain more often than not.

Defense

Cowboys Defensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Defensive DVOA -6.9% 6th
Pass Defense DVOA -4.2% 6th
Run Defense DVOA -10.2% 16th
Pass Rush Win Rate 60% 1st
Run Stop Win Rate 29% 29th
EPA/Play -0.086 6th
EPA/Dropback Allowed -0.080 6th
EPA/Rush Allowed -0.097 13th

We’ve made it to the defensive portion of the analytics roundup, which is where the knives come out this week. To call the Cowboys’ defensive performance this week putrid would be an understatement. Their run defense got gashed in a big way. So big, in fact, that they dropped from sixth in run defense DVOA to 16th in just one week. Take a moment to think on that.

DVOA grades exist as a percentage, meaning it takes into account the full body of data. Naturally, the more data there is, the less likely a DVOA grade is to have a huge jump from one week to the next. For the Cowboys to drop 10 (!!!) spots in one week, with 15 total weeks of data going into the calculation of the grade, is the kind of thing that only happens when you get a historically bad game of epic proportions. It was exactly that kind of game for the Cowboys run defense.

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 74 40 54.1% 83.2 10.9 341 179
DaRon Bland 76 41 53.9% 49.9 11.6 346 189
Jourdan Lewis 54 38 70.4% 115.1 8.4 269 196
Jayron Kearse 30 24 80.0% 89.2 7.9 166 96
Malik Hooker 10 8 80.0% 118.8 9.8 76 84
Donovan Wilson 19 15 78.9% 129.8 4.8 36 92
Juanyeh Thomas 12 7 58.3% 98.3 3.3 5 52
Leighton Vander Esch 7 5 71.4% 87.2 0.4 -1 44
Markquese Bell 36 26 72.2% 90.2 1.1 4 237
Damone Clark 26 21 80.8% 102.7 1.4 7 138

Surprisingly, the pass defense came out looking okay in this game. Of course, that has a lot to do with Josh Allen only throwing 15 passes all game, but Dallas fared well when he did throw. Playing without Malik Hooker instilled a concern about the defense’s ability to take away the deep shots this offense loves, but Allen only attempted one pass over 20 yards downfield and it fell incomplete.

The only defender that really struggled in coverage this week was Damone Clark, but even that was a small sample size. Clark’s lone target came against James Cook in the red zone, and it resulted in a Cook touchdown. There really isn’t any valuable information to be gleaned about this secondary after this game, but the Dolphins are sure to test them.

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