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2023 Cowboys analytics roundup: Miami loss hasn’t changed much

The Cowboys’ overall team strength remains unchanged

Dallas Cowboys v Miami Dolphins Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Cowboys went on the road again and lost, offering more substance to the narrative that this team struggles away from AT&T Stadium. That’s a concerning narrative given the extreme likelihood that the Cowboys will be playing on the road for the duration of the postseason.

However, the advanced metrics that take into account all of the various factors - including quality of opponent and other variables like home/away splits - remain largely the same as it relates to these Cowboys. The very narrow loss to the Dolphins doesn’t seem to have changed this team’s overall strength that much. Let’s take a closer look at the numbers.

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 8.6% 9th 9th 11.6% 7th
Defense -6.8% 6th 6th -3.2% 11th
Special Teams 2.7% 6th 7th 3.3% 6th
Overall 18.0% 6th 6th 18.0% 5th

Notice anything? The Cowboys didn’t move up or down in the rankings for overall, offensive, or defensive DVOA from last week to this week. The only category where they saw any movement was special teams, which bumped up one spot despite the special teams DVOA grade literally not changing at all.

All of this goes to show that the Cowboys’ loss to the Dolphins really didn’t mean much in terms of these stats. That makes sense, given that both of these teams have been near the top of the DVOA leaderboards for quite some time, and they played a very close game. It also means the Cowboys remain one of the top teams in the league, a good spot to be in heading into the playoffs.

2023 NFL Team Tiers, Weeks 1-16, courtesy of rbsdm.com

The EPA-based team tiers reflect this as well. Last week brought the comical realization that these two teams were pretty much dead even in total EPA/play, and after playing each other their logos still overlap almost perfectly. All losses count the same in the end, but this was about as good of a loss as a team can get.

Offense

Cowboys Offensive Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Offensive DVOA 8.6% 9th
Pass DVOA 24.2% 10th
Run DVOA -4.2% 14th
EPA/Play 0.116 2nd
EPA/Dropback 0.215 2nd
EPA/Rush -0.050 10th

As was the case for the team as a whole, the offense largely remained steady this week in terms of efficiency. It was an uneven performance within the game, though, as the Cowboys engineered long drives with chunk plays in the first and fourth quarters but largely struggled in the second and third quarters.

That’s partially a reflection of the caliber of defense they faced, but also a reflection (to some degree) of the absence of Tyron Smith at left tackle. We’ve seen better games from this offense, but the initial impression that this was a bad game from this unit doesn’t jive with the data.

Dak Prescott’s Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
QBR 71.5 3rd
EPA/play 0.222 2nd
CPOE 3.0 7th
DVOA 17.7% 5th
DYAR 1080 5th

This wasn’t Dak Prescott’s best game of the season, but it was certainly an improvement from last week. He completed 62.5% of his passes for 253 yards, throwing two touchdowns and one big time throw against zero interceptions or turnover worthy plays.

The biggest area of concern, though, is Prescott’s time to throw in this game clocking in at 2.98 seconds. For the second straight week, Prescott was forced to hold the ball longer because his first read was often taken away. That’s a potentially huge Achilles heel in this type of timing-based offense, and one that needs to be corrected if the Cowboys want to have any staying power in the postseason.

Cowboys Offensive Line Efficiency

Grade Rank
Grade Rank
Pressure Rate 15.4% 4th
Adjusted Sack Rate 7.2% 17th
Blown Block Rate 2.48% 15th
Pass Block Win Rate 57% 18th
Run Block Win Rate 72% 6th
Adjusted Line Yards 4.28 10th

As mentioned earlier, Tyron Smith’s absence was felt in this game. Chuma Edoga wasn’t a turnstile, but he definitely struggled. Edoga gave up five pressures, two hits, and a sack. He had two especially egregious plays where he appeared to simply block the wrong way, likely a result of simply not having played in a game for some time.

That being said, Edoga can’t make those mental mistakes if he’s to be relied on as the primary backup for Smith, a left tackle who is still very good when playing but has proven he can’t be relied upon to actually take the field.

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% 27th
EPA/Play -0.078 4th
EPA/Dropback Allowed -0.061 5th
EPA/Rush Allowed -0.104 14th

All things considered, this was a good game for the Cowboys defense. They didn’t shut down Tyreek Hill or dominate this banged up offensive line or limit explosive plays, but they held their own. It was a classic bend-but-don’t-break type of performance, which is usually best case scenario against an offense as efficient as Miami.

Of course, the defense let up when they most needed a stop. On their final drive, the Cowboys were unable to defend their lead and let the Dolphins walk down the field, burning time off the clock and kicking the game winner as time expired. It was a massive letdown moment, but shouldn’t erase an otherwise really promising game against a great offense.

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 80 44 55.0% 85.5 11.2 410 192
DaRon Bland 81 42 51.9% 46.5 12.2 364 189
Jourdan Lewis 60 42 70.0% 111.7 7.9 277 222
Jayron Kearse 35 29 82.9% 102.5 7.9 206 115
Malik Hooker 10 8 80.0% 118.8 9.8 76 84
Donovan Wilson 22 18 81.8% 128.6 5.3 62 105
Juanyeh Thomas 13 7 53.8% 90.9 3.9 5 52
Leighton Vander Esch 7 5 71.4% 87.2 0.4 -1 44
Markquese Bell 42 29 69.0% 85.2 2.0 9 249
Damone Clark 27 22 81.5% 103.1 1.6 13 143

The Dolphins have a nearly impossible to defend passing game, with two electric fast receivers that are even more dangerous after the catch. The more senior corners on this team, Stephon Gilmore and Jourdan Lewis, predictably struggled. They combined to allow eight completions on 12 targets. Meanwhile, Donovan Wilson and Jayron Kearse failed to force a single incompletion across their combined eight targets.

One secondary player who did do well? DaRon Bland, of course. He saw five targets - all of them against Hill - and only yielded one catch all day. Of course, that one catch did go for 12 yards and a first down, but that’s a pretty good stat line when facing arguably the best receiver in the league.

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