There is a familiar saying that “Numbers Don’t Lie.” While anyone can take a particular statistic and use it to prove their point or disprove someone else’s point, in general, the numbers in fact do not lie. In every sport, there are obvious numbers such as the score which clearly cannot be subject to debate. If you score more than your opponent, you win. Based on how many times you do this, you have a record that is established and that is another number which is what it is.
As we all know, the Dallas Cowboys have finished their season with eight wins and eight losses for three consecutive years. Each year, in the seventeenth week of the season, the Cowboys have had a chance to advance to the playoffs and each year, a different divisional opponent has thwarted these efforts. How do they get to the gate but forget the key?
To understand the end result, it is important to figure out how and why Dallas is always in that position. The best way to do so is study other teams that do prosper and find out which areas in comparison that the Cowboys are lacking. Researching this issue to depths beyond simplistic matters such as points per game scored or allowed, there are four common areas that continue to hinder the Cowboys. It is my belief that if Dallas can turn these areas into positives, the end result will change and Dallas should turn into a perennial playoff team.
THIRD DOWN CONVERSION PERCENTAGE
Over the last five seasons, the Dallas Cowboys have been decent but not good enough when it comes to maintaining drives when they get to a third down. Dallas converts about 40% of the time (40.7% in 2009, 40.8% in 2010, 39.3% in 2011, 43.9% in 2012 and 35.0% last season). Aside from a ridiculous Saints team in 2011 that converted almost 56% of the time, the league leaders usually are successful 48% of the time. Of the 50 teams that finished in the top ten in this statistic, the end result was a combined winning percentage of 61% with 30 of them making the playoffs.
This statistic is crucial because it not only maintains a drive which ultimately leads to more points, but it also reduces the time your defense is on the field. For the Cowboys, protecting the defense is going to be huge for their playoff hopes as that unit is truly the question mark going into the 2014 season.
This will sound obvious, but oblige me for a minute. The good teams… the really good teams beat their opponents handily. Since 2009, the following teams have shown up in the top ten in point differential more than three times: San Francisco (3), Baltimore, Green Bay, New Orleans and Philadelphia (4) and New England (5). Three of those teams have won a Super Bowl in that time frame and San Francisco lost to Baltimore. The combined records of those six teams in the last five years… 315-163-2.
Dallas, on the other hand, had flip-flopped back and forth with seasonal point differentials of 111, -42, 22, -24 and 7. This indicates that they play too many close games and perform exactly how most NFL teams do in close games. They split them. The Cowboys record since 2009 is 41-39 with one playoff appearance. Given that they have finished in the top five in scoring twice during this time and never worse than 15th in any given season, the onus to help in this category will be on the defense which leads to us the quintessential chicken versus the egg argument…