Dec 22, 2013; Landover, MD, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) watches from the bench against the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The Cowboys won 24-23. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
If you caught either the AFC Championship game Sunday with the Denver Broncos taking on the New England Patriots, or the later game when the Seattle Seahawks played the San Francisco 49ers for the NFC Championship, you witnessed two very different, albeit effective winning NFL football styles.
The Broncos were the 2013 regular season’s top offense with 606 total points, 457.3 yards per game, and 37.9 points per game. The Patriots entered Sunday’s matchup as the second ranked regular season offense with 444 total points and 27.8 points per game. New England was also seventh in the league with 384.5 yards per game. The AFC Championship featured high octane offenses led by two future hall of fame quarterbacks in Denver’s Peyton Manning and New England’s Tom Brady, and the Denver Broncos will make another trip back to the Super Bowl winning 26-16.
Fast forward to Sunday’s late game, and two of the league’s top defenses squared off. The Seattle Seahawk’s were tops among all defenses during the 2013 regular season allowing just 231 total points, 273.6 yards per game, and 14.4 points per game. The San Francisco 49ers were third in the NFL during 2013 giving up 272 total points and 17 points per game. The 49ers also allowed the fifth least yards per game (316.9). The Seattle and San Francisco defenses were stellar throughout the year, and the NFC Championship was an exhibition in stingy, hard-nosed defense. It was fitting that a defensive turnover ended the game for the Seattle Seahawks 23-17 victory.
While watching both championship games, I could not help but ask myself how close the Dallas Cowboys are to mimicking the four AFC/NFC Championship teams? The results of the Cowboys 8-8 season and missing the playoffs altogether create an obvious scenario where anyone must draw the conclusion that Dallas is not close at all, but I wanted to do a deeper comparison.
As previously mentioned, both Denver and New England were top 7 in every major category on the offensive side of the ball. The Cowboys on the other hand were fifth in the league with total points (439) and points per game (27.4), and sixteenth in yards per game (341.1). On the surface, from an offensive perspective, the 2013 Dallas Cowboys could hang with the two most prolific offenses in the league. But, the glaring offensive difference is that the Cowboys were the 24th ranked rushing offense with just 94 yards per game, and both Denver and New England ran for over 117 yards per game.
The bottom line is when analyzing the Cowboys offense versus the best in the league, the team comes up desperately short running the ball. Dallas did not run the ball well at all during the 2013 regular season and frequently gave up on the run. The Cowboys did not allow the league’s fourth ranked rusher in yards per attempt (running back DeMarco Murray with 5.2) do what he does best. Dallas abandoned the run game after game, and the AFC Champion Denver Broncos proved that the top passing attack can win games, but NFL clubs must also effectively run the ball too.
When analyzing the Dallas Cowboys defense versus the Seahawks and 49ers, there really is no comparison at all. The Cowboys gave up the seventh most total points (432) and points per game (27), and yielded the most yards per game (415.3). Dallas has a long way to go on defense before this team can be considered even close to the same neighborhood as the Hawks or 9ers first and second ranked defensive squads.
The Cowboys need to look at the winning formula for the league in rushing the ball effectively, and producing league leading defenses. If Dallas can get back to running the ball while stopping opponent’s offensive attacks, the Cowboys might be able to overcome the 8-8 seasons.
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