One thing the Cowboys must focus on to have more playoff success
Everyone loves the flashiness of teams. Playing to win is the goal, but it is the big plays that many find most captivating and understandably so. Unfortunately, that doesn't always lead to what matters, winning games, especially in the playoffs.
Regular-season accomplishments matter only up until the playoffs begin. From then on, accomplishments don't matter until you win the big game, the Super Bowl. The Dallas Cowboys learned that all too well this past season.
After a very successful 12-5 season and a dominant Wild Card performance, the San Francisco 49ers defense ultimately shut down the team. Dallas was dealing with some injuries (as most teams do) but also suffered from costly turnovers and a lack of success on third downs.
In the Cowboys' last three playoff losses, they failed to have a third-down conversion percentage higher than 36, with two of them including turnovers. That would rank in the bottom seven in the league during the 2022 regular season. Not getting a new set of downs has killed them.
It's easier said than done, but avoiding turning the ball over and converting on third down will go a long way. Keeping things simple and playing more efficiently rather than flashy is a step toward achieving that. The team has taken steps in the right direction to ensure that happens this year.
Cowboys must be more efficient offensively to make a deep playoff run
"I don't desire to be the No. 1 offense in the league. I want to be the No. 1 team in the league with a number of wins and a championship. And if we gotta give up some production and take care of the ball better to get that, then that's what we'll do, because we have a really good defense. "- Mike McCarthy
Mike McCarthy caught the attention of many with that quote. It's a philosophy which contradicts what the team aimed for during the better part of the past decade. More offence doesn't always mean more wins.
The additions of Brandin Cooks and tight end Luke Schoonmaker play a critical role in the new style of offense. Get open, and catch the ball. It sounds pretty simple, but Dallas' receivers (outside CeeDee Lamb) couldn't do it.
Cooks is known for his speed and ability to be a downfield threat, but his subtle route-running is often forgotten. He can shake defenders in man and find holes in the zone. If there's tight coverage, he has much more fight to win a contested ball than you think.
Schoonmaker is not as much of a threat as a receiver, but his freakish athleticism and speed for a tight end, combined with sticky hands, make him an under-the-radar threat. He wasn't used enough at Michigan but should contribute in play action and be a safe check-down option for Dak Prescott.
Quick throws must shift to the first read, with deep options only when available. Previously, the Kellen Moore-led offense thrived on making big plays. While it led to high scores for the offense, it also cost them by giving up possession of the ball and bad field position on defense. Sometimes, simple is better.
The newly installed west coast offense is more than just passing; running the ball will occasionally be needed. McCarthy claims he wants to run the ball more than the team did in 2022, but I don't completely buy it. Instead, they will probably look at more unique ways to feed the ball to their running backs.
Versatility made the defense the elite force it is, and having that same versatility on offense will help them be more efficient. More time with the ball means the opposing team can't score, there is a better chance for you to score, and less stress on the defense, which means they can perform better.
After many years of leaning on the offense with an underwhelming defense, it is now the defense that is lifting the offense. The Dallas Cowboys are changing their scheme under McCarthy's playcalling and adding pieces to help them reach their goal.
Change is not always easy, but it was needed. We have a long time until we see it in action during the regular season, and later the playoffs, but Dallas' offense is looking to quietly be better than it has been in recent memory.