While digging deep into Dallas Cowboys stats from 2012, I really began to realize that this team played two separate, very distinct seasons in one.
The entire team became more clutch, more efficient and more powerful during the second half of the year, which has me wondering what kind of shape they'd be in right now had guys like Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Barry Church, Jay Ratliff and Kenyon Coleman not been sidelined on defense.
Here's a final stats-based look at the 2012 Cowboys...
99.5: That was Tony Romo's passer rating in the second half of 2012, making him the fifth-highest rated quarterback in football during that span. During the first eight games, it was 78.8, which ranked 25th in the league.
101.2: That was Romo's rating in the month of December. For the second straight year, that was by far and away his most productive month. In the last two Decembers, he has 20 touchdown passes and just four interceptions.
5: That's how many fourth-quarter comebacks Romo led, which is more than any other quarterback in the NFL. He also had a 101.2 passer rating in the fourth Q (just coincidentally the same as his December rating), throwing 12 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Romo now has a 24-to-6 fourth-quarter touchdown-to-interception ratio since the start of 2011. Yet despite the last three paragraphs worth of stats that indicate Romo rises to the occasions more often than not, plenty of Cowboys fans want to get rid of him because of one poor performance in Week 17.
162: That's how many points Dallas scored in the fourth quarter this season, which was more than anyone else in football and the fifth-highest total in NFL history.
208: That's how many points Dallas scored in the first three quarters this season, which ranked ahead of only three NFC teams. Put it all together and the Cowboys offense was only slightly above average in terms of points per game.
Minus-11: That was the team's turnover margin during the first eight games of the season, which ranked second-to-last in football and was the primary reason they started 3-5. That number jumped forward to as high as minus-8 during the second half of the year but they still ended up going minus-2 to finish at minus-13. When they won, their margin was plus-4, and when they lost it was minus-17.
10: That's how many touchdowns Dez Bryant scored during the second half of the season, ranking first in football by a margin of two over Marshawn Lynch and Alfred Morris. In fact, only five NFL players had more than five receiving touchdowns during that span. During that stretch, Bryant was also third in the league in yardage, sixth in catches and first in yards per reception (min. 30 catches to qualify).
195: That's how many total pressures the Cowboys gave up this year, which was the fifth-highest total in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. And while Romo was sacked exactly 36 times for the second year in a row, that pressure total rose by 32 percent.
What hurt the Dallas offense more?
693: While the pass protection deserves to be criticized for that pressure stat, Romo did drop back to pass a lot. In fact, he did so 693 times, which ranked fourth in the NFL (per PFF) and was quite the boost from the 566 dropbacks he took in 2011. Only Arizona ran the ball less than the Cowboys, who handed it off 3.3 fewer times per game this year than they did in 2011.
3.6: A big reason why they were handing off less is that the running game wasn't as effective. With DeMarco Murray dealing with injuries and Felix Jones and the rest of the backs lacking consistency, Dallas averaged just 3.6 yards per carry, ranking 31st in the NFL. That's a big reason why Romo faced more heat this year than in 2011, when they averaged a solid 4.6 yards per rushing attempt.