Dallas Cowboys Stats That Matter Through Week 4

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 2, 2013

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys drops back to pass against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on September 29, 2013 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

We're a quarter of the way through the 2013 NFL season, giving us a nice opportunity to dissect some of the key stats related to the Dallas Cowboys so far this season.

130-130: That's the Cowboys' record in their last 260 games, dating back to the start of the 1997 season. They won a playoff game in 1996, went 6-10 in 1997 and have been perfectly average ever since. In that 16-year span, they've won just a single playoff game. They've gone 8-8 the past two years, and they are sitting at 2-2 this season. 

105.0: That's Tony Romo's passer rating, making him the fourth-highest-rated passer in the league. He's also third in the league with a completion percentage of 72.4 and is on pace to post a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 32-to-4. All of those would be career highs. 

6.7: That's Romo's yards-per-attempt number, which ranks 20th in footballbehind guys like Terrelle Pryor, Eli Manning and Christian Ponder. Romo has never averaged fewer than 7.5 yards per attempt in his career. 

What's up with that? Well, for whatever reason, the Cowboys have been super conservative with the passing game this season. Romo has attempted only nine passes of 20-plus yards, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He's completed four of them and has three touchdowns on those nine throws. By comparison, division-rival quarterbacks Eli Manning, Robert Griffin III and Michael Vick have thrown an average of 18 20-plus-yard passes this season. Romo averaged 4.4 "deep passes" a game last year, but he's averaging only 2.3 of them this season.

What happened to Romo the gunslinger? Should he be taking more chances? Our pal Jonathan Bales of Cowboys.com thinks so:

A lot is made of the team’s run/pass ratio, but I’d argue that when you consider the nature of the Cowboys’ passing game right now, the offense has actually been far too conservative in their play-calling. With only nine pass attempts over 20 yards through four games, the Cowboys are on pace to be one of the most conservative passing offenses of all-time.

356: That's how many rushing yards DeMarco Murray has, which quietly ranks third in the NFL. Murray is also averaging a very solid 4.9 yards per carry this season. And before you start criticizing the Cowboys for neglecting Murray too often, consider that he's touched the ball 93 times, which ranks third in the leaguebehind only Doug Martin and Adrian Peterson

4.6: That's how many yards per carry the Cowboys are averaging, which is up an entire yard from last season, when they ranked 31st in that category. On third or fourth down with two yards or less to go, the Dallas running game has a conversion rate of only 13 percent, according to Football Outsiders, which ranks 31st in the NFL. That has to be fixed, but fortunately, the Cowboys rank within the top 10 when it comes to open-field and second-level yardage. 

8: That's the number of takeaways the Dallas defense has this season, which ranks tied for ninth and is already halfway to their 2012 total of 16. They're literally recording twice as many takeaways this year. They're also tied for the league lead with three defensive touchdowns (Barry Church, Brandon Carr and Sean Lee) and have the league's 11th-ranked scoring defense (21.2 points allowed per game). 

21: That's the number of penalties the Cowboys have been hit with this season, which makes them the eighth-most-disciplined team in the league. Last year, they drew 117 flags, which was the third-highest total in football. They're taking 39 percent fewer penalties this year than they were last year. 

33: That's the percentage of third downs that have been converted against the Dallas defense this season, which is the fourth-best mark in the NFL. Only the 49ers, Chiefs and Lions have done a better job at getting off the field on third down. Last year, the Cowboys ranked in the bottom 10 in this category at 40 percent. 

14: That's the number of sacks the Dallas defense has recorded this season, which is encouraging because it represents a per-game increase from 2.1 last year to 3.5 this year, despite the absence of Anthony Spencer. Still, though, the Dallas defense failed to get enough pressure when it mattered in Week 4. They settled for just one sack against Philip Rivers, and their overall sack percentage of 7.7 ranks outside of the league's top 10. 

30.0 and 14.3: That's how many yards Dwayne Harris is averaging on kick returns and punt returns, ranking him fourth in the NFL in both areas. Thanks in part to those solid numbers, the Cowboys have been starting drives, on average, at their own 28.7-yard line, which is at least better than average. 

ARLINGTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 22:  Jason Hatcher #97 of the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 22, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

12.5: That's Jason Hatcher's stop percentage, according to PFF, which ranks second among all NFL defensive tackles. Hatcher has stopped the opposing offense for a "loss" seven times on 56 run snaps, which is a big reason why that run defense ranks third in the NFL with only 77.8 yards allowed per game. 

0: That's the number of sacks left tackle Tyron Smith has given up this season, per PFF. Smith and Doug Free have surrendered only 17 total pressures in four games as a tackle duo. In fact, PFF still has Free graded as the best offensive tackle in the game. 

5.1: That's Travis Frederick's PFF run-blocking rating, which ranks second in the NFL at the center position. That's not bad for a rookie first-round pick whom many considered to be a reach. Frederick has struggled a bit in pass protection, but he's definitely helping DeMarco Murray and the running game.

25: That's the number of passes that have been completed against Bruce Carter in coverage this season, which, according to PFF, is more than any other linebacker in football. He's been picked on, time and time again, in that linebacking corps and was benched after giving up over 100 yards and two touchdowns Sunday in San Diego

272: That's the number of yards Morris Claiborne has surrendered in coverage this season, which is the seventh-highest total in the league. It's not as though Claiborne had a good rookie season, but he's already almost halfway to his yardage allowed total from 2012 (571). PFF has him ranked 98th out of 101 corners who have played at least 25 percent of their team's snaps. Remember, Dallas spent its top two 2012 draft picks on this guy.

11.0: That's the combined PFF grade for Cowboys starting safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, which makes them the highest-rated starting safety duo in the league one month into the season. Remember when the safety position was a major concern this offseason? 


*Unless stated otherwise, stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and NFL.com.