For the third consecutive year, the Dallas Cowboys were good, not great, bad, not terrible. They became the third team ever to go 8-8 three years in a row. That's the stat that matters most to suffering fans. But let's dig a little deeper and break down some numbers that might explain why they finished with a .500 record.
27.4: That's how many points the Cowboys averaged on a per-game basis, which ranked fifth in the NFL. Kind of surprising when you consider that they lacked some consistency on offense. Dallas and Chicago were the only teams that ranked in the top 12 in this category without making the playoffs, and in the end it was the fifth-highest-scoring season in Cowboys history.
6: It helps that this is the number of touchdowns the Cowboys scored on defense or special teams, which was the second-highest total in the league. Monte Kiffin and the defense deserve a lot of heat, but they did make plays.
27.0: The problem is that's the number of points Dallas allowed on defense, which ranked 26th. It also surrendered a league-high 6,645 yards, which was the third-highest total in the history of professional football.
41: That's the number of players the Cowboys were forced to use on defense in 2013, according to ESPN.com. No other defensive unit in the league used more than 32.
|Most players used on defense, 2013|
|1. Dallas Cowboys||41|
|2. Indianapolis Colts||32|
|2. New Orleans Saints||32|
3: That's the number of takeaways the Dallas defense recorded in four games in the month of December. Prior to that, it had 25 takeaways in 12 games, ranking fourth in the NFL, but only two teams forced fewer turnovers than it did during the final four weeks. Unsurprisingly, the team went 1-3 during that stretch.
Minus-4: That was Cowboys' turnover differential during those final four weeks. They turned it over just 13 times in their first 13 games but coughed it up seven times in the final three weeks. It was really a tale of two separate seasons in terms of turnovers and takeaways. It should be noted, though, that only three of those seven turnovers were Tony Romo interceptions.
|Cowboys and the turnover battle: A tale of two seasons|
|First 12 games||1.0||2.1||+12|
|Last 4 games||1.8||0.8||-4|
|Pro Football Reference|
1.9: That was Romo's interception rate. He was one of only nine quarterbacks with at least eight starts and an interception percentage below 2.0.
35: Despite having a good offense in terms of points and yards, that was the Cowboys' third-down conversion percentage in 2013, which ranked tied for 22nd in the NFL.
68.6: That, though, was the team's scoring percentage in the red zone, which ranked third in the NFL, according to TeamRankings.com.
64.5: And of course, that was Dallas' red-zone scoring percentage as a defense, which ranked second-to-last in the NFL. Like yin and yang, eh?
21.0: That's the average number of times the Cowboys ran the ball per game, ranking 31st in the NFL. The Cowboys and Bears were the only teams in the league to run the ball less than the league average while averaging more than 4.2 yards per carry. In fact, the two finished tied for seventh in football with 4.5 yards per rush. They ditched the run too often, but defensive lapses were certainly part of that formula.
|Teams that averaged at least 4.5 YPC in 2013|
|1. Philadelphia Eagles||31.2|
|2. Green Bay Packers||28.7|
|3. Washington Redskins||28.3|
|4. Kansas City Chiefs||27.6|
|5. Oakland Raiders||27.3|
|6. Minnesota Vikings||26.4|
|7. Chicago Bears||25.2|
|8. Dallas Cowboys||21.0|
|Pro Football Reference|
5.2: That was the number of yards DeMarco Murray averaged per attempt, which ranked first in the NFL among backs with at least 150 carries. It could have been a lot worse if the running game hadn't shown up.
64.9: That's the percentage of passing plays the Cowboys ran in 2013, which ranked fourth behind only Atlanta, Cleveland and Miami, and just ahead of Jacksonville. None of those teams had winning records. In fact, of the top 10 teams in this category, only the Saints made the playoffs.
8-to-1: That was Romo's touchdown-to-interception ratio on passes that traveled 20 or more yards, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Only Nick Foles of the Eagles could beat that. The problem is Romo attempted those passes only 10.5 percent of the time, which ranked ahead of only Robert Griffin III among quarterbacks who took at least 50 percent of their team's snaps.
6: That's the number of deep passes Dez Bryant caught in 2013, ranking second-to-last among qualifying receivers, per PFF. He was targeted deep only 17 percent of the time (compared to 28 percent for DeSean Jackson) and caught only 22 percent of those balls (compared to 49 percent for Jackson).
1.48: That's the number of yards opposing backs averaged against the Cowboys between five and 10 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, which, according to Football Outsiders, was the second-highest mark in the NFL. It goes to show how much they missed Sean Lee as well as how much Bruce Carter struggled. Carter had the third-worst PFF run defense grade among 4-3 outside linebackers.
7: That's the number of games Morris Claiborne started, a number which was low as a result of injuries as well as poor play. The Cowboys used their top two picks of the 2012 draft on this guy.
5.2: That was the Cowboys' sack percentage on defense, which was tied with the Eagles for last in the NFL. DeMarcus Ware had his worst season as a pro, Anthony Spencer missed virtually the entire year and Jay Ratliff was gone.
|Lowest sack percentages on defense, 2013|
|1. Dallas Cowboys||5.2||34|
|1. Philadelphia Eagles||5.2||37|
|3. Jacksonville Jaguars||5.3||31|
|Pro Football Reference|
26.9: That was the Cowboys' defensive DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) versus tight ends in 2013, according to Football Outsiders, which meant they struggled to cover tight ends more than any other team in the NFL.
1: That's the number of sacks Tyron Smith surrendered on 1,023 snaps, according to PFF. He was the only tackle in the league to give up fewer than two sacks on over 600 snaps.
17.9: That was Travis Frederick's PFF run-blocking grade, which ranked first in the NFL. Not bad for a rookie many thought was picked far too high.
79.9: That was the offensive line's overall pass-blocking efficiency rating, per PFF, which ranked eighth in the league. A breakout year from Smith, the emergence of Frederick and a bounce-back year from Doug Free all contributed. Since PFF started with that metric in 2008, Dallas has never finished that high.