How Dallas Cowboys Can Win Close Games, Plus Assessing Team's Playoff Chances

Jonathan BalesAnalyst IOctober 21, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16:  Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys looks on in the first half of the game against the New England Patriots on October 16, 2011 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

One of the most overlooked items from the Cowboys’ 20-16 loss to New England is the offense’s inability to capitalize on four turnovers from the Pats.  The defense put Romo & Co. in prime position to put points on the board, but they managed only six of them following four takeaways. has a great article on it, along with a graph detailing the Cowboys’ woes on the subsequent drives.

You can see the Cowboys failed miserably on all but one drive which followed a takeaway.  They managed only 97 yards on 28 plays, as well as a combined expected points total of almost -5 for those drives.  When the ‘Boys gained possession on those four drives, the combined expected points for the drives (in blue) was almost nine.  In just four possessions, the Cowboys saw a swing of nearly 14 potential points–that is, had they performed “average” on those drives, they almost certainly would have won the game.


By the way, also over at ANS is another great post detailing each team’s chances of making the playoffs.  You can see that despite the 2-3 start, the Cowboys still hold a 63 percent chance of making the playoffs.  They are also actually the favorites to win the NFC East, doing so on 45 percent of 5,000 simulated seasons.  Of course, the criteria used to determine those percentages is based on the expected points and win probability from the site, so if you don’t buy those stats, these numbers aren’t of much use to you.  Still, it is interesting to see that the Cowboys still appear to be playing well enough to overcome their poor start.

The Cowboys did see their probability of making the postseason decline 19 percent after losing to the Pats.  In reality, it is a bit more than that, as their odds would have increased from the pregame 82 percent had they won.  They are still the favorites in the East, however, because they have the third- and fifth-most efficient offense and defense, respectively, in the NFL.  They’ve also played the most difficult schedule in the league thus far.

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