Dallas Cowboys 2010 Rushing/Passing Efficiency By Down
I’ve talked before about why I believe the Cowboys should throw more often on first down, particularly out of running formations. Despite the league-wide transition to an emphasis on throwing the football, defenses still tend to primarily defend the run on first down.
Well, I sorted through my 2010 play database today to determine the Cowboys’ efficiency on first down passes. I quickly realized the numbers were relatively useless without a comparison to statistics on other downs, so I calculated those as well. Then, I postulated that an even stronger down-to-down comparison of passing statistics would be accomplished by noting the team’s rushing efficiency too. The result of all of this is below:
A few notes:
- The Cowboys’ completion percentage remains relatively steady, regardless of the down. I was really surprised to see just a 4.4 percent difference between first and second down passing.
- You might think the Cowboys would run more on second down than first, but that’s actually not the case. Nearly two-thirds of second down plays have been passes.
- As expected, third down passing efficiency trumps that on first and second down. I would speculate this is due to game situations–defenses don’t mind yielding a 10-yard gain on 3rd and 15. Still, 8.01 yards-per-attempt is tremendous for any down.
- The low rushing efficiency on third down stems primarily from 3rd and short situations. Running on 3rd and 4+ is actually quite successful.
- The greatest disparity between rushing and passing efficiency comes on third down (passing is 2.36 times as efficient), followed by first down (1.80 times as efficient), and then second down (1.56 times as efficient). You might ask, “Why not just pass the ball every play?” Well, aside from the fact that defenses would quickly adjust, running the ball also yields a higher percentage of positive plays–there are no incomplete passes. A 3rd and 1 run is almost always superior to a pass for this reason.
- Surprisingly, the Cowboys have the highest completion percentage on second down, yet the lowest efficiency on those plays. This may be more evidence that throwing the ball short isn’t as productive as chucking it deep.
There are a lot of other conclusions that can be drawn here. I’d love to hear what some of the DC Times regulars think about this data.