The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys 2010 Rushing/Passing Efficiency By Down

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Jonathan Bales

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:

Note: I did not count QB spikes or kneel downs, and sacks/QB rushes are counted into the passing totals.

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.

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.

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5 Responses to Dallas Cowboys 2010 Rushing/Passing Efficiency By Down

  1. Michael says:

    Since we’re so successful on 2nd down, I agree, we should attack defenses more aggressively on 1st with the pass out of running formations. Last night I was mesmerized with how Norv Turner called plays that netted chunks of yards out of the passing game off of play-action passes then followed up with inside handoffs out of the Shotgun and power runs in base formations. I think the passes on first down should be down the field–I’m kind of over the screens and flares to Felix.

    I’m always in awe of your thorough and insightful research along with how it’s presented to us in an easy-to-understand format. Thanks as always and have an awesome weekend.

  2. Thanks a lot Michael–always appreciate the insightful comments. Turner’s play-calling on Thursday was awesome. His style is proof that the Cowboys can still be unique and unpredictable within the context of their current offense, as the philosophy and approach of NT and JG is similar.

  3. Roy says:

    Maybe the Cowboys could increase their 2nd down pass efficiency in terms of yd/play be incorporating more play action on second down, especially after a decent 1st down pass play.

  4. Excellent idea. Garrett’s playaction pass use, IMO, sucks. Last season, I believe only four PA passes came with 1-4 yards-to-go. 2nd and 1-4 are EXCELLENT situations to use PA, so where is it?

  5. Pingback: The Best of The DC Times | Dallas Cowboys Times

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