Super Bowl Sunday Stats: Dallas Cowboys Style
As I sit here watching two franchises—one that I don’t particularly like or dislike with any passion, and another I despise—get ready to play for the NFL title in our stadium, I thought I’d look to next season. Since Dallas has been to eight Super Bowls—no team has been to more—I’ve noticed there are some very interesting trends (along with the ever-present “exception to the rule”) which show up remarkably consistently.
Want to see Dallas in the big game? History says watch for these keys:
- Win the opening game of the regular season. The only exception here is the `93 squad, which actually lost its first two games—thanks to the team tanking because of Emmitt’s absence—but rallied (Smith returned) to go 12-2 the rest of the season, and, of course, 3-0 in the playoffs. Still, 7-1 is a powerful trend that indicates it is important to get off to a hot start.
- Win the last regular season game. 7-1 not good enough for you? Want one even stronger? How about 8-0? That’s right, no Dallas Cowboys team has ever made the Super Bowl in a year when they lost their last game of the regular season. None. Nada. Kind of curious, as other franchises are able to occasionally pull off the trick, as the Saints did last year and the Giants did in 2007. For the Cowboys, however, winning that last game seems vitally important.
- Lose no more than four games. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a 14 or 16 game season, when Dallas makes the Super Bowl, they don’t lose more than four games. Of course, if they want to all but guarantee a win, they should endeavor to lose less than 4. The squads that did–’71 (11-3), `77 (12-2), and `92 (13-3)–all won their Super Bowl quite handily.
- Win the NFC East. It’s not an absolute must, but it’s darn close. Only the `75 team made the Super Bowl as a wild card. The other seven won their division.
- Play the NFC conference title game at home. Again, not a must, but the Cowboys are a perfect 5-0 in those games played in Dallas. That’s strong mojo, bro.
- Have a great running game. Yeah, yeah, I know, it’s a different league now, all passing, the rules favor the offense, blah, blah, blah. Don’t care. The 90’s Super Bowl teams had Emmitt of course, and the `77 and `78 teams had Dorsett. The `70, `71 teams didn’t have running backs that, but they might have had something even better in a three-headed monster–Calvin Hill, Walt Garrison, and Duane Thomas. Oh, and that `75 team? The one that didn’t have a thousand-yard rusher or any great backs? They managed to get 173.7 YPG rushing, second only to the `77 team that averaged 173.9. The 90’s Cowboys Super Bowl teams averaged about a 130 YPG rushing. ALL the Dallas Super Bowl teams averaged over four yards-per-carry, which may be the more significant stat.
- Have great yards-per-attempt passing numbers. 1, 2, 3, 3, 3, 8, 4, & 3. That’s where Dallas finished every season in the very important yards-per-attempt passer rankings. I always wondered how Craig Morton, of all people, got the Cowboys to the Super Bowl in 1970. Great defense, great running game (first) and ol’ Craig led the NFL in YPA that year. Blew me away. Yet, there’s always that weird anomaly. The `92 squad, arguably the best of all the Super Bowl teams, ranked only eighth. Not bad, but reasonably far from the other final rankings.
- Play great defense. This seems like a “well duhhh” point here, but I’ve seen more than a few so-called experts say that in today’s NFL, you can get to the Super Bowl with a very average, even below average, defense as long as you have a great offense. That may be technically true, but I counter with the thought that those seasons are rare exceptions rather than the rule. Plus, some of those teams really turned up the defense in the playoffs, like the 2006 Colts. 23rd ranked defense in the regular season, and then ranked first in the playoffs. I wouldn’t count on that sort of thing. Instead, I point to these defensive rankings: 4, 3, 5, 1, 2, 1, 10, and 9 (average ranking: fourth), and say that it seems clear the Cowboys need at least a top ten defense to get to the big game.
Well there you have it. Any season the Cowboys make the playoffs, you now have some indicators of whether it’s a token appearance, or the real deal. Slip in as a pass-heavy, offensive-minded, 10-6 wild card team? Bye. See ya. Go in as a high-seeded 12-4 team with a strong running game, hot quarterback, and top defense? Win that last game? Super Bowl, here we come.
So, what happened in 2007? Odd year. An anomaly, at first glance. Cowboys go 13-3, and have the number one seed. Check. This was an offensive juggernaut (third in total offense), and Romo was second in YPA. Check. They didn’t run all that well (17th, 109 YPG), but they averaged a respectable 4.2 YPC. Call that a push. They had the ninth-rated defense. Check. Won their season opener. Check.
All those checks!
Lost the last game of the regular season. 27-6 to the `Skins. Bzzzt. Killer.
Oh well, there’s always next year, right?