The DC Times

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

By Jonathan Bales

Running the Numbers: Cowboys’ Offensive Stats By Formation

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My latest ‘Running the Numbers’ article takes a look at the Cowboys’ offensive successes and failures from various formations:

  • 3 Wide I: 30 (20 passes—13.1 YPP; 10 runs—1.1 YPC)
  • Ace: 39 (26 passes—4.4 YPP; 13 runs—3.9 YPC)
  • Double Tight Left/Right I: 62 (13 passes—6.7 YPP; 49 runs—2.2 YPC)
  • Double Tight I Left/Right: 22 (4 passes—6.5 YPP; 18 runs—2.1 YPC)
  • Double Tight Left/Right Ace: 54 (12 passes—10.7 YPP; 42 runs—3.4 YPC)
  • Double Tight Twins Ace: 24 (13 passes—7.2 YPP; 11 runs—7.7 YPC)
  • Full House: 2 (0 passes; 2 runs—5.5 YPC)
  • Gun 3 Wide Pro: 18 (18 passes—6.1 YPP; 0 runs)
  • Gun 5 Wide: 36 (36 passes—4.6 YPP; 0 runs)
  • Gun Spread: 99 (96 passes—7.4 YPP; 3 runs—1.3 YPC)
  • Gun Tight End Spread: 153 (140 passes—6.8 YPP; 13 runs—2.7 YPC)
  • Gun Tight End Trips: 107 (84 passes—5.6 YPP; 23 runs—4.4 YPC)
  • Gun Trips: 129 (127 passes—7.8 YPP; 2 runs—5.0 YPC)
  • I-Formation: 16 (8 passes—17.3 YPP; 8 runs—2.8 YPC)
  • Jumbo: 10 (2 passes—0.5 YPP; 8 runs—1.3 YPC)
  • Spread (under center): 6 (3 passes—7.3 YPP; 3 runs—5.3 YPC)
  • Strong: 23 (10 passes—7.8 YPP; 13 runs—2.5 YPC)
  • Tight End Spread (under center): 49 (35 passes—6.0 YPP; 14 runs—5.5 YPC)
  • Tight End Trips (under center): 59 (17 passes—5.8 YPP; 42 runs—4.9 YPC)
  • Trips (under center): 16 (11 passes—3.5 YPP; 5 runs—1.8 YPC)
  • Twins: 53 (17 passes—5.8 YPP; 36 runs—3.9 YPC)
  • Weak: 21 (7 passes—4.7 YPP; 14 runs—5.9 YPC)

There’s plenty of interesting information here, but most intriguing to me is how well the Cowboys perform from “sub-optimal” formations. That is, the offense runs well out of spread formations and passes well out of tight ones. This phenomenon makes sense. Although it’s not inherently ideal to run with four receivers on the field or pass from I-Formation, it’s often beneficial because such calls possess the element of surprise. A first-and-10 play-action pass, for example, is probably better run from a big, tight formation because it forces the defense into heavier personnel and fools them into thinking a run is on the way.

The Results

For the record, I labeled any formation that utilized “11” personnel as the primary package (or any formation with no running backs) as a “spread” formation. Those included every Shotgun formation, Spread, Tight End Spread, Tight End Trips, and Trips. All the rest were labeled as “tight” formations.

As has been the case every season since 2009, the ’Boys were superior when they ran the “unexpected” play in 2012. The offense managed 4.6 YPC on the ground when running from spread formations, compared to just 3.3 YPC from tight formations. For passes, it was just the opposite; Dallas totaled 8.0 YPP when passing from tight formations, compared to only 5.4 YPP when throwing from spread formations.

It’s worth noting that game situations play a role in the results. The Cowboys frequently run the ball from tight formations in short-yardage situations, for example, and that could skew the data. However, the difference in the distance-to-go for a first down on both runs and passes from spread and tight formations was within one yard of each other, suggesting there’s more to the results than changes in the game situation.

Head over to DallasCowboys.com for the entire article.

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