Running the Numbers: Why the Cowboys Need to Run Better, Not More Often
At DallasCowboys.com, I took another look at the ever-interesting (to me) topic of run-pass balance.
Heading to Baltimore to face the Ravens in Week 6 of the 2012 season, the Cowboys were sitting at 2-2 and in desperate need of a victory. The ’Boys’ running game, stagnant until that point in the season, erupted for 227 yards on 42 carries. Dallas came out firing from the start, rushing 33 times for 194 yards through the first three quarters.
With such dominance on the ground, it came as a shock to many when the Cowboys ended up losing by two points. Yes, you can say kicker Dan Bailey “should have” made a 51-yard field goal attempt with six seconds remaining in the contest, but the real “should have” was that the Dallas should have parlayed their authority over Baltimore into a late-game lead, not a deficit and a long field goal try that was far from a sure thing.
So what went wrong against the Ravens? Dare I say that the Cowboys’ offense, a unit that absolutely conquered an above-average Baltimore run defense, ran the ball too much?
In the preseason, I published an article detailing five myths surrounding the Cowboys, one of which was that the team wins by running the football early and often:
“Running the ball is strongly correlated with winning, so teams obviously need a powerful rushing attack to win games, right? Not really. Teams that are already winning rush the football to close out games, creating the illusion that running often is the impetus for team success. In reality, teams generally acquire the lead by throwing the football with great efficiency.
The Cowboys are no exception to the rule. Since 2008, they’ve won just 27.6 percent of their games when they pass on greater than 57 percent of their offensive plays. Wow, better keep it on the ground, right?
Before jumping to conclusions, soak this one in: That win rate miraculously jumps to 63.6 percent when the ’Boys pass on at least 57 percent of plays through the first three quarters, compared to only 41.9 percent when they pass on fewer than 57 percent of plays.
The Cowboys are a passing team, built to win on the back of Romo and his arsenal of pass-catching weapons.”
We hear it all the time that the Cowboys need to “establish the run” early in games or they have to pound away on the ground to “wear down the defense.” The problem is that, if true, we’d expect those ideas to be reflected in the Cowboys’ win-loss record. That is, if establishing the run early is truly effective, we’d see a better record for the Cowboys when they rush the ball early in games than when they come out throwing. And we don’t. The ’Boys are a better team when they pass the ball early and often.
Head over to the team site for the full article.