Stats you probably need to know about

November, 30, 2010
11/30/10
10:15
AM ET
There are all kinds of stats out there on a football team, and when it comes to the Cowboys we looked at a few that might interest you from ESPN Stats and Information.

*Jon Kitna leads the NFL in third-down passing. The veteran backup has completed 74.5 percent of his passes on third down this season. He's thrown four touchdowns and one interception. Kitna has a 122.6 quarterback rating on third down. The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is second in the league with a 115.8 quarterback rating. By the way, Tony Romo, who is out until late this month with a broken left collarbone, is 14th on third-down passing with a 91.3 rating.

*Defense allows big plays. One thing defensive coordinators will tell you is a defense must minimize big plays. The Cowboys have allowed 10 rushing plays of 20 or more yards, tied for the ninth most in the NFL. When it comes to pass plays of 30 or more yards, the Cowboys have allowed 14 such plays, tied for 10th most in the league. Any number or reasons can lead to this: inconsistency in the secondary, lack of pass rush giving quarterbacks more time to complete passes down the field, and run defense not being effective enough.

*Sack differential is positive. Not all stats are negative, or should be viewed that way, when it comes to sacks. The Cowboys are plus-3 in sack differential. As a unit, the Cowboys have 22 sacks, tied for 18th in the league, and have allowed just 19, seventh fewest. Indianapolis, who the Cowboys play on Sunday, has given up just 13 sacks, second fewest in the league. Early in the season, the pass rush was lacking. DeMarcus Ware was getting double-teamed and Anthony Spencer didn't take advantage of it. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff was also getting doubled and it didn't open the way for other players to make things happen. Those things have improved in the last few weeks, with Ratliff getting more pressures and Spencer also making plays.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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