- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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We received the Cowboys' final coaches statistics from the 2012 season the other day. Well, OK, we picked them up from Valley Ranch while in the area and came up with some interesting observations.
*The Cowboys second-leading tackler in 2012 was surprise safety Danny McCray with 87 total tackles. Now, when you lose players who put up high-volume tackle numbers such as Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to injuries, it means someone else will get more opportunities to make plays. Anthony Spencer, by the way, led the team with 106 total tackles.
*Jay Ratliff played in only six games in 2012, but he finished fourth on the team with 10 quarterback pressures. I find that's an amazing number for a player in the nose tackle position, who gets constant double-teams and clearly wasn't 100 percent.
*DeMarcus Ware forced a team-leading five fumbles last season, and this is due to his pursuit of quarterbacks from the blind side when plays are run away from him. Ware does an excellent job of chasing ball carriers from behind when the play goes to the strong side of the defense. Also, his long arms give him the ability to knock balls out of quarterbacks' hands.
*In the last three weeks of the regular season, the Cowboys had nine pass plays of 20 or more yards. Dez Bryant recorded six of those plays, with three going for touchdowns of 24, 58 and 58 yards. This aspect of his game is something the Cowboys need to exploit more often in 2013.
*Talk all you want about the three interceptions thrown by Tony Romo in the regular-season finale at Washington, but how about this: Washington had 12 rushing plays of 10 or more yards, including three by a quarterback, Robert Griffin III, who was playing on one leg. The Cowboys had just one such play.
*Jason Witten led the Cowboys with 22 receiving first downs earned on third and fourth downs. Miles Austin was second with 16, and Bryant was third with 16. Witten continues to be a consistent player when it's time to move the ball down field for the Cowboys.
*The Cowboys had just 16 takeaways all season, with 10 coming in the second half when the team had to rally in some games.
*The Cowboys scored just two touchdowns on opening drives all season. We're not saying you must score on opening drives to set the tone, but given how the season went and how the Cowboys trailed in several games in the second half, establishing the offense early might have helped in some of those games.
*Jason Garrett likes to talk about winning the turnover battle. In 2012, the Cowboys were 4-0 when they forced more turnovers than their opponents.
*The Cowboys were penalized 118 times in 2012. Sixty-one were offensive, but none came in the final game of the regular season against Washington.