Stats & Info: Dallas Cowboys

Rodgers pulls dramatic win from likely loss

December, 30, 2013

Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesAaron Rodgers was conspicuous by his presence in the Packers’ victory over the Bears.
In his first game since he hurt his collarbone in a Week 9 loss to the Chicago Bears, Aaron Rodgers on Sunday added to his lore.

His 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb on fourth-and-eight with less than a minute left raised the Green Bay Packers’ win probability from 40.7 percent to 99.5 percent. After Cobb’s score, the Packers held on to beat the Bears and win the NFC North.

The fourth-down touchdown pass was the biggest play in terms of win probability added (58.8 percent) in Rodgers’ career and one of the biggest plays of the 2013 season. The Packers converted three fourth-down situations on their final drive, becoming the second team this season to convert three fourth-down plays on a drive (the Saints did so on a fourth-quarter drive in Week 15 against the Rams).

The Packers finished the season in wild fashion to make the playoffs. Their playoff chances were 5.5 percent after a 30-point loss to the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving Day. The Packers won three of their final four games, including a one-point victory over the Cowboys in which Green Bay overcame a 23-point halftime deficit and 1.7 percent win probability.

Another tide-turning pass for Cowboys
Kyle Orton followed a fourth-and-nine touchdown pass to Dez Bryant (which created a 23.5 percent win probability swing) with an interception that dropped the Dallas Cowboys’ win probability from 44.3 percent to 5.8 percent (-38.5 percent).

The Cowboys’ regular-season finale was a fitting conclusion to their season. Cowboys quarterbacks threw nine fourth-quarter passes that swung the team’s win probability by at least 20 percentage points in either direction, the most such passes of any team this season.

Chargers rewarded for risky decision
With the score tied in overtime of their game against the Kansas City Chiefs, the San Diego Chargers converted a fourth-and-two at their 28 on a fake punt. If the Chargers had not converted and been stopped for no gain, the Chiefs would have had the ball at the Chargers’ 28 needing a field goal to win. The Chargers’ win probability at that point would have dropped to 19.1 percent.

Since 2008, NFL teams have converted 18-of-27 fake punts (66.7 percent), including 6-of-7 (85.7 percent) fourth-down fake punts needing two or fewer yards.

Ryan Succop could have all but eliminated the Chargers from the playoff race with a 41-yard field goal with four seconds left in regulation. The Chiefs’ win probability was 61.3 percent before the kick, and Succop had been 19-of-25 (76.0 percent) in his career on field goals between 40 and 45 yards.

QBR shows Manning is consistently superior
Peyton Manning posted a 95.4 Total QBR against the Oakland Raiders, his fourth game with a Total QBR greater than 95.0 this season, most in the NFL.

Manning finished this season with a Total QBR of 82.9, his fourth season with a Total QBR greater than 80.0 since 2006 (as far back as we have data). The rest of the league’s quarterbacks have combined to post four such seasons during that span (min. 500 action plays).

Redskins finish with a new low in expected points
The Washington Redskins’ offense added -28.8 expected points to the team’s net scoring margin in Sunday’s 20-6 loss to the New York Giants, Washington’s worst offensive output in a game since 2006.

Kirk Cousins was limited to a 38.8 completion percentage (19-of-49) and an average of 3.5 yards per attempt. Cousins and the offense were forced to punt on their first five possessions (four of them after three downs). Their only points came on field goals after short drives beginning at New York’s 18- and Washington’s 46-yard lines. Washington averaged 3.4 yards per play (its second-worst of the season) and committed four turnovers.

The Redskins are the only team this season to finish in the bottom 10 in offensive, defensive and special teams EPA.

On the flip side, the Giants’ defense had its best performance of the season. Defensive EPA takes into consideration how the defense keeps the opponent from moving the ball, forces turnovers and scores. By that measure, the Giants’ defense contributed 28.8 points to the team’s net scoring margin. It was the second-best defensive EPA performance by any team this season.

Matchups to watch: Eagles at Cowboys

December, 27, 2013
With Tony Romo out when the Philadelphia Eagles come to town for a Week 17 divisional showdown, all eyes will be on the Dallas Cowboys quarterback Kyle Orton.

But despite the quarterbacks garnering many of the headlines, the key to success for the Cowboys will be establishing DeMarco Murray on the ground.

DeMarco Murray vs. Eagles rush defense
LeSean McCoy may be the better-known running back, but Murray has actually averaged more yards per carry this season (5.4 for Murray to 5.1 for McCoy). In fact, only rookie Andre Ellington (5.7) has averaged more yards per carry than Murray among qualified running backs.

However, Murray faces an Eagles front seven that has flown under the radar this season. Over the last five weeks, the Eagles have held opponents to 2.9 yards per carry, the fewest in the league during that span.

In their previous meeting, which Murray missed due to injury, the Cowboys were held to 2.9 yards per carry, their fewest against the Eagles in their last 10 games.

While the Eagles rush defense has improved during the course of the season, the Cowboys front seven has moved in the opposite direction.

LeSean McCoy vs. Cowboys Linebackers
While Romo’s absence is certainly noteworthy, the Cowboys defense will again be missing their star linebacker, Sean Lee. The Cowboys have allowed 5.2 yards per carry this season without Lee on the field. Only the Bears, who McCoy gashed for 7.4 yards per carry last week, have allowed more yards per carry this season.

But one of the biggest defensive struggles for the Cowboys has been defending receivers out of the backfield. Dallas has allowed eight receiving touchdowns to running backs, the most in the league.

McCoy has averaged 11.8 yards after the catch on his receptions this season, the highest mark in the NFL.

The Cowboys may struggle to defend running backs, but the Eagles find trouble against wide outs.

Dez Bryant vs. Eagles secondary
Even without Romo under center, Dez Bryant could not have asked for a better matchup to close out the season. The Eagles pass defense ranks last in all three major categories against opposing wide receivers.

In their previous game this season, Bryant tied his career-high with 17 targets, hauling in eight passes for 110 yards.

While Bryant had one of his best games against the Eagles, the Philadelphia tight ends disappeared against the Cowboys.

Eagles Tight Ends vs. Cowboys secondary
Nick Foles has some recognizable options in McCoy and DeSean Jackson, but his favorite targets may be his tight ends. Foles has averaged 9.1 yards per attempt when targeting his tight ends.

Only Colin Kaepernick has a higher average when targeting tight ends this season. Foles has also yet to throw an interception when throwing to a tight end this season.

The Cowboys have struggled against tight ends as well, allowing the third-most receptions (85) and fifth-most yards (933) this season. In their last meeting, Foles only completed 50 percent (4-of-8) of his passes when throwing to his tight ends, his lowest mark in a game this season.

No Romo spells trouble for Cowboys

December, 23, 2013

AP Photo/James D. SmithA source tells ESPN that Tony Romo will miss the remainder of the season.

The day after throwing a game-winning touchdown to put the Dallas Cowboys in a winner-take-all game against the Philadelphia Eagles this Sunday night, Tony Romo’s luck took a drastic turn.

A source tells ESPN that Romo will miss the remainder of the season with a back injury. Here is a look at how much he will be missed in Big D:

Romo vs. all others
It has been all Romo in Dallas since 2006. He made his first career start in Week 8 of that season. He has missed 13 games since becoming the starter.

Jon Kitna (nine games), Brad Johnson (three) and Stephen McGee (one), have started in relief of Romo since 2006. They have won a combined six of those 13 starts while enjoying far less success throwing the ball.

Romo has thrown 31 touchdown passes this season, tied for the second-highest total in Cowboys’ history and five shy of the team record, which he set in 2007. Romo is the only quarterback in team history to throw for 30 or more touchdown passes in a season. He's done so three times.

The replacement
The Cowboys have two quarterbacks on their roster – Romo and Kyle Orton. Orton is 35-34 in 69 career starts, but he has not started since Jan. 1, 2012.

Orton signed with the Cowboys prior to the 2012 season and has not been seen much since. Romo has thrown 98.7 percent of the Cowboys’ passes since then – the 11th highest rate for any quarterback in the NFL.

Orton has attempted just 15 passes over the last two seasons and those came in a pair of blowouts when the Cowboys were trailing by 24 points.

In 2011, he started eight games for the Denver Broncos (five) and Kansas City Chiefs (three). Orton had a 59.5 percent completion percentage that season (ranked 20th in the NFL), 7.0 yards per attempt (17th), and a total QBR of 52.4 (18th).

Can they still rely on the pass?
Few teams lean on the pass as much as the Cowboys have this season.

Dallas owns the fifth highest dropback percentage this season at 66 percent. The Cleveland Browns have the highest percentage at 70 percent.

The Cowboys may have to change it up and feed running back DeMarco Murray on Sunday night. This season, 17 running backs have averaged more rushes per game than Murray’s 15.4, despite the fact that Murray is averaging 5.4 yards per rush.

Cowboys' Romo creates another wild swing

December, 23, 2013
AP photo/Alex BrandonTony Romo orchestrated his 13th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime since 2011
Tony Romo’s touchdown pass on fourth and goal pushed the Dallas Cowboys to a 24-23 victory over the Washington Redskins on Sunday. The pass increased the Cowboys’ win probability by 42.5 percentage points, his biggest play in terms of increased win probability this season. Since 2001, teams were 9-of-45 (20 percent) on fourth-and-goal plays needing at least 10 yards to score a touchdown.

Sunday's exploits only seemed to heighten the perception that Romo is an all-or-nothing quarterback late in close games. Last week, he had a pass intercepted late in the game by Tramon Williams, decreasing the Cowboys’ win probability by 51.1 percentage points, the quarterback’s worst play in terms of win probability differential this season.

Romo’s Total QBR was 99.3 in the 4th quarter Sunday. He finished at 79.4 for the game after starting the 4th quarter at 23.9.

Up Next: Romo faces his 4th career “Week 17 win-or-go-home game” next Sunday against the Eagles. He is 0-3 in his previous 3 games with a 20.7 Total QBR.

After home success, Foles will take to road
Nick Foles’ 96.4 Total QBR in the Philadelphia Eagles' 54-11 victory over the Chicago Bears was the highest in any of his eight career home starts (34.2 home Total QBR in previous seven home starts). But Foles has been much stronger on the road, and he will play in Dallas next week. Foles’ Total QBR is 37.7 points higher on the road over the last two seasons, the best home-to-road differential among qualified quarterbacks since 2012.

Stafford's fourth-quarter struggles
Matthew Stafford threw his fifth fourth-quarter interception in his last six games, and it was returned for a touchdown in the Lions’ overtime loss. He has a 10.6 fourth-quarter Total QBR in his last six games (the Lions are 1-5), the worst rating in the NFL since Week 11. Stafford had a 90.1 fourth-quarter Total QBR in his first nine games, the second-best rating in the NFL through Week 10.

ESPN Stats & Information

Newton erases rough start on final drive
The Carolina Panthers’ win probability was at 4.8% when the Saints had 3rd down with 1:47 left in the game (see chart above), and Cam Newton had a Total QBR of 3.0 at that point. That was in line to be the second-worst Total QBR in a start in his career until he engineered a five-play, 65-yard drive to take the lead. Newton finished with a Total QBR of 16.6, but it was 99.9 on the final drive.

Quick hitters:
Russell Wilson posted an 11.5 Total QBR against the Cardinals, the worst rating in any of his 31 career starts. Wilson was 0-8 passing with a 0.1 Total QBR when under duress or hit while throwing. Wilson entered the game with a 78.7 Total QBR under such pressure, the second-best rating in the league.

The Kansas City Chiefs’ defense has contributed -7.2 expected points per game to their net scoring margin since Week 11, 27th in the NFL. The Chiefs are allowing an NFL-high 423 yards per game during that span, while recording a sack on 3.2 percent of opponent dropbacks (second-worst in the NFL). Their defensive EPA was 11.0 per game in their first nine games this season (9-0 start), the best in the NFL.

The Dolphins were shut out, and their offensive EPA was -25.1, meaning that unit contributed -25.1 points to their net scoring margin. It was the fourth-worst offensive performance in terms of EPA by any team this season. Ryan Tannehill finished with a 3.2 Total QBR, his first Total QBR game in single digits this season.

Geno Smith had an 83.1 Total QBR in the Jets’ 24-13 victory over the Browns. Smith has had four games with a Total QBR greater than 70.0, and they have come against teams with a combined record of 18-41 (Bills, Falcons, Raiders in addition to the Browns).

Romo gets it right this time around

December, 22, 2013

Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportssTony Romo (right) got it done when needed on Sunday against the Redskins.
Tony Romo did it again, with "it" in this case being something positive-- a game-winning touchdown rather than a game-ending interception.

Romo led the Cowboys to a comeback win over the Washington Redskins with his late touchdown throw to DeMarco Murray.

This marked the 12th time that Romo has led a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime in the last three seasons. That’s the most in the NFL in that span. Romo's 23 career game-winning drives are tied with Roger Staubach for the most in Cowboys history (Staubach's 23 include two in the playoffs).

What did Romo do best on Sunday?
Romo threw both of his touchdowns (including the game-winner to Murray) outside the pocket on Sunday.

Romo has four touchdown passes from outside the pocket in his last three games, with at least one in each game. He only had one in his first 11 games of the season.

The game-winning play
Murray’s touchdown catch was unusual in a number of respects. Entering the day, he’d only run three fourth-down pass routes in his entire career.

Romo had only thrown one fourth-down pass all season (an incomplete one against the Chicago Bears) prior to Sunday.

But there was some indication that the struggles the Cowboys had on those first three plays could be erased.

Romo entered the day having completed 71 percent of his fourth-down passes (and had a completion earlier in the fourth quarter), the highest completion percentage of any active quarterback. He was 20 for 25 (80 percent) on fourth-down throws in the fourth quarter or overtime.

Looking ahead
Next Sunday, the Cowboys will play in their eighth win-or-go-home game in Week 17 or the playoffs with Tony Romo as the starting quarterback.

They are 1-6 in the previous seven games, 0-3 in those games that were played in Week 17.

In the seven games, Romo has completed 61 percent of his passes, but has only eight touchdown throws and seven interceptions.

Each of the three Week 17 games was played on the road, with the Cowboys losing by a combined 65 points.

Cowboys demise: Play-calling, Romo or D?

December, 16, 2013

Tim Heitman/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys have made it a habbit of losing games in which they held a late lead.
The Dallas Cowboys lost another game that they controlled almost entirely until the end Sunday.

Their average win probability across all plays in the game was 81.6 percent. That is the fifth-highest average win probability in a loss since 2006 (as far back as our win probability data goes) and the highest since the Philadelphia Eagles used a DeSean Jackson punt-return touchdown on the final play of the game to complete a comeback against the New York Giants in 2010.

Over the last couple years, the Cowboys have made it a routine of “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” – losing games in which winning appeared nearly certain.

So what is the cause of this problem? Is it the play-calling? The quarterback? Or the defense?

The play-calling
We start with Jason Garrett’s post-game press conference Sunday, where he said “The idea was to run the ball and use clock…it was a run call though, that [Tony Romo] threw the ball on.”

But that was just one play of 15 the team ran in the fourth quarter Sunday. They dropped back 12 times and ran it three times. It’s the third time this season in which a team ran at least 10 plays with the lead in the fourth quarter and dropped back to pass 80 percent of the time. Those teams lost all three times.

How rare is it for teams to pass the ball in the situation the Cowboys were in?

Entering this week’s action, teams since 2001 have rushed the ball 94.7 percent of the time (3,061 rushes on 3,234 snaps) on first or second down when leading by 7 or fewer in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.

The league average play call when leading this season is 53 percent pass, 47 percent rush. The Cowboys entered Sunday with the second-lowest rush percentage when ahead (37 percent).

The quarterback
Sam Shields' interception was Romo’s seventh of his career that came in the fourth quarter or overtime with his team tied or leading by one possession, two more than any other quarterback since he joined the league.

Maligned rookie Geno Smith is the only other quarterback to throw multiple fourth-quarter interceptions in the same game when the score is within five points this season.

The defense
One week after the Chicago Bears did not punt a single time against the Cowboys, the Cowboys defense allowed the Green Bay Packers to score on all five of their drives in the second half Sunday, excluding the kneel at the end of the game.

In the last two weeks, the Cowboys defense has been on the field for 20 drives where the opponent didn’t have game-ending kneels. It’s allowed 10 touchdowns and four field goals while forcing just four punts.

The Cowboys are 1-2 this season in games in which they score at least 35 points. The rest of the NFL is a combined 51-2.

-Micah Adams, Alok Pattani and John Carr contributed to this post.

Cowboys pay for Romo's costly picks

December, 16, 2013

AP Photo/James D. SmithTony Romo threw two interceptions in the final three minutes against the Packers
Leading 36-31 late in Sunday's game, the Dallas Cowboys appeared in good position to win and pull into a tie for the NFC East lead. Two plays went a long way toward changing that.

Tony Romo’s interception with 1:24 left in the 4th quarter against the Packers dropped the Cowboys’ win probability by 51.1 percentage points, the 2nd-most costly 4th-quarter interception in his career in terms of win probability (the most costly was Darrelle Revis’ interception of Romo in 2011; see chart below). His interception earlier in the quarter dropped the Cowboys’ win probability by 17.5 percentage points (from 88.6% to 71.1%) and set up the Packers' go-ahead touchdown.

Romo has thrown 7 career 4th-quarter interceptions that have dropped his team’s win probability by at least 20 percentage points (the Cowboys have lost all 7 games). Using that definition of a costly interception, only Matt Schaub (8) has thrown more than Romo since 2006.

Cowboys’ defense non-existent
The Cowboys’ defense contributed -22.8 expected points to the team’s net scoring margin in the 2nd half against the Packers. That is the worst defensive EPA by any team in the 2nd half of a game this season.

The Packers scored a touchdown on each of their 2nd-half drives, excluding their final drive, which was 3 kneel downs. The Packers got first downs on 47 percent of their 2nd-half plays and converted 6-of-7 third downs during that span.

The Cowboys’ defensive EPA is -6.8 points per game this season. Only the Vikings (-8.0) have been worse.

EPA looks at the impact of every play on each team's potential points, attributing those to the actual unit on the field – offense, defense or special teams. When aggregated over the course of a game or season, EPA numbers show how much each unit contributed to the team's final point margin. EPA takes into account each unit’s impact on moving the ball, creating turnovers and scoring points.

Cutler good when it counts
Jay Cutler had a 99.9 Total QBR in the 4th quarter, completing 5-of-7 passes for 71 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Bears’ 38-31 win over the Browns. Cutler's Total QBR in the 4th quarter this season is 95.2, 1st in the NFL among qualified QBs.

Cutler overcame 2 costly interceptions in the game. His 1st interception, thrown into the end zone on 1st and 10 at the Browns’ 14, cost the Bears an expected 4.9 points. Combined with his pick-six in the second quarter, Cutler cost the Bears 11.0 expected points with his 2 interceptions.

Saints leave offense at home
The Saints' offense contributed 6.0 expected points to their net scoring margin against the Rams, almost doubling their offensive EPA on the road this season (now at 13.3, 15th in NFL). Their offense has added 104.9 expected points at home this season, and no team averages more per game.

Drew Brees’ Total QBR was 35.5 against the Rams and is 55.8 on the road (12th in NFL) this season. It is 80.3 at home (2nd in NFL).

Quick hitters
Eli Manning’s Total QBR was 2.1 against the Seahawks, his worst Total QBR in a game since the start of the 2006 season. Manning threw a career-high 5 interceptions, and converted one of nine third downs. Manning’s Total QBR this season is 36.0, more than 10 points worse than his previous low (46.2, 2006).

Matt Cassel posted a career-high 96.3 Total QBR (min. 15 action plays) against the Eagles. Brett Favre (97.5) is the only Vikings quarterback to post a higher Total QBR in a game since 2006 (44-7 win in Week 17, 2009, vs Giants).

The Rams’ special teams added 6.4 expected points against the Saints. They blocked a field goal attempt by Garrett Hartley, and Hartley missed another field goal wide left late in the game. The Rams’ special teams unit has added 2.4 expected points per game this season, 2nd in the NFL behind the Chiefs (3.0).

Carson Palmer posted an 86.6 Total QBR against the Titans. His Total QBR is 77.6 since Week 8, 2nd-best in the NFL behind Josh McCown (Cardinals: 6-1 during that span).

The Chiefs’ offensive EPA was 21.2 against the Raiders, their 2nd-highest total in a game since the start of the 2006 season. The Chiefs’ offense added 20.3 expected points from Jamaal Charles’ 5 touchdowns (over 95% of their offensive EPA). Charles’ last touchdown added 6.2 expected points. EPA is measured on a play-by-play basis, taking the difference between what the expected points an average team would be expected to score in that same situation (based on historical NFL data), from their expected points after the play, and adding them up through the course of a game.

Keys to victory: Packers 37, Cowboys 36

December, 15, 2013
What were the keys to the Green Bay Packers' improbable comeback win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday?

The Cowboys chose not to run with the lead
The Cowboys entered the second half with a 26-3 lead and DeMarco Murray had 93 yards rushing on 11 carries.

Despite the big lead and success on the ground, the Cowboys ran by design on only seven of their 30 second-half plays (23 percent).

The league-average play call when leading this season is 53 percent pass, 47 percent run. The Cowboys entered Sunday with the second-lowest run percentage when ahead—37 percent.

The Cowboys averaged just as many yards on rushes as dropbacks in the first half. In the second half, the Cowboys averaged 1.9 yards more on rushes.

Packers perfection
The Packers scored a touchdown on all five of their second-half drives.

They are the fourth team with five touchdowns in a half this season, joining the Eagles, Chiefs and Broncos, who did it twice.

The Cowboys allowed five touchdowns in a half for the first time since a 49-21 loss to the Eagles in the 2004 season.

The key to this was that the Packers went 6 of 7 on third down in the second half, with the only “failed” conversion being Matt Flynn's kneeldown to end the game.

The Packers went 1 of 6 on third down in the first half, with the only conversion being a screen pass on the final play of the half

Flynn was 5 for 5 for 75 yards and a touchdown on his third-down passes in the final 30 minutes.

Eddie Lacy rushed for 110 yards on 13 carries in the second half, including a 60-yard run on the first play of the third quarter. He had seven straight runs in the fourth quarter that gained at least three yards, prior to his one-yard touchdown run.

Romo’s interceptions
Tony Romo threw a pair of interceptions in the fourth quarter, one with the lead and one that clinched the game for the Packers.

This is the seventh time Romo has thrown a pick in the fourth quarter or overtime with his team tied or leading by one possession. That is nearly twice as many as any other QB since 2006 (when Romo became the starter in Dallas).

Romo is now tied with Tom Brady for the most 4th-quarter interceptions this season (four) when the score is within five points.

How unusual was the first pass resulting in an interception that Romo threw, one that came on a second-down situation?

Since 2001, teams have rushed the ball 95 percent of the time (3,061 rushes on 3,234 snaps) on first or second down when leading by one to seven points in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.

The significance of the comeback
This marked the first time in franchise history that the Cowboys lost a game in which they led by 20 or more points at the half. Entering Sunday, they were 42-0 in such games.

The 23-point comeback tied the Packers' largest comeback in franchise history (Sept. 12, 1982 against the Rams. They trailed 23-0 and won 35-23).

Keys to victory: Bears 45, Cowboys 28

December, 10, 2013
The Chicago Bears put on an offensive display in Monday night’s 45-28 win over the Dallas Cowboys, helping them move into a tie atop the NFC North division with the Detroit Lions.

The Bears had nine offensive possessions, scoring five touchdowns, kicking three field goals and taking a knee to end the game. They’re just the third team to have a game without punting this season, joining the Packers and Broncos, with two of those games coming against the Cowboys.

Here were the three biggest keys for Chicago’s victory on Monday Night Football.

McCown Makes Bears History
McCown finished with 348 passing yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. In Bears franchise history, only one other quarterback has had a game in which he threw for over 300 yards with at least four touchdown passes and no interceptions, that was Erik Kramer in a 1995 game that the Bears lost to the Rams.

McCown also added a rushing touchdown in the victory. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, McCown is the first Bears quarterback with five touchdowns (passing plus rushing) in a game since Johnny Lujack did it in 1949.

Bears WR Duo Emerges as Best in NFL
Brandon Marshall finished with 100 receiving yards, giving him over 1,000 on the season, the seventh straight season Marshall has topped 1,000 receiving yards. He’s just the fourth player in Bears history with multiple 1,000-yard receiving seasons for the team.

He and teammate Alshon Jeffery are already over 1,000 yards on the season with three games remaining. They’re just the second set of Bears teammates to each have 1,000 receiving yards in the same season, joining Curtis Conway and Jeff Graham, who did it in 1995.

Marshall and Jeffery have combined for 2,283 receiving yards this season, the most combined yards by a pair of teammates this season.

Cowboys Defense Continues to Struggle
Although Tony Romo is criticized for his record in December and later (with Monday’s loss, his career record in such games is now 13-20), he threw three touchdowns in the loss. Instead, it was the Cowboys defense that struggled, as they've been doing all season.

After allowing 490 yards to the Bears, the Cowboys defense is allowing 426.8 yards per game this season, more than 25 more than any other team.

Dallas is on pace to give up 6,830 yards this season, not only the most in franchise history, but the second-most by any team in NFL history, trailing only last year’s Saints (7,042).

It’s the fifth time this season the Cowboys have allowed at least 490 yards in a game. No other team has two such games this season.

Deep passes will be key in MNF matchup

December, 9, 2013

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh Josh McCown has excelled in the starting role thanks in large part to his success on deep throws.

Because the Eagles beat the Lions Sunday, the winner of Monday’s game will be tied atop their division. Let's take a look at some of the key matchups for the Week 14 edition of Monday Night Football between the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears.

Josh McCown’s deep ball vs Cowboys defense

While filling in for the injured Jay Cutler, Josh McCown has posted a Total QBR of 78.4, second best in the NFL. McCown’s success has a lot to do with his deep throws. McCown has completed 51.7 percent of his passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield this season, second only to Russell Wilson. McCown has had most of his success when targeting Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, who have combined to catch 12 of his 15 completions on deep throws.

The Cowboys’ ability to stop opposing quarterbacks on deep throws has had a direct impact on whether or not they win the game. In their seven wins, opposing quarterbacks have completed 34.7 percent of their passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield and posted a Total QBR of 34.0. In the Cowboys five losses, opposing quarterbacks have a nearly perfect 99.8 Total QBR, mostly due to a 66.7 completion percentage on deep throws.

Tony Romo’s deep ball vs Bears defense

Through the first five weeks of the season, Tony Romo was tied with Drew Brees for the best Total QBR on passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield (99.5). Romo was averaging a league-high 18.7 yards per attempt on such throws. But lately, Romo has been unable to find the same success on deep throws. In his last seven games, Romo has a Total QBR of 51.6 on deep balls, 28th among qualified passers.

Romo will look to return to early season form as he goes against a Bears defense that has struggled defending deep passes.

The Bears have allowed a league-high 99.1 Total QBR and 57.1 completion percentage on passes thrown 15 or more yards this season.

DeMarco Murray’s inside running vs Bears defense

The strength of DeMarco Murray this season has been running inside. Murray has averaged 5.2 yards per rush on runs inside the tackles this season, fifth best in the NFL. He has averaged nearly a yard more per rush on those runs than he has on runs outside the tackles.

Murray could exploit a Bears defense that has struggled to stop the inside run.

The Bears have allowed 4.9 yards per rush on runs inside the tackles, third worst in the NFL. Since 2006, the Bears have never had a season in which they allowed more than 4.3 yards per rush on such runs. Since Lance Briggs was injured in Week 7, the Bears have allowed over 100 yards on runs inside the tackles in all five games. The Bears had allowed over 100 such rushing yards twice in their first seven games when Briggs was active.

Romo gets it done late more often than not

November, 7, 2013

AP Photo/Tim SharpTony Romo and Jason Garrett have had plenty to celebrate the last three seasons.
Because of the up-and-down nature of Tony Romo's last few seasons, here's a stat that may get overlooked.

Romo has 10 game-winning drives in fourth quarter or overtime since the start of the 2011 season, tied for the most in the NFL over that span.

Here's a brief recap of each one:

September 18, 2011 (Week 2) at 49ers
Cowboys overcome 10-point fourth-quarter deficit

The Cowboys overcame a 24-14 fourth-quarter deficit in San Francisco to beat the 49ers 27-24 in overtime. Romo threw a 77-yard pass to wide receiver Jesse Holley on the Cowboys first play in overtime to set Dallas up for the chip-shot field goal.

September 26, 2011 (Week 3) vs Redskins
Romo’s long pass sparks win

A week later, Romo was at it again. He completed a 30-yard pass to Dez Bryant on third and 21 with the Cowboys at their own 30, trailing by one point and 2:20 left in the fourth quarter. Dallas went on to win 18-16 after a Dan Bailey 40-yard field goal.

November 20, 2011 (Week 11) at Redskins
Romo beats Redskins again in similar fashion

Romo broke the Redskins hearts again, this time in overtime as he completed a 26-yard pass to Dez Bryant on 3rd and 15 near midfield. The Cowboys won 27-24 on a Bailey field goal three plays later.

November 24, 2011 (Week 12) vs Dolphins
Cowboys win as time expires on Thanksgiving

Four days later, Romo instrumented his fourth game-winning drive of the season. He led the Cowboys down the field on a 10-play, 54-yard drive and Dallas won 20-19 on a Bailey field goal as time expired.

October 21, 2012 (Week 7) at Panthers
Romo’s first of five game-winning drives in 2012

Romo led the Cowboys past the Panthers 19-14 with his first of five game-winning drives in 2012. Romo engineered a short drive that ended with a Bailey field goal with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter to push Dallas ahead.

November 18, 2012 (Week 11) vs Browns
Cowboys survive in overtime

Romo survived seven sacks in the game to lead the Cowboys on a fourth-quarter comeback after trailing 13-3 entering the quarter. He led a drive to tie the game at 20 with six seconds left. They went on to win 23-20 against the Browns in overtime. A key play was a 28-yard touchdown pass to Bryant erasing that 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

December 2, 2012 (Week 13) vs Eagles
Romo posts 95.5 Total QBR in comeback win

Romo threw two fourth-quarter touchdowns and posted a 95.5 Total QBR as the Cowboys scored 21 fourth-quarter points in a 38-33 win. Romo threw another key pass to Bryant, a go-ahead 6-yard touchdown with 5:40 left to put the Cowboys up for good.

December 9, 2012 (Week 14) at Bengals
Cowboys overcome nine-point fourth-quarter deficit

A week later, Romo led the Cowboys past the Bengals overcoming a 9-point deficit in the fourth quarter. This included a 27-yard touchdown pass to Bryant with 6:44 left and a 13-play, 50-yard drive resulting in a Bailey game-winning 40-yard field goal as time expired (Cowboys win 20-19).

December 16, 2012 (Week 15) vs Steelers
Romo’s third straight game-winning drive in the fourth quarter/overtime

Romo engineered his third game-winning drive in as many weeks with a 27-24 overtime win against the Steelers. It wasn’t much of a drive as Ben Roethlisberger threw a pass picked off by Brandon Carr, Romo kneeled down on Dallas’ first play and Bailey kicked a 21-yard field goal to win.

November 3, 2013 (Week 9) vs Vikings
Romo throws go-ahead TD with 42 seconds left

And last Sunday Romo went from goat to hero in one quarter. His fourth-quarter interception with 4:35 left dropped the Cowboys’ win probability to 21.4 percent. But he got a second chance and engineered a nine-play, 90-yard drive to put the Cowboys ahead of the Vikings with 42 seconds left, including a key 34-yard pass to Bryant.

Romo will look to work the same magic against the Saints this Sunday that almost gave the Cowboys a miracle comeback win last season against New Orleans. The Cowboys trailed 31-17 with 4:45 left in the fourth quarter when Romo led two quick touchdown drives (1:10 and 1:14) to send the game to overtime. This included a 19-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin on 4th and 10 with 21 seconds left. Dallas went on to lose 34-31 in overtime.

He'll also be fighting the Cowboys history under the prime-time spotlight.

This will be the 24th time in the last five seasons that the Cowboys will play a prime-time game, the most in the NFL. The Cowboys are 10-13 in their previous 23 primetime games in the last five seasons and only 2-8 in such games on the road since 2010.

Evan Kaplan also contributed to this post.

Cowboys beat the bad, but lose to the good

October, 31, 2013

Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesSince Jason Garrett's first full season as head coach of the Cowboys in 2011 they are 20-20.

The Dallas Cowboys had another 4th quarter meltdown in week eight, allowing Matthew Stafford to score the game-winning touchdown with 14 seconds left in the game. Stafford became the fourth quarterback to throw for 400 yards against the Cowboys this season, setting a new NFL record for most 400-yard passers allowed in a season. And there are eight games left.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that the Cowboys lost.

Dallas is exactly .500 (20-20) since Jason Garrett’s first full season as head coach in 2011. During the last three seasons, no team in the NFL has a better record against teams that have finished with a sub-.500 winning percentage.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, 27 NFL teams have better winning percentages against teams that finished above .500.

This includes a “perfect” split this year: 4-0 vs teams currently below .500 (Giants, Rams, Redskins, Eagles), 0-4 vs teams currently .500 or better (Chiefs, Chargers, Broncos, Lions).

Now, it makes sense that most teams would have a better record against below .500 opponents than .500 or above opponents (obviously, that’s how those opponents get to be below/above .500), but the ranks above show a vast disparity, and so does the following.

If you look at NFL teams’ win percentages vs “bad” and “good” teams, the average is about 68 percent against below .500 teams and 35 percent vs at/above .500 opponents – a difference of about 33 percent.

The Cowboys’ difference in win percentage between those 2 types of opponents is nearly 77 percent over the last 3 seasons, by far the biggest such differential in the league.

So good news for Dallas when they host the Vikings this Sunday, but bad news for when they head to New Orleans the following week.

Bryant/Johnson: What do numbers show?

October, 22, 2013

During an appearance on 103.3 FM ESPN in Dallas on Monday, Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant made the following statement:

“I believe I can do whatever he (Calvin Johnson) can do.”

In comparing the two, you’ll see his comment is on point. Below are a handful of notes to help make his case.

• From the start of the 2010 season, Bryant’s rookie year, through Week 9 of last season, Johnson had 71 more receptions, 1,576 more yards and 12 more touchdowns than Bryant.

But since Week 10, you could argue Bryant is Johnson’s equal. Over that span, Johnson leads the league in receiving yards while Bryant leads the league in receiving touchdowns.

• On third down this season, Johnson has been targeted 19 times and has caught nine balls for 157 yards and two touchdowns.

Bryant has been targeted 18 times and has caught nine balls for 118 yards and two touchdowns.

• How about when their respective quarterbacks are pressured?

Both Bryant and Johnson have been targeted 11 times with his quarterback under pressure. Johnson has one more reception (5) than Bryant. Both have caught a touchdown, but Johnson has 58 more yards than Bryant due to being targeted further downfield.

•  Bryant has caught a higher percentage of his passes in the red zone (6-of-9) than Johnson (4-of-11) and has two more touchdowns (5) than Johnson.

•  Both receivers have been targeted eight times on throws of 20 yards or more downfield and have two catches on those throws.

Both of Johnson’s catches resulted in a touchdown and they combined for 77 yards, four of which came after the catch. Bryant has 117 yards with 47 of those yards coming after the catch.

•  When the score is within a touchdown in the second half, Bryant (21) has been targeted four more times than Johnson and has caught 14 passes for 223 yards, with 96 yards gained after the catch.

Johnson has 12 catches for 156 yards, 29 gained after the catch, and has two touchdowns.

The two faces of Tony Romo

October, 7, 2013

Jamie Squire/Getty Images
It seems like Tony Romo is always struggling late in games, but is that what defines him as a QB?

Tony Romo became the 15th player in NFL history to throw for 500 yards in a game on Sunday, breaking Don Meredith's Cowboys record for a single game. However, a fourth-quarter interception set the Broncos up to pull out an epic 51-48 win.

So, who is the real Cowboys quarterback – Dr. Romo or the Romo-coaster?

Dr. Romo

Despite the late mistake Sunday, Romo had arguably the best game by a quarterback in a loss this season. No quarterback has posted a higher QBR in a defeat this season than his 92.1 yesterday.

Since he entered the league, Romo has consistently put up some of the best numbers in the NFL.

Romo has 19 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, tied for fifth-most since he took over the starting job in 2006. He has a career 68.7 QBR in the 4th quarter - only Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers are better since 2006.

This season, Romo is second in the NFL with 13 touchdown passes. And only Peyton Manning has fewer interceptions among quarterbacks with at least 30 pass attempts per.


Despite his overall success, the other side of the coin for Dr. Romo is that sickening feeling he often leaves Cowboys fans late in games – something we’ll refer to as the Romo-coaster.

Romo's lone interception Sunday was the 23rd fourth-quarter interception of his career. The Cowboys have lost the last eight games in which Romo has thrown a fourth-quarter interception, with six of those losses coming by seven points or fewer.

Since 2010, Romo's Total QBR in the first 12 minutes of the fourth quarter/OT is 80. That's second-best in the NFL behind Peyton Manning. However, his QBR drops to a below-average 44 in the game's final three minutes.

And he's not only making these mistakes as the Cowboys attempt to rally from late deficits. Eight of Romo's fourth-quarter interceptions have come with the Cowboys tied or leading by one score - that's the most in the NFL in that span. Those give opposing teams life when Dallas should have been icing the win.

Sunday's interception was particularly painful, dropping the chances for a Cowboys win by 26 percentage points. That was the second worst interception of Week 5 in terms of a single play costing a team’s chances at victory behind Blaine Gabbert’s pick-six for Jacksonville, but that play came in the first half so Gabbert’s team still had an opportunity to overcome that drop.


While it seems like Tony Romo is often throwing away games in the fourth quarter, he actually has fewer fourth-quarter interceptions (23) in the last eight seasons than such “clutch” quarterbacks as Drew Brees (35), Ben Roethlisberger (30) and Brett Favre (25). Dr. Romo does more than enough for the Cowboys to offset the appearances of the Romo-coaster.

Top stats to know: Broncos 51, Cowboys 48

October, 6, 2013
Normally when we look at a football game, we try to come up with five good notes to know.

But the epic matchup between the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys on Sunday required more than that.

So with that in mind, we’ll run through our top 12 statistical highlights of the Broncos' 51-48 win, with major help throughout from the Elias Sports Bureau

1-- This was the fourth-highest scoring non-overtime game in NFL history with the teams combining for 99 points. That’s 14 shy of the NFL record set in 1966 by the Washington Redskins and New York Giants.

2-- The two teams combined for 884 passing yards, tied for the third most in an NFL game.

3-- The Broncos have now won 16 straight regular-season games. That’s tied for the fifth-longest streak in NFL history, seven games shy of the record of 23 games by the Indianapolis Colts from 2008 to 2009.

4-- The Broncos set an NFL record for most points through the first five games of a season with 230. The previous mark was set by the St. Louis Rams with 217 in 2000.

5-- The Cowboys' 48 points in a loss is one shy of the NFL record, set when the 1963 Houston Oilers scored 49 points in a loss to the Raiders.

6-- Peyton Manning threw four more touchdown passes for the Broncos. His 20 touchdown passes through five games is the most through five games in NFL history and also the record for the most touchdown passes before his an interception.

7-- Manning threw for 414 yards, giving him 10 career games with at least 400 passing yards. That's tied with Drew Brees for second most, trailing only Dan Marino's 13. Manning’s 1,884 yards for the season are second-most in NFL history by a quarterback through five games, the most since Kurt Warner threw for 1,947 for the 2000 Rams.

8-- Manning completed 78.6 percent of his 42 attempts for 414 yards and four touchdowns. None of those numbers are a season high. Manning's 1,884 yards are the most by a quarterback through five games since Kurt Warner threw for 1,947 for the 2000 Rams.

9-- Tony Romo threw for a Cowboys single-game record 506 yards and also had five touchdown passes. His 506 passing yards are the 12th-most in a game in NFL history. He is the fifth quarterback to throw for at least 500 yards and five touchdowns in an NFL game.

10-- The Cowboys also became the second team in AFL/NFL history to have three players with at least 120 receiving yards and a touchdown catch in the same game. The only other team to do it was the AFL’s Houston Oilers in 1961 against the New York Titans (now known as the Jets). Dez Bryant was one of those three, as he finished with six catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns. Yet the Cowboys are now 1-7 in Bryant’s career when he catches multiple touchdown passes.

11-- The decisive play of the game was Romo’s late interception. The Cowboys have now lost the last eight games in which Romo has thrown a fourth-quarter interception, with six of the eight losses being by seven points or less.

12-- The Broncos' next opponent is the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Broncos scored 51 points this week (making them the fourth team ever to score 50 points in consecutive games). The Jaguars have scored 51 points this season.