Dallas Cowboys: How clutch is Dak Prescott?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 31: Dak Prescott attends SiriusXM at Super Bowl LIII Radio Row on January 31, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 31: Dak Prescott attends SiriusXM at Super Bowl LIII Radio Row on January 31, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for SiriusXM) /
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In a tightly contested game, expect Dak’s team to prevail…

Dak and the Dallas Cowboys have recorded 14 game winning drives and 8 fourth quarter comebacks. He’s also played in 19 close games. (A close game is a game decided by 6 points or less) The team’s record in these close games is 13-6. This is really good.

In order to win close games, luck is necessary and it’s fair to say the Cowboys have been quite lucky winning over 66% of those games. It’s also worth mentioning 11 of these close games ended with a game winning drive including 2 overtime wins. (If you wanted evidence of luck, nothing displays luck quite like a coin flip)

In a game where the 4th quarter is the most defining period for both teams, which are extremely common, Dak and the Cowboys have been the victors more often than not. The way in which they go about such success is a bit old-fashioned, but it has worked. It also helps to have a quarterback who elevates his game to a different level in the 4th quarter.

Here’s what I mean:

Stat correction: It should be 26/34 in Eagles Week 14, not 26/24.

This the breakdown of Dak’s stats from all GWDs between quarters 1-3 and 4. You can go through the tweet and see all the stats individually but I’ll sum up the information right now.

In 2017 and 2018 close game wins, Dak has:

  • Not thrown an interception in the 4th quarter and has not recorded a fumble lost.
  • He’s averaged over 10 YPA in the 4th quarter in 6 of these 9 games after only having averaged 7.2 YPA in the first 3 quarters in only 2 of these 9 games. (7.2 YPA is considered league average for an entire season)

Looking at 2017 and 2018 seasons alone, there is a noticeable difference in play between the first 3 quarters to the last quarter. Of all the differences, the most noticeable and probably most important difference is the yards per attempt. (Touchdowns are great and all, but in order to score a touchdown, that requires moving the ball downfield.)

In the 2017-2018 close wins, Dak has only thrown over 7 YPA twice in the first 3 quarters, yet he ends up throwing over 9 YPA in the fourth quarter in almost every game in this list. That’s a drastic increase in production considering his total completion percentage for the 4th quarter in these games is a whopping 74%. His ability to move the ball through the air in clutch time is impressive and unique.

Factoring his rookie season into the equation, the numbers are really no different. He continues to move the ball downfield at favorable rates while completing a good percentage of his passes. Even if touchdowns aren’t recorded with frequency, he was still moving the ball downfield to score with Zeke or with Dan Bailey.

You might look at this data and think his clutch ability is manufactured. I agree with this claim but not for the reason you think. It’s not Dak who’s “manufacturing” these wins, it’s the Cowboys offensive scheme.

The Dallas Cowboys have made it clear that they live through the run first approach and want to play smash mouth football. Unfortunately, that smash mouth football approach has created unintended consequences.

Here’s what I mean:

To anyone who watch the Greatest Team Ever in the 90s, you might remember how Emmitt would dominate in the fourth quarter after a good balance in the first 3 quarters would seal the deal for the Cowboys. Unfortunately, that can’t be said for this version of the Cowboys.

The Cowboys love to run the ball especially on first down. This means Dak is hopefully only throwing to move the sticks and no more. If the opposing defense is competent, the Cowboys aren’t able to run in the fourth quarter because team’s learn to game plan against it.

In the fourth quarter, as evident from above, there is no consistency in the running game. With a wildly inconsistent running game at a time where consistency is possibly the most important thing, the Cowboys are having to lean on Dak to break the tie. Fortunately, Dak does that quite well.

Considering the data above comes from wins with game winning drives, the only explanation for these wins would be an effective passing game. Guess who orchestrates that?

Only showing data from wins is biased “journalism” and I understand that. So let’s look at his performances in the games they haven’t won.