5 reasons the Dallas Cowboys aren’t playing in Super Bowl LIV

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /
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FOXBOROUGH, MA – NOVEMBER 24: Ezekiel Elliott #21 of the Dallas Cowboys is tackled during a game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on November 24, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Early-Down Play-Calling

How does the NFL’s No. 1 rated offense and top-10 ranked defense find a way to miss out on a winning record? Being terribly inefficient on early downs, that how.

We’ve known for quite a while early downs are passing downs. On average, passing offers higher expected points and a greater success rate than running. For the Dallas Cowboys, passing the ball was 4x more fruitful than running the ball. It’s not as if the running game was bad either. Dallas was actually in the NFL’s top-3 in RB rushing success rate – even better than everyone’s running game darlings, Derrick Henry’s Tennessee Titans.

Dallas’ running game was one of the best in the NFL but even then it only offered the same expected points as the NFL’s 20th passing game

But even being great, they paled in comparison to an average passing game (Dallas’ running game offered the same expected points as the NFL’s 20th passing game). Dallas squandered early down passing opportunities and had to lean on their top-ranked 3rd down conversion offense to bail them out and sustain drives.

Basically they made things much harder for themselves than it needed to be.

It’s not as if Dallas should abandon the running game but they need to accept it has a time and a place. The biggest difference between the Cowboys offense and the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense is KC uses the run to complement the pass, while Dallas uses the pass to bail out the run.

Dallas even boasted a higher success rate in drop backs compared to the Super Bowl Chiefs. You want to improve an already great offense? Try passing the ball more on early downs.