Numbers Don’t Lie: Dallas Cowboys Offense Broke With Dak Prescott’s Ankle

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Kellen Moore (center) with Cooper Rush and Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 29: Kellen Moore (center) with Cooper Rush and Dak Prescott of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images) /

A lot happens over the course of a football game.  Here are some numbers from the Dallas Cowboys offense you may have missed.

Search the web and read some blogs and you may read somewhere (or many places) that the Dallas Cowboys do not need to pay Dak Prescott franchise quarterback money, because an average quarterback can get this offense, with its explosive receivers and All-Pro running back, to score points.

Those pundits are finding out just how wrong they were after 2 and a half games without Rayne Dakota Prescott, because it’s plain to see that something broke along with Dak’s ankle and no help is coming.

On to the numbers…

2020 Dallas Cowboys Offense (per game)

With Dak (NFL Rank)Without Dak (NFL Rank)Difference
Points36.2 (1)6.5 (32)-26.5
Passing Yards371.2* (1)118 (32)-263
Total Yards488 (1)243 (32)-245

*Team passing yards are actually higher due to Andy Dalton’s New York stats.

Just going purely by a per game basis, the Dallas Cowboys have gone from the best offense in the NFL to quite literally the worst.  If you happened to read my piece on the defensive numbers, what happens when you combine the worst offense in the league with the worst defense in the league?

The Dallas Cowboys are losing 263 passing yards per game in the two games since Dak has been injured.  Here is some context to that:

NFL Yards Passing (per game)

Patrick Mahomes271.3
Drew Brees269.7
Philip Rivers266.3
Kyler Murray263
Carson Wentz251.4
Ben Roethlisberger241.0

Some of the best quarterbacks in the league barely make that total by themselves.  Dak was putting up 100 yards more than some of these guys.  Yes, it is fair to ask, “But where are the wins?” Even Dak himself noted that he would gladly throw for as many yards per game as Lamar Jackson (189ypg!!) and get wins instead of lead the league and lose.

However, when your defense is allowing a league-worst 34.7 points per game, Dak and the Dallas Cowboys offense were forced to try and outscore their opponent.  Like it or not, the best way to do that would be to get Dak back; healthy and signed.

Related Story. Dak will not leave Dallas. light

67: Yards on Tony Pollard’s kickoff return late in the first quarter.  Some have called for Tony Pollard to be relieved of kickoff return duties.  It seems as though he was never really sure when he should catch the ball and when he should just take the touchback.

On Sunday he caught the ball 2 yards deep, and I had a sense of dread as he began to run out of the end zone.  That dread quickly turned into “Run, Tony! Run!” as I saw he had some space for a large gain.  Hopefully this doesn’t give him overconfidence to the point he starts running everything out again, but this was good to see and it led to the only points of the day when the offense immediately went three-and-out, wasted great field position, and settled for a field goal.

32: Dallas’ longest play of the day.  Ben DiNucci’s first-ever NFL pass attempt was a nice throw to Amari Cooper. This was Dallas’ only 20+ yard play of the game.  Meanwhile Washington had 4 of them: a 40-yard run in the first quarter, a 21-yard pass, a 55-yard touchdown pass, and another 22-yard pass.

An “explosive” pass play is a pass play that results in a gain of 20 or more yards according to Sharp Football Stats.  During weeks 1-5, Dallas had 26 such plays, or right at 5 per game.  In the two weeks without Dak, the offense has had 3 total – 1.5 per game.

Entering this week, Washington’s defense had given up explosive plays on 10% of pass plays, which was fourth worst in the league.  Dallas was only able to manage one such play on Sunday, and it was from the 3rd string quarterback at the back end of a blow out.

-64.9: Passer rating differential. Passer rating differential is a great way to predict the winner of an NFL football game.  Basically, if our quarterback outplays the opposing quarterback, we likely win.

Andy Dalton and Ben DiNucci combined for a passer rating of 46.4, mainly because Dalton only completed 47% of his passes for 3.9 yards per attempt.

Kyle Allen, a former undrafted free agent making his 16th career start, managed a rating of 111.1 and 7.8 yards per attempt after having passer rating of just 83.1 for his career.  A passer rating differential of 65 points is really hard to do, but Andy Dalton was more than up to the task.

Granted, he did not have a lot of time because he was playing behind the backups’ backups, but 9 completions in 19 attempts?  He doesn’t seem to be seeing the field, and he is holding the ball too long even when he is given time in the pocket.

1: The number of pre-season projected starting offensive linemen playing in the game.  Only Connor Williams was expected to start and actually made it onto the field Sunday.  Tyron Smith (out for season), La’el Collins (out for season), Joe Looney (knee), and Zach Martin (concussion), all were ruled out before the game.

The Cowboys are now starting a fourth round rookie at center (Tyler Biadasz) and an undrafted rookie (Terrance Steele) at right tackle in place of Joe Looney and La’el Collins respectively.

Also, remember that All-Pro center Travis Frederick retired in the offseason, so Joe Looney was technically a projected starter, but he was the backup before that shocking announcement.  Tyron and La’el aren’t coming back, hopefully Zach Martin will soon, but it may not matter who is taking snaps from center if nobody can block the opposition.

1: The number of wide receivers who caught a pass on Sunday.  Amari Cooper caught all 7 of his targets for 80 yards.  Maybe it was scheme or (more likely) maybe Andy Dalton did not have time to really find his receivers.  Given Andy’s yards per attempt (3.9), he was dumping the ball off quickly.

CeeDee Lamb had two official drops of his five targets, but you could make the case that he had three drops.  It seemed CeeDee was having a trouble holding on to the wet ball, although it did not appear to be a problem for Washington.

Over the past few weeks we have all seen what CeeDee is capable of, and the entire NFL is still trying to figure out how he tumbled all the way down the draft board and fell into the Dallas Cowboys’ lap, but he has to do better.  Andy Dalton made a fantastic throw into tight coverage in the endzone that hit CeeDee Lamb in the hands, but he just dropped it.

6: Deficit after the first quarter.  For the season the Cowboys are averaging -5.3 point margin after 15 minutes of play.  That margin jumps to -10.9 by halftime.  It’s already hard enough to win in the NFL, but Dallas seems to want to make it more difficult on themselves by spotting the opposition a touchdown every game.  Without good quarterback play, this should only increase as 2020 just keeps giving and giving.

light. Related Story. Numbers Don't Lie: Numbers from the Defense

2: Number of “turnovers” on the day.  Check the boxscore and you will only see one turnover by the Cowboys.  Did you know a safety doesn’t count as a turnover?  Andy Dalton fumbled the ball, Washington gained points on the same play, but weren’t credited with a turnover because Dalton Shultz recovered the ball for a safety.

One of the more frustrating things about the turnovers is that they are happening to the team’s best players.  Ezekiel Elliott already has four fumbles (which is worst in the league), three of which have been lost (drumroll….worst in the league), and on Sunday Andy Dalton’s interception involved none other than Zeke.

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The ball was thrown a bit behind Zeke, but Zeke is a professional football player with a reputation out of college of being a back that can really help in the passing game.  That pass must be caught by a professional football player, and it absolutely took the air out of the team.  Especially when Dallas had gotten so close and was going to get the ball back right after halftime.  If Zeke is supposed to be the offensive leader in Dak’s absence, he must do better.

So the “official” turnover margin for the 2020 Dallas Cowboys is now -13, which is (you guessed it) worst in the league (just like a lot of things these days).

2.6: Yards per play for the Dallas Cowboys.  During weeks 1-5, the Cowboys averaged 6.5 yards per play which would be 2nd in the league right now, trailing only MVP candidate Russell Wilson’s Seattle offense (6.6ypp).

This 2.6 yards per play would place the Cowboys…yep…dead last in the league.  The New York Jets have averaged 4.3ypp on the season and many consider them the worst team in the league.  Not so fast – the Cowboys offense played nearly twice as poorly against Washington.  If 7th round rookie Ben DiNucci has to make his first NFL start behind this offensive line next week, don’t hope for too much improvement in this area.

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2: The number of Dallas Cowboys players fighting each other on television after the game. I’m not sure what was going on, but immediately after Kyle Allen took a knee to run the rest of the clock out there was some kind of shoving match.  Eventually two Cowboys were shoving each other instead of focusing their energy on the other team.  This team is falling apart.