Numbers Don’t Lie: Dallas Cowboys’ Ben DiNucci Plays Like a Franchise Quarterback

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports /

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

The quarterback the team sent out to start during the Dallas Cowboys game made plenty of mistakes.  Passes were off-target with very little accuracy on deep throws.  For the game, he barely mustered a passer rating of 60 and struggled to even complete 55% of his throws.  The yards per attempt were abysmal, right around 4.5, and the constant turnovers hampered the offense all night long.

However, the Dallas Cowboys weren’t able to take advantage of how terrible Carson Wentz played, because Ben DiNucci was able to match him mistake for mistake.  I guess a positive that you could take away from DiNucci’s first start is that he played about as well as a 5-year NFL veteran who is seen as a franchise quarterback.

Let’s compare their performances:

Comp. %
 Ben DiNucci
 Carson Wentz

Can we really believe that people were still asking if Wentz was better than Dak?

2 – The Dallas lead at half.  In eight games the Dallas Cowboys have gone into halftime needing to battle from behind in five of them.  Only three times have the Cowboys had a lead at the half.  The first week of the season they led the Rams by 1 point and were beating the Giants by FOUR points at the half before needing to come from behind and beat them.

Given how the Cowboys offense was playing, it was amazing Dallas was leading at all, and it speaks to how well the Dallas Cowboys defense was playing.

9 – The number of offensive line combinations the Dallas Cowboys have used this season.  The offensive line has been hammered by injuries, and it has forced the coaches to shuffle on-the-fly.  The Cowboys still have not used the same offensive line combination for two consecutive games.

Although it will be hard for any quarterback to play well behind a bad offensive line, we should not forget that Dak played behind a line that was performing so poorly in Seattle that a line change had to be made mid-game.  Dak managed to throw for 472 yards and 3 touchdowns while posting a 93.7 passer rating.

1 – The number of teams who have not been able to score at least 20 points against Philadelphia.  The Eagles entered the game ranked 23rd in scoring defense surrendering 28 points per game.  Dallas did not even score a touchdown against a team that gives up four of them on average.  I don’t want to use this space to talk too much about the ineptitude of the offense because there are other numbers I can do that with…

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202 – The total yards put up by the Dallas Cowboys offense on the night prior to their garbage-time 63-yard drive that ended the game.  They ended with 265 official yards, but that last drive the game had already been decided and everybody was just ready to go home.

The Cowboys finished with just 3.0 yards per pass and 3.8 yards per rush for a total of 3.4 yards per play.  This was a whole other level of offensive ineptitude.

14.3 – Percent of third down conversions prior to converting their last 2 in garbage.  During that final drive the DiNucci threw incomplete to bring Dallas’ third-down conversion rate to just 2/14 for the night.  They would go on to finish 4/16 (25%).

Perspective: The New York Jets are last in the league in third-down conversion rate and they manage to convert 28% of their third downs.  Dallas needed 2 garbage time conversions to reach 25%.

3 – Points scored off Philadelphia’s four turnovers.  After Carson Wentz fumbled early in the first quarter, DiNucci gave the ball right back when backup right tackle Terrence Steel could not remember how to block.

Carson Wentz fumbled again and the Cowboys were able to score a field goal.  Wentz would generously twice play catch with Cowboys’ cornerback Trevon Diggs, but the Cowboys punted after the first and missed a 52-yard field goal after the other.

2 – Touchdowns scored by the Dallas Cowboys offense without Dak Prescott on the field.  This includes the five possessions Andy Dalton played against New York.  During that game, the Cowboys scored a touchdown on the same drive Dak got injured on – a 12-yard Zeke run.  Since then the offense has managed 1 touchdown over 36 total possessions.

They have already passed the previous franchise low in points scored in a season (177 in 1960), but this could be one of the lowest scoring teams in franchise history.  This is quite extraordinary given the pace Dak set for the team at the beginning of the year.

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4 – Times in franchise history Dallas has failed to score a game in back-to-back games.  It had only happened 3 times in 60 years until these past two weeks.  Every week this offense is trying to make its mark on the wrong side of the Dallas Cowboys history books.

53 – Percent of targets to Michael Gallup and Dalton Schultz alone. A full 20 of 38 (actual) pass attempts went to just these two players.  The boxscore shows 40 total attempts, but one of those was a throwaway and the other was a spike to stop the clock.  DiNucci’s other 18 attempts were spread out to six different receivers.

I cannot say for certain, but its possible that DiNucci got more time throwing to these guys during the limited training camp the team had than any other players.  Remember, prior to week 1 Schultz was the 2nd or 3rd tight end on the team.

0 – Number of fumbles by Ezekiel Elliott.  Zeke came into the game leading all NFL skill players in fumbles (5) and fumbles lost (3).  Only Derek Carr and Joe Burrow had more fumbles than Zeke entering play Sunday (there are now 4 players – Lamar Jackson, Carson Wentz, Carr, and Burrow – ahead of Zeke in fumbles and fumbles lost).

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Zeke had a career high six fumbles in 2018, so he just may set a new career high this year.  In 2018 it took  Zeke 381 touches to rack up six fumbles.  This season Zeke has fumbled 5 times in 166 touches this season. It’s normally not something to be excited about when your supposed franchise running back doesn’t fumble the ball, but given how this season has gone for Zeke so far, this is a win.

27 – The number of years it’s been since a rookie quarterback won their first career start in Dallas.  That quarterback’s name was Jason Garrett.  In that game, Jason Garrett started and led the team to a field goal on their first possession.  Later Bernie Kosar, who was signed a few days earlier, came in and finished the game as Dallas beat the Phoenix Cardinals 20-15.

So if you were really hoping for a win, maybe you just didn’t know how rare it is.  Does this mean Ben DiNucci will be the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys some day?

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0 – percent of 2-6 teams made the playoffs since the playoffs expanded in 1990.  Of course, playoffs have expanded this year again, so many of these statistics will be useless moving forward in NFL history.  However, whatever tiny bit of hope you may have been holding onto for some reason, you can probably let it go now.

  • Published on 11/03/2020 at 12:01 PM
  • Last updated at 11/03/2020 at 10:45 AM