The Dallas Cowboys want to be aggressive on offense, but the coaches cannot claim to lean on analytics when they continue to ignore the most successful strategies in situations.
1 – The total feet needed on 3rd AND 4th down from Dallas’ own 34-yard line with 7 minutes left in the 2nd quarter in a tie game.
On 3rd down the Cowboys ran and end around with CeeDee Lamb for no gain. On 4th down they threw incomplete to a single-covered CeeDee for a turnover on downs.
It seems that as much as Mike McCarthy studied analytics during his 1-year sabbatical, he never learned that one of the most successful plays in football is the quarterback sneak.
ESPN found in 2017 that teams convert for 1st downs 17% more often than running any other play. Actually, a quarterback sneak with 2 yards to go more successful than a run or pass with only 1 yard to go. Yet, given the option to gain one yard on two consecutive plays, Kellen Moore called a gadget run (that did work last week against the Vikings) and then a 4th down pass.
This is not a one-game problem either. The Cowboys seem to really dislike the idea of allowing a quarterback to fall forward for 3 feet given how little they utilize it (even when they are playing their franchise quarterback who is built like a linebacker).
13 – Minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys found themselves at 4th and 10 from their own 24.
The Dallas defense was finally playing well. In the 2nd half the defense had limited Washington to only 3 points, had forced a punt, and forced a turnover. The 3 points came after Zeke’s fumble automatically started Washington in field goal range (had they not gained a single yard it would have been a 51-yard attempt).
However, in a one-score game and practically all of the 4th quarter to go, the Dallas coaching staff seemed to get desperate when they tried to convert a 4th and long from their own redzone while their defense was giving Washington problems.
4th and 10+ yards are converted around 29% of the time – with a starting offense on the field. What made this decision so disastrous was that it was with the special teams unit. I cannot find statistics on what percent of 4th and 10+ are converted from a punt formation, but it probably is lower than 29%.
-82 – The yardage differential for the rest of the game following the 4th and 10 fake punt.
Washington scored on a 1-play, 23-yard run; a 15 play, 76-yard drive; and a 1 play 15-yard pick-6. This yardage only includes offensive totals, and not return yards, so it does not include the 15 yards on the pick-6. So we could technically look at this as -97 yards.