Dallas Cowboys: The brilliance of Kellen Moore’s attack

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

While many fans in and around Cowboys Nation are discussing whether or not the Dallas Cowboys’ nail-biter against the defending Super Bowl champs constitutes a moral victory, we’re going to take moment to praise the brilliance of Kellen Moore’s game plan.

The Dallas Cowboys came out of the gate firing. Unlike the Bucs who started their first drive with two runs, a pass, and a punt, Dallas got down to business immediately. Kellen Moore had no intention of testing what is arguably the NFL’s best run-stuffing defense. Nope. He wanted to test the unproven secondary.

The Dallas Cowboys aired it out early and often, showing Kellen Moore really does “get it”.

We didn’t know what to expect from Kellen Moore entering the game. After working under the thumb of Jason Garrett for so long it was hard to know what kind of traits were Kellen’s and what were the wishes of the head coach. Last season offered little reprieve from the unknown since the season was dysfunctional in about every way possible for the Dallas Cowboys. This season was going to be Kellen’s coming out party – good or bad.

If Thursday night’s game in Tampa is any indication of what’s to come we should all be feeling pretty darn good about the direction of this offense going forward.

Dallas passed 58 times for 403 yards compared to just 14 runs for 47 yards. When was the last time you saw a stat line like that? but those are just the raw numbers and as such, they mean next to nothing. What should be noteworthy is the effectiveness of the plays and why it was the way it was.

It shouldn’t just be the analytics community that’s happy, it should be Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere.

The reason the Dallas Cowboys passed so much is clear – passing was more effective. Dallas’ success rate passing was a staggering 57% (that would lead the league) whereas the success rate of their runs was just 27% (that would be a league low).

This tells us on 57% of pass attempts the Cowboys increased their odds of scoring (which is kinda the goal in this whole thing, right?). The running game hurt the Cowboys odds of scoring 73% of the time. The Cowboys didn’t run the ball because it wasn’t working. And frankly, even when the running game is working most weeks it pales in comparison to the passing attack. This has been true since Dak and Zeke both got here. but I digress…

It doesn’t end there: Dak averaged .22 EPA/play throwing the ball (elite output) while the running game offered up -.29. The disparity was so severe it makes perfect sense why the game plan was so slanted in the passing game’s favor.

Kellen Moore saw this going into the game and didn’t feel compelled to test it at the cost of early stalled drives like we’ve seen so many times in the past. Will this be the game plan every week?

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Certainly not. There will be games Kellen will indeed, “Feed Zeke”. But those will be games where running the ball makes a little more sense. It absolutely didn’t on Thursday night.

The fact that Kellen Moore is willing to do the smart thing even if it looks unconventional should inspire fans this season. It shouldn’t just be the analytics community that’s happy, it should be Dallas Cowboys fans everywhere.

Did the Dallas Cowboys win? Nope. But it wasn’t the offense that was to blame, it was a very predictable part of the defense and some abnormally cruddy kicking that lost this one. While everyone’s focused on that right now, let’s take a moment to praise the offensive play-calling because what we saw Thursday night was a thing of beauty.

Next. Cowboys fans: embrace the 0-1 start. dark

We still need to see more RPOs and more motion, but this was a great start for a fairly “rusty” offense.