Dallas Cowboys defense has only allowed 69 points, which is pretty sweet

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

Before this season began we said if the Dallas Cowboys defense could just be average, then this team has a real chance at making some postseason noise. After three games and facing off against two of the best passing attacks in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves ranked 13th in points against.

I don’t think any reasonably minded Dallas Cowboys fan would have predicted after three weeks the Cowboys would be rated in the top half the NFL in points against. Last year they had one of the lousiest units we’ve ever seen, and aside from a few bargain free agent signings and a bunch of rookies, Dallas didn’t do a whole lot to change that.

We also need to factor in all the losses this defense has suffered. Roughly half of their defensive line has missed time this season and Dan Quinn has had to get creative to compensate.

Considering the opponents and the missing personnel, it’s pretty sweet the Dallas Cowboys have only given up 69 points.

Now, points against aren’t the end all/be all in defensive metrics. In fact, it can be a little misleading – as might be the case here. While Dallas is limiting opponents to just 23 per game, they have given up 1206 yards which is the sixth most in the NFL.

Their 7.4 net yards per pass attempt is the seventh worst in the NFL and their 4.7 yards per rushing attempt is an improvement on last year but still sixth worst in the league. So things really could/should be going much worse on the scoreboard given how easily opponents move the ball on this defense.

The saving grace has been Dallas’ ability to turn the ball over on defense. Their six interceptions lead the NFL and their 30% turnover percentage is nearly eight percentage points over the second place team (New Orleans Saints). This all manifests in the expected points created by the defense (-3.73) which ranks them eighth in the NFL. Again, that’s extremely impressive when you account for who they have faced.

There’s two things to consider moving forward:

  1. Is the turnover rate sustainable?
  2. And will the defense improve in other areas?

We know turnovers tend to be a little unstable season to season but they can stand fast in a single season. When you factor in the specific plays you can see many of them were forced and not just luck or happenstance. That should give us a little reason for optimism.

Even still, turnovers cannot be relied on each week so the Dallas Cowboys are going to need to see improvement elsewhere to maintain their above-average ranking in points against.

Luckily, improvement should be seen as a perfectly reasonable expectation for this Dallas Cowboys defense. Not only are the injured players set to come back but they bulk of the defense is made up of young and developing players. Organic improvement should be expected.

We also need to look at the level of competition. As we pointed out, Dallas has faced Tom Brady and Justin Herbert this season already. They won’t see anyone of that caliber until they face Patrick Mahomes in late November.

Everyone has to like the sound of that.

The Dallas Cowboys aren’t suddenly a good defense, but we don’t need them to be. They are better. And 69 points against is pretty sweet when you think about it. There are reasons to believe this is a sustainable rate and this Dallas Cowboys defense can go into the playoffs in better shape than we ever imagined.

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69 points against. Sweeeeet.