Here is a stat that I bet you weren’t aware of and haven’t read anywhere else. The Dallas Cowboys defense was number 1 in sacks per game in away games last season. That’s right they averaged 3.8 sacks per away game which actually has them tied with the Eagles as the best in the NFL at getting sacks in road games. With all the talk of Dallas needing to upgrade their pass rush via the draft, I think that stat will come as a surprise to many.
Now it gets even stranger because when you look at home games, Dallas was one of the weakest at getting sacks with only 1.5 per game which is dead last in the NFC. That is a big difference so how do you explain that? Seems it should be the other way around right?
But while the Cowboys were getting sacks on the road, the opposing QBs were still having really good games as they had an average passer rating of 102 which was the 4th highest in the NFL and only three really bad teams were more generous to opposing QBs.
As the saying goes, “nothing is more devastating to an opinion than a number” and the numbers keep saying that the Cowboys secondary performed very poorly last year. It no doubt cost them games. However their poor performance was really evident in away games.
Another interesting fact is the 2011 Dallas defense allowed a third down conversion percentage rate of 46.36% in away games which ranks 4th highest in the NFL and the worst in all of the NFC. That particularly reflects on the pass defense as teams will typically pass the ball on third down.
However when Dallas was playing at home, their pass defense was more effective as their opponents 3rd down conversion rate dropped all the way down to 31.91% which ranks 2nd best in the NFC. What a difference!
So for some reason the Dallas pass defense was much better at home than on the road although as pointed out earlier, the defense was getting much fewer sacks (1.5/game) at home. Go figure.
By drilling down by quarters, we see that the Cowboys defense allowed a lot of the points on the road in the 2nd and 4th quarters, 8.6 and 7.2 per game respectfully, while being pretty stingy in the 1st and 3rd quarters allowing about 3 points in each. The Cowboys defense ranked 3rd in the NFC in points allowed in the 2nd quarter.
It appears to me that opponents had a lot of success when they went to their 2 minute hurry up offense late in the half (2nd Qtr.) and late in the game. It was in these key times that Dallas seem to not be able to come up with a timely sack, INT, or defensive stoppage. Again the secondary just couldn’t get it done.
Incidentally, the Cowboys defense was one of the better teams in the NFL on 4th down as they only allowed a 36.35% rate of conversion. This is indicative of their strength against the run as most 4th down attempts are a short yardage run.
So why was Dallas getting sacks in away games last year but still managed to allow opposing QBs to have really successful games? I don’t know the answer but if you like, I will bounce a theory off of you. I think the Cowboys blitz much more on the road and while that may result in more sacks, it leaves the secondary more vulnerable to the pass with less pass defenders available. So when they got to the QB, it was all good but when the QB got the ball away, “holy crap how did he get that open!?” Sound familiar?
Next year it is going to be important for Dallas to improve their secondary and effectively pressure the QB without going to the blitz quite as often. Carr has been added to the secondary so now can they pick up a good DE or DT in the draft? They need it because while politicians and team owners may lie, the numbers don’t.