The most important numbers in an NFL football game are the final scores. But the stats do serve a role in showing you how things are going and in helping to identify areas of weakness. Focus on improving those areas and you have a chance of impacting the bottom line which would be the final score and winning the game.
Think of it as a progress report after 2 games:
Excellent: Pass defense– The Cowboys set out to improve here after last season and they have so far allowing just 160 yds./game ranked 3rd in the NFL.
Needs Improving: Sacks– The Cowboys have 5 sacks which puts them pretty much in the middle of the pack in the NFL (10 teams with more than 5 sacks). Not bad at all, but could be better when you consider they have Ware, better corners than last year and blitz quite often.
Needs Improving: Rush defense– The Cowboys defense is allowing 132 yds./game which ranks them 23rd in the NFL. Not good. Last year Dallas was pretty solid here but so far in 2012, it hasn’t been a strength. LB Sean Lee leads the NFL in tackles but where are the other 10 guys?
Needs Improving: Scoring– Most important stat for a defense is points allowed and Dallas has allowed an avg. of 22 points/game. That ranks 13th in the NFL and when you consider that about 13 points were due to turnovers and a blocked punt, it’s not bad. However, the Cowboys allowed 21.7 points a game in 2011 and expectations are to improve on that in 2012 with the additions in the secondary. Needs to get better.
Failing: Takeaways– The Cowboys have only produced one take away on defense and that was the fumble that Lee forced in the Giants game. And Dallas is one of only 9 teams in the entire NFL without a single interception so far. Given the additions of Carr and Claiborne, that is disappointing. It’s time the Cowboys start making the other team turn the ball over.
Excellent: Passing yards– Dallas ranks 6th in the NFL in passing yards with 268.5 yards/game. Like last year, the passing game is productive.
Needs Improving: Rushing yards– The Cowboys are producing 96 yards rushing/game which ranks them 21st in the NFL. This stat doesn’t mean as much in the NFL as it once did but still, I think the Cowboys improve their chances of winning when they rush for more than 100 yards a game. Murray is the go to guy for this area so the Cowboys need to make sure he gets enough carries.
Failing: Scoring- So far Dallas has averaged a disappointing 15.5 points a game ranking them 29th in the NFL. That is dead last in the NFC and puts them down there with the win-less Jaguars, Titans and Raiders. How is that for company? In 2011, the Cowboys scored an average of 23 points a game. This has got to improve!
Failing: Turnovers: While the defense has failed to produce turnovers, the offense has had a fumble and 2 interceptions leaving the Cowboys at a -2 deficit in the very important takeaway category. To win games, Dallas needs to protect the ball better.
Excellent: FGs– 1 for 1. So far so good.
Excellent: Kickoff coverage– opponents have averaged 20 yards per return. Dallas ranks in the top 10.
Excellent: Punt Coverage– Opponents have averaged about 6 yards per return. Dallas ranks in the top 10.
Failing: Kickoff returns– averaging just 21 yards a return and had a fumble Sunday. When you consider that Felix Jones usually fields a KO about 3-5 yards deep in the endzone, it’s clear that Dallas is barely getting to the 20 and maybe not even that far often.
Dwayne Harris may represent a better option but maybe Jerry doesn’t want to remove Felix. STORY .
This area represents a huge opportunity for improving the Cowboys field position.
Failing: Punt returns– Averaging a pathetic 1 yard per return. That ranks 31 out of 32 teams in the NFL. Last year this was a weak area for Dallas and so far it is again. Like to see Dwayne Harris get an opportunity to contribute to the team in this area that lacks productivity.
Failing: Punt protection– Had a punt blocked for a TD in Seattle. Happened against the Jets last year too. This kind of thing shouldn’t happen and represents a huge momentum changer in a game like it was Sunday.
If Dallas wants to get over that 8-8 hump in 2012, these are some of the areas that they must improve.