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With all the mistakes, the fumbles, the stupid penalty, little courageous calls and lack of the starting QB, to analyze the paucity of this Offense’s performance, you cannot disregard a statistic that is a total disaster: 3rd and 1 conversions. On 17 occasions, the Cowboys converted 7 times (41%). To give you a reference the average of the League is 66%. A statistic that makes things even worse if you consider that yard makes the difference between a TD and a FG or between FG and a punt.
Another consideration, is that, generally, one tends to connect the third down conversion statistic to the quality of QB play, but compared to the numbers above, the Cowboys are around the average of the League in third and medium, and third and long conversions, where the QB has a different role from simple hand-off the ball to RB. Thus eliminating the possibility that the QB understands the situation and can change the play on the line, or who, like Cam Newton and Brady, is used to taking “the Longest Yard” by himself, the question comes down to the battle between 9 blockers against 11 defenders.
What can the Cowboys do to improve this statistic ? Use the QB sneak ? Personally, I remember this solution used very few times. Try a fast hand off to the FB ? Tyler Clutts has 0 (zero) runs in 68 NFL games played. Use the “spread formations” particularly with Dez on the field to attract one or two defenders ? Monday in two crucial occasions (in the 3rd quarter from Washington 15 and in the last quarter from 1-yard to TD), no spread formations and no Dez on the field. All possible solutions that could take the defense on the break or at least not make McFadden running predictable patterns.
Given the numbers of the offense, we can consider this win really rare, rarely seen victories with a differential of -2 in turnovers, or 11% on third down conversions, or with only one TD on four trips to the Red Zone, but with an average starting point of drives from our 33 and 5.9 yds per play, we took a very important victory. After the game against TB, teams have begun to bet on the blitz and Washington was no exception they blitzed 11 times out of 31 pass situations (35%). Note how well the play-action worked on the first downs, which is where Cassel has found most of his best gains.
The way this defense keep playing, this team will go where this offense will bring it. This means drastic improvement of third down efficiency, prolonging the drives and raise the Red Zone efficiency, which fell from 2nd in 2014 to 28th this season. 15 TD on 34 trips into the opponents 20 yds, 33 of 51 for the whole 2014. I don’t expect major changes or revolutions in the playbook, last year against Green Bay, was a physical game and if not for some Rodgers magic, and a “technicality” in the catch rule, we would have won thanks to the domination of the OL. Sunday, no Romo and no Murray, winning would be a challenge, to say the least.