Monday, October 22, 2012

Dallas Cowboys: The formula for winning

In the first six games of the season, I've came away with some interesting but simple numbers.  17, 10, and 14.  Those numbers represent the points the Cowboys gave up in their three wins.  27, 34, and 31.  Obviously, those numbers represent the amount of points the Cowboys gave up in their losses.

In those losses, they had eight turnovers, with five of them coming against Chicago.  They gave up a kick return for a TD against Baltimore.  They gave up a blocked punt for a TD against Seattle while also fumbling the opening kickoff.  The defense forced one turnover.

In those three wins, they had five turnovers with three of them coming against Tampa Bay.  On the other hand, they forced five turnovers as well.

Obviously the strength in teams is noteworthy in those wins and losses, but the fact remains that if the Cowboys have a reasonable turnover differential while not giving up more than two TDs or having backbreaking Special Teams miscues, they'll most likely win the ballgame.

Who knows how different the Seattle game is had the Cowboys not spotted them 10 points to open the game.  Had they just not fumbled the opening kickoff.  Had they just not have a punt blocked for a TD.  The game could be much different and maybe the defense doesn't wear down in the 2nd half.

Who knows how the Bears game plays out had Romo and Dez not badly misread each other on Chris Tillman's pick six when the score was only 3-0.  Or if Romo didn't throw four more interceptions after that including another pick six.  The Bears are certainly a better team than the Cowboys, but if not for those five turnovers, the Cowboys are in better position to win that game.

The Baltimore game is probably the worst loss of the three.  It's a game that they would have won if not for the interception deep in Baltimore's territory, the 108-yard kickoff return for a TD, or a Bailey's 51-yard miss as time expired that was certainly capable of being made.

I could sit here and make excuses through the entire article, but fortunately for you, I won't.  The Cowboys' problems are easily correctable.  It's not open-heart surgery.  They have a great QB who can make big throws when they need it.  They have an improving offensive line.  They have a good defense.  They have good receivers who plays well to their strengths if used properly.  Garrett knows this as well, and I loved the game he called yesterday.  It was one of his best called games.  I loved the fact that despite rushing for only 2.7 yards per carry, they still ran it 28 times and Romo threw it 34 times.  This was despite not having their best running back, DeMarco Murray.  That's balance I would take every single week.  There's nothing wrong with going conservative when you know you have a good defense, and you know your offense can make plays whenever time calls for them to be aggressive.

If you look at the blueprint of the Harbaugh-led 49ers, it's quite simple.  Play physical defense, and don't make mistakes on offense and special teams.  That sounds really simple when I say it, but the Cowboys make it seem really hard.  The 49ers seem to know how to play this way, and that would explain an 18-5 record since the beginning of last season.  If the Cowboys ever adopted that blueprint and executed it, they could possibly be better than the 49ers because they do have a QB who can win them games unlike the aforementioned.

Formula for winning:

  • Stay committed to the running game- Don't be afraid to run the football to protect Romo and make things easier for him.  You have a lead back in Murray who is dangerous.  You have a homerun threat in Felix Jones as a change of pace back.  You have a bruiser in Phillip Tanner.  Use that to your advantage.
  • Limit turnovers-  Missing open receivers is tolerable.  Dropping TDs is a little tolerable.  They just happen sometimes, but turnovers are unacceptable.  This should be the number one thing the Cowboys should try not to do.  Even if they come off too conservatively in doing so.  Do whatever it takes not to turn it over.  The 49ers weren't just 13-3 because they forced 38 turnovers.  No, they were 13-3 because they only had 10 turnovers all season.  When you don't make mistakes, you give yourself a chance to win almost every ball game.
  • No Special Teams mistakes- You may give up some good field position from time to time, but at least try to avoid giving up punts or kick returns for TD.  Try not to get your punts blocked too.  These little things have cost the Cowboys two games already this season.
  • Getting takeaways-  You need to limit turnovers, but you also need to force them.  When you play six of your first nine games on the road, if you want to be over .500 in that stretch, you better force turnovers.  A simple turnover probably is enough to beat Baltimore and they are 4-2 instead of 3-3.
  • Limit the other team to no more than two TDs- You see the Cowboys are 3-0 when they don't give up more than two TDs in a game.  Hmmm.....I could be onto something here.  But I could say this for just about any team besides the Kansas City Chiefs.
This formula seems pretty simple and really isn't that innovative, but these ideas would win the Cowboys a lot of games.  Especially when you are in the NFC East where just about every team is prone to turnovers.  Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys simply aren't as talented as many make them out to be.  They aren't more talented than the Giants, and they aren't more talented than the Eagles.  They aren't more talented than many teams in the NFC, but the 49ers aren't either.  That is why playing mistake-free football with sound defense and Special Teams is pivotal for these Cowboys.  That is how the 49ers win ballgames.  The Cowboys can't simply make a lot of mistakes and win ballgames like the Giants or Eagles can.  Eli can throw three picks in one half and still lead his team to a win, because he's that good, and so is the talent around him.  Vick may not be as great as Eli but the Eagles can get by with his mistakes too.  Not as often as Eli, but Vick does have the talent around him to make up for mistakes.  The Cowboys aren't that talented, so they need to be playing mistake-free football at all times.  They beat the Giants largely because they didn't make any backbreaking mistakes, and the one mistake they made, was covered by a great goal-line-stand by the defense.

Critical mistakes in Special Teams and turnovers offensively contributed largely to all three losses.  Simply adopting a more conservative approach with more emphasis on protecting the football would do them some good.  What I've seen the past two weeks gives me a little hope.  Despite the loss to Baltimore, I felt like the offense was doing all it could to protect the football.  Romo's interception was a little phantom considering Ogletree was interfered with and it was not called.  Without the Special Teams TD, they probably win that game.  For the past two weeks they've run the football a lot and have kept Romo grounded.  That's a recipe for success.

It won't hurt if they can get a little healthier too with DeMarco Murray next week.  Their running game is simply better when he's in the line up.  If there is anything we learned from Anthony Spencer's absence is that that side of the ball is tons better when he's in the line up.  As long as he stays healthy, the Cowboys defense should continue to sport one of the top defenses.  If they force more turnovers, the offense doesn't make mistakes, and the Special Teams plays sound, they will win more games than they lose.  But we all know the Cowboys never make it this easy.

1 comment:

  1. The Dallas team has had a difficult time last season but still retains its essence, so I hope that its performance is better in this 2013.