The Dallas Cowboys were able to take a massive step forward in securing the NFC East with their win against the Washington Football Team on Sunday. The Cowboys now lead the division by three games with four to play.
That should make Cowboys fans feel warm and cozy inside. The fact of the matter, though, is that even though the Cowboys have won back-to-back games and are on the verge of clinching the NFC East, half the team is not doing their part.
The side of the ball that is failing the Cowboys is what has everyone all stirred up. It is not the Dallas defense that is letting down the team, but instead, it's the Dak Prescott-led offense that is stuck in a rut.
Can you imagine in August of this year if someone were to tell you the Dallas defense is carrying the team? You might have thought that person was talking in a different language, but alas, that is where the Cowboys are.
The defense is finally healthy, and they are balling out. Since week nine, per rbsdm.com, the Cowboys defense ranks fourth in EPA/play (-0.139), fourth in success rate (38.5%), third in dropback EPA (0.202), and first in dropback success rate (36.9%).
The Dallas defense has tallied eight turnovers in its last two games, and that is why the Cowboys have won back-to-back games for the first time since the calendar hit November.
On the other hand, the Cowboys' offense is a whole different story. Dallas is winning despite the offense. Over the last three games, the offense is converting just 27.7% of their third downs and scoring touchdowns on just 36.36% of their red-zone trips. Both rank 31st in the league over that time frame.
Since week nine, per rbsdm.com, the Dallas offense is ranked 25th in EPA/play (-0.079), 30th in success rate (38.4%), 23rd in dropback EPA (-0.039), and 26th in dropback success rate (41.4%).
The rushing production has been even worse. The offense ranks 27th in rush EPA (-0.164) and 29th in rushing success rate (32.1%) since week 9.
The offense looks stagnant and predictable, eerily reminiscent of the Jason Garrett era. So, the play-calling has been called into question for a good reason.
On Sunday against Washington, the Cowboys seemed to get in a pattern, first down incompletion or ineffective run, short second-down run, and screen pass on third down. It was frustrating for the entire Cowboys fan base.
There seems to be no creativity out of offensive coordinator Kellen Moore. The offense looks stale and out of sync, and he's not doing anything to spice things up or make things easier on the players. Moore calls plays where there is motion at the snap at an alarmingly low rate.
Overdue for a team motion update!
First number is motion at snap, second one is all pre-snap motion.
It is a fact utilizing pre-snap motion, particularly motion at the snap, positively impacts the offense, yet Moore remains hesitant. It is a huge head-scratcher, and Moore is not adapting or adjusting, and it is becoming a detriment to the team.
Motion at snap on pass plays: continues to rise, albeit at lower levels than run plays, but the edge remains.
Motion at snap pass plays have accrued .08 EPA/P more than non motion at snap pass plays. pic.twitter.com/b38XvlCjQK
Kellen Moore also stubbornly relies on the run game on early downs, even though it has proven ineffective. Over the past six weeks, running the ball has worked 27.3% of the time on early downs, yet Dallas ranks in the league's top half in early-down run rate. That is questionable decision-making.
On early downs the Dallas Cowboys passing game has a 12.3% higher success rate and a .163 higher EPA than the running game over the past 3games. Even in a slump passing the ball early is the lower risk/higher reward option. #StopEstablishingTheRun #CowboysNation #DC4L pic.twitter.com/5VT4vUL5Yv
When asked about the struggles on offense, Moore acknowledged the dip in play.
Cowboys OC Kellen Moore talked today about the ups and downs of an NFL season, acknowledging that the offensive struggles are “certainly a little bit too much of a dip.”
When asked about Dak Prescott’s recent play, Moore said as OC he needs to do a better job calling the game.
The Dallas offensive line is not doing the offense any favors either. Dallas is ranked 22nd in pass block win rate with a win rate of 57%. Connor McGovern has struggled since he was named the starter at left guard. Tyron Smith has missed most games since the bye week due to injury. It just has not been pretty for this unit.
They have also had problems opening running lanes as of late. In the last seven games, the offense averages only 4.1 yards per carry, compared to 5.08 yards per carry in the games before the bye week.
The biggest thing that may be hampering the offense's play is the play of quarterback Dak Prescott. Prescott has not looked like himself since his return from injury in week nine against the Denver Broncos.
Prescott looked awful on Sunday against Washington and almost threw them back in the ball game.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) December 12, 2021
Fortunately, the Dallas defense came to play and ended any notion of a comeback attempt very quickly.
Jerry Jones was asked about Prescott and responded with, “I don't want to say (it's a) slump, but that's probably fair. It's such a multifaceted evaluation. I would say that our offense is definitely away from where we were 5-6 weeks ago… Yes, he is (healthy). He'll figure it out.”
Per rbsdm.com, Since Prescott's return in week nine, out of a total of 34 quarterbacks with 100 or more plays, he ranks 29th in EPA + CPOE Composite (0.019), 26th in EPA/play (-0.033), 29th in success rate (41.5%), 27th in CPOE (-3.4).
That is not going to get the job done for this team. Despite all that is happening around Prescott regarding offensive line issues, wide receivers missing time, and banged-up running backs, he needs to perform better, way better.
After the game on Sunday, Prescott said, “We've created these expectations and high standards and we have them for ourselves. So I mean just as much as the outside world isn't pleased, we're not.”
We will find out if Prescott and the offense can pick up the slack and revert to form over the next four weeks before the playoffs begin. Next up will be the New York Giants, who just gave up 37 points to the Chargers and three passing touchdowns to Justin Herbert.
It certainly looks like an excellent spot for Prescott to gain some confidence going forward.