Passer rating measures attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions. It was developed by the NFL's statistical committee in the early 70s as a way to judge a passing performance beyond just total yards. Since passers can pile up yardage easily against defenses that have a big lead late in a game, high passing yardage totals don't lead to wins. Passer rating, then, was designed to reward the kind of passing that wins football games.
Since Tony Romo started his first game in 2006, he's finished the season ranked among the league's 10 highest-rated passers in every qualifying year. Seven seasons. In the entire history of professional football, only Joe Montana (13) and Tom Brady (11) had more consecutive top-10 seasons to start a career. Brady will not catch Montana because his streak of top-10 seasons ended last year. The Patriots just didn't have the targets for Brady's rating to get into the top 10.
That's why I think "passer" rating is a misnomer. What's really being rated is not the passer or the receiver, but the pass itself. And the pass depends, at the very least, on both. The target does matter. Remember when some suggested Romo was in decline when his pass rating fell 12 points from 102.5 in 2011 to its lowest in his career (90.5) in 2012? That wasn't a QB in decline, it was all about the inability to replace Laurent Robinson.
47 of 72 for 787 yards 11 TD 2 INT 130.3 rating
to everyone else:
299 of 450 for 3,397 yards 20 TD 8 INT 96.3 rating
61 of 102 for 750 yards 5 TD 8 INT 66.2 rating
to everyone else:
364 of 544 for 4,153 yards 23 TD 11 INT 95.3 rating
Nobody was talking about this at the time, but when you factor out 3rd WR, Romo's rating dropped only 1 point from one season to the next. Not bad for a QB who was playing with one legitimate target less than he had the year before. The player on the receiving end of the pass does matter. It's true for Brady, Romo, or any other quarterback. Let's move on and look at Romo's best (and worst) targets in 2013.
All Romo's Passes in 2013
- Bryant 85 of 142 1150 yd 8.1 ypa 12 td 3 int 105.1 rtg
- Witten 61 of 93 716 yd 7.7 ypa 8 td 0 int 117.5 rtg
- Williams 42 of 69 679 yd 9.8 ypa 5 td 2 int 105.9 rtg
- Murray 48 of 55 311 yd 5.7 ypa 1 td 0 int 96.3 rtg
- Beasley 38 of 49 361 yd 7.4 ypa 2 td 2 int 94.0 rtg
- others 68 of 127 611 yd 4.8 ypa 3 td 3 int 64.8 rtg
Spikes and throw aways where there was no discernible target are not included.
Although he went as an alternate, Witten was absolutely deserving of his 9th Pro Bowl selection. Among tight ends, only Graham and Olsen had such a high rating on at least that many targets. Bryant continued his streak of 100+ seasons. Of receivers with a minimum of 6 targets per game, only Dez and Wes Welker have finished in the top 10 each of the last four seasons. Williams had a promising rookie year on his 69 targets, which was less than half of Dez's total, but there were situations in which Williams was a detriment to the team.
Red Zone Only
- Bryant 13 of 21 68 yd 3.2 ypa 10 td 0 int 106.7 rtg
- Witten 9 of 16 73 yd 4.6 ypa 6 td 0 int 107.6 rtg
- Williams 4 of 10 42 yd 4.2 ypa 2 td 1 int 52.9 rtg
- Beasley 6 of 7 35 yd 5.0 ypa 2 td 0 int 127.1 rtg
- Murray 5 of 7 33 yd 4.7 ypa 1 td 0 int 120.8 rtg
- others 3 of 8 27 yd 3.4 ypa 1 td 0 int 87.0 rtg
Romo-to-Bryant has been unstoppable in the red zone, with 19 TD and 0 INT since 2010. Witten had one of his best red zone years. Beasley's potential to help his team inside the 20 is immense. Of the five top targets, the obvious weak link was Williams, and these numbers don't even show his red zone fumble in San Diego.
3rd Down Only
- Bryant 16 of 31 207 yd 6.7 ypa 5 td 0 int 112.5 rtg 14 fd (45.2%)
- Witten 14 of 27 155 yd 5.7 ypa 2 td 0 int 93.9 rtg 12 fd (40.7%)
- Williams 11 of 22 157 yd 7.1 ypa 0 td 2 int 35.6 rtg 8 fd (31.8%)
- Beasley 14 of 18 146 yd 8.1 ypa 1 td 0 int 119.0 rtg 11 fd (61.1%)
- Austin 3 of 13 27 yd 2.1 ypa 0 td 0 int 23.1 rtg 3 fd (23.1%)
- others 5 of 14 43 yd 3.1 ypa 0 td 2 int 5.1 rtg 1 fd (7.1%)
The last number is the percentage of that player's targets that resulted in a first down.
Dallas ranked 26th in the NFL in 3rd down conversion percentage, and Romo had a 76.7 rating on 3rd down. That's a full 20 points lower than his season rating. What made Romo so horrible on 3rd down? That rating was all about the receivers who were the targets of those passes. The passes to Beasley, Bryant, and Witten resulted in 8 TD, 0 INT, a 113.3 pass rating, and a 49% conversion rate. The passes to everybody else resulted in 0 TD, 4 INT, a 19.7 rating, and a 24% conversion rate.
The target does matter.
NYJ 24, DAL 22: Cowboys Comeback Comes Up Short Again
The Cowboys are now 3-3 after creating another halftime deficit and not being able to overcome it. Their losing streak continued with a 24-22 loss to the previously winless New York Jets.
Dallas trailed 21-6 at halftime in one of the more embarrassing first halves of football we've seen this team play. It took an improbable 62-yard field goal from Brett Maher to give them some kind of positive feeling heading into the locker room.
The worse sequence came earlier in that quarter. Trailing just 7-3 at that point, the Cowboys marched over 50 yards to put themselves in scoring position. But a 4th-down try came up short, and then the Jets answered with a 92-yard touchdown pass from Sam Darnold to Robby Anderson.
That play seemed to knock the wind out of Dallas' sails, and they were still reeling on the Jets' next possession when New York scored another touchdown on a six-play, 65-yard drive.
The Cowboys struggled early on offense, and that had a lot to do with missing personnel. They went into the game without Randall Cobb, Tyron Smith, or La'el Collins suiting up. Then Amari Cooper had to exit early with a quad injury and didn't return.
The halftime adjustments were there. Dallas outscored New York 16-3 in the second half and pulled within two points on a late touchdown run by Dak Prescott. But the two-point conversion attempt failed when Dak got hit and tossed an errant ball to a blanketed Jason Witten.
Another week. Another loss. And now the Eagles are coming to town next Sunday night.
If the Cowboys don't start figuring out how to play well early, this season is only going to get uglier.
- Prescott put in an admirable effort given the amount of pressure that Gregg Williams' defense was applying. He completed 28-of-40 passes for 277 yards and had the rushing score, giving up no sacks or turnovers.
- Dak's rushing TD, the 20th of his career, tied Roger Staubach for the most in Cowboys QB history.
- Ezekiel Elliott had a big day with 105 yards on the ground and another 47 receiving, plus a rushing touchdown. One of his biggest plays won't show up in the stat sheet; he drew a defensive pass interference call on the Cowboys' final drive running a deep route as a receiver.
- Brett "Mixed Bag" Maher gave you the full range of his wows and woes today. That 62-yarder was truly special, putting him in rare company as just the third NFL kicker to ever hit multiple kicks of 60 or more. However, he also missed one from just 40 yards out. The Cowboys have now lost two games by just two points in which Maher missed an easy field goal.
- Chalk up two more sacks for Robert Quinn, who has five now in just four games. Outside of those plays, few Cowboys even breathed on Sam Darnold today.
- Jourdan Lewis got more playing time today with Anthony Brown getting hurt, and he did what he tends to do with a clutch interception. Lewis' picked off Darnold early in the third quarter after the Jets had driven down to the Dallas' 11. It helped keep New York off the scoreboard and was critical to the Cowboys' comeback efforts.
- Thankfully, this loss did not cost Dallas their shared NFC East lead with the Eagles. Philadelphia also fell today in their road game against the Vikings. Both teams are now 3-3 as they prepare for next week's rivalry game.
Cowboys Wishlist: Win In The Trenches, Limit Le’Veon Bell
My biggest wish of the day is for the Dallas Cowboys to win their football game. It's been more than two weeks since we've been able to enjoy a good victory. The New York Jets present us with a favorable matchup and what should be an easy game for the Cowboys. However, this is the NFL, and surprising things can happen any given Sunday. Dallas can't take this game for granted.
Let's get into this week's Cowboys Wishlist! Make sure to let me know yours in the comments section below or tweet them at me @MauNFL and let's talk football!
Wish #1: No Turnovers
Last week's performance was a painful one to watch. While we can take a look at every single aspect of the game to find out why the Cowboys lost, it's actually pretty simple. Dak Prescott and the Dallas' offense turned the ball over three times. If you have a -3 turnover differential, you're losing that games nine times out of ten.
The Cowboys offense is better than given credit for, but if they keep handing the ball to opposing teams, no one will notice that. It's a simple wish, but an important one. Just stop turning the ball over.
Wish #2: Win in the Trenches, Limit Le'Veon Bell
As Aaron Jones plowed his way through the Cowboys' defense for 107 yards and four rushing touchdowns, the lack of quality defensive tackle play was very noticeable. The defense was pushed around in the trenches just about every play. Antwaun Woods has been injured recently, but not even with him coming back will the Cowboys solve their problems.
As the team's three-technique, Maliek Collins has also struggled to stop the run and bring pressure. This time, they're facing a Jets offense that's led by RB Le'Veon Bell. Could things go south versus a 0-4 New York squad? I doubt it, but if they do, I'd bet it's because of Bell. Hopefully, the Cowboys win the battle.
Wish #3: Blake Jarwin Plays More
I can't get over the fact that with the Cowboys trailing late in the game last Sunday, it was Jason Witten who was still on the field and not Blake Jarwin. I love Witten, but doesn't Jarwin have better deep-threat potential? I've been surprised by #82 and how well he's played since coming back, but I'm still a firm believer that Jarwin should get more playing time.
Through five weeks, Jarwin has played on 125 of the offensive snaps while Witten has been in for 240. I wish Jarwin gets more playing time today.
Wish #4: Cowboys Start Fast
What is wrong with the Cowboys when the games start? They have yet to have a good start this season. Even when they faced the Washington Redskins, New York Giants, and the Miami Dolphins they struggled to get it going. I don't know if it's an execution problem or bad play-scripting from the coaches but this will get the Cowboys in trouble if it isn't fixed.
It's a 60-minute game and if you start playing well late, you'll be beaten as the season goes on. The Cowboys need to figure this out, and the Jets are a fortunate opponent to get back on track.
Will Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence Finally Go Off Against Jets?
With only 2.5 sacks in five games thus far in 2019, DeMarcus Lawrence is currently on pace to have less than 10 sacks on the season. That would be a disappointment for all parties after the Cowboys defensive end just signed a massive contract extension this offseason, but today's game against the New York Jets may give him a chance to make up some ground.
The Jets have been abysmal at protecting their quarterbacks so far this year. Despite only playing four games, being one of the few NFL teams to already have its bye week, New York has given up a league-high 23 sacks already in 2019.
That's almost six sacks per game. Six!
Granted, some of that volume has come from having third-string QB Luke Falk playing the last three weeks. But even when Sam Darnold was playing in Week One he still got taken down four times.
The opportunities should be there for Lawrence to pad his stats. Even just a two-sack day would greatly boost his numbers, but there's potential for more with how bad the Jets have been at pass protection.
DeMarcus' slow start in 2019 has been due to a variety of factors. For one, he missed almost all of training camp and preseason practices by remaining on the PUP list until August 20th. Lawrence had offseason shoulder surgery and was recovering until just a few weeks before Week One.
Another reason is that, at least through the first four weeks of 2019, Tank was the most double-teamed edge rusher in the entire NFL.
That hasn't been all bad for the Cowboys. After all, the attention that Lawrence draws has helped Robert Quinn get off to a hot start since his Week 3 debut.
In fact, Quinn may be who prevents Tank from having a big day in New York. It will be interesting to see which guy gets to the QB first.
There's also a chance that, if this game winds up being a blowout, Dallas will limit Lawrence's playing time due to some nagging injuries. They want their franchise DE ready to chase down Carson Wentz next Sunday night.
Wins are bigger than stats, of course. DeMarcus Lawrence gets that and hopefully most fans do as well. His impact is bigger than just sacks; just his presence can positively impact games and create opportunities for other pass rushers and blitzers.
Still, we all love seeing our favorite Cowboys among the league leaders at season's end. Lawrence probably won't be catching Shaquil Barrett (9 sacks) this year, but hopefully today's game allows him to move up the board.
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