Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Could Derail the Cowboys Train?

One thing we have done here for years is track the turnovers in the NFL. We here, as well as pretty much every coach in the NFL, know that winning the turnover battle means winning the game 80-85% of the time. That is right, no other stat equals winning as much as just not giving the ball away as much as your opponent.

Here are the numbers so far through 3 weeks, thanks to Intern TC’s research:

Positive 29-8 0.784
Even 10-10 0.500
Negative 8-29 0.216

+5 1-0 1.000
+4 0-0 0.000
+3 1-0 1.000
+2 10-2 0.833
+1 17-6 0.739
0 10-10 0.500
-1 6-17 0.261
-2 2-10 0.167
-3 0-1 0.000
-4 0-0 0.000
-5 0-1 0.000

As you can see, teams who lose the turnover battle are off to a 8-29 start or 21% winning percentage.

TC wrote me the following:

Eight times this season had a team lost the turnover battle and won the game. Three of those eight times, the Cowboys have been that team. Despite being -3 in turnovers for the season (-1 in each of the three games), Dallas has outscored its opponents by 33 (96-63). So on average, they give up one more turnover than they get and still win by 11. Also, they have yet to notch an interception this year. The Cowboys' season becomes even more impressive when you consider the other four teams that have yet to intercept a pass: the Bengals, Lions, Chiefs, and Rams. Four teams that don't have a win between them. I don't know exactly what this all means, but it seems important.

Amazing! The Cowboys in 2008:

Week 1: At Cleveland -1 WIN
Week 2: Philadelphia -1 WIN
Week 3: At Green Bay -1 WIN

They have lost all 3 weeks turnover battle, and yet won all 3 weeks games! It tells you a number of things. 1) The Cowboys are really stinking good to do that. 2) The Defense needs more takeaways. 3) The offense (Romo) needs to stop giving the ball away in the end zone. 4) If the Cowboys are this good while losing the turnover battle, how good will they be when they get that fixed? 5) if they don’t get the turnover issue squared away, it might prevent them from their ultimate goal.

As the Football Bible says…”Be Sure your (turnover) sin will find you out”…

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy that stunning number…

Blue and Silver looks at the Lambeau Destruction

Marion Barber’s 4th quarter hairball was the first lost fumble of his career.

Six — The Cowboys defense has absorbed six deep drives into its territory, three against the Eagles and three last night, and held the opposition to field goals. It’s week four. Adam Jones is still making mental mistakes, but the Cowboys showed no fear last night against the Packers. Dallas didn’t make any concessions to a team that has a better passing attack than the Browns.

For much of the game the Cowboys played a base 3-4 against the Packers three receiver sets. Dallas stayed in a front seven to maximize their blitz and their run defense. The Cowboys sole adjustment was removing the strong safety, adding Adam Jones, moving Terence Newman to the slot and playing with three corners and just one safety.

Aaron Rogers had only one play longer than 20 yards against this package. That was his first play from scrimmage, when Greg Jennings caught a seven yard slant and pivoted outside away from Anthony Henry for a 25 yard gain. Mike Jenkins is showing better coverage on the outside each week. (It appears the coaches are making things easy for him and fellow rookie corner Orlando Scandrick. Jenkins is playing outside on the right exclusively and Scandrick is learning the slot. With regular slot man Newman healthy, Scandrick isn’t getting so much work right now.)

Nine — The number of sacks the Cowboys have recorded the last two weeks. They played the top two NFC offenses besides their own and racked up nine sacks. Add this component to the improving coverage and we’re seeing the steady defensive improvement we saw last season.

And, as everyone is saying, This NFC East is GOOOOOD

The East is 10-2 so far, and both losses have come in divisional games.

The Redskins lone loss came to the Giants.

The Eagles lone loss came in Dallas.

The Cowboys showed the Packers are a pretender. The Cowboys wore them out so thoroughly, several Packers were getting IVs at halftime. At Lambeau Field.

The Eagles took arguably the best team in the AFC thus far and beat the snot out of them. Jim Johnson’s guys sacked Steelers QBs nine times today. At one point, game announcers were wondering out loud how Dallas could score 41 points on them and not permit a single sack.

The Redskins took a team that may be the class of the NFC West and beat them.

The Giants looked a little ragged against the Bengals, but hey, they’re 3-0.

One of these teams might finish with a winning record and miss the playoffs. The Eagles were 8-8 last year and finished last.

That narrows the Cowboys margin for error but also improves their post-season chances, should they make the playoffs. In his new book Blindsided, KC Joyner devotes a chapter to the myth that early schedules ease a team’s route to the offseason. He goes back to the merger and rates each division from 1-6 in the six division era and 1-8 in the current system.

He finds overwhelming evidence that teams from tough divisions perform better in the post season. The lowest-rated divisonal winner to win a Super Bowl is the ‘99 Rams, who came from the 6th ranked division. Teams that feast off weak divisions fold far more often than not in January.

Playing tough rivals toughens you up. Look at the ‘07 Giants. They said after their title that Dallas was the toughest opponent they faced. Michael Strahan said they were much tougher than the Patriots.

Wow. The quotes in this story Reveal why football players should wear cups

The result can't deliver any real measure of satisfaction, but the Bears are
expected to take up a matter with the league office.

They want the league to look into the action that preceded Charles Tillman's unnecessary-roughness penalty Sunday.

Buccaneers right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said the skirmish started when a Bears player grabbed him below the belt. ''One thing I don't stand for is someone grabbing you in your genitals,'' Trueblood said.

Replays didn't show that. They showed Trueblood taking a swing at Adewale Ogunleye on the ground with his left arm and using his right arm as a bar across Ogunleye's neck. A big pile ensued, and after Tillman began pulling players off, he engaged with wide receiver Michael Clayton, throwing a punch that earned the flag.

Asked if Trueblood's accusation could be true, Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris said: ''Probably. I don't know. They grab [testicles], they pinch, they do everything underneath the pile. It's football. It's what goes on during the whistle.''

When asked to clarify if Trueblood actually could be serious, Harris said it was possible. ''Yeah, the same way my junk got grabbed during the game,'' he said. ''That happens, so guard your junk.''

Ogunleye didn't appear in the Halas Hall locker room Monday. Linemate Israel Idonije, who was on the field at the time, as was Harris, was incensed.
''That's a last-ditch effort [by Trueblood] to save face,'' Idonije said. ''He knows what he did is wrong. He was definitely trying to hurt [Ogunleye]. The refs didn't see it, and they called us for something that's not even nearly on the same level as what was going on. But that's the game.

''What was happening in that pile, there was a whole lot of extra. There's plenty of opportunity to injure someone, and you never do because that guy is an NFL player. There's a code. You play tough, you play hard. But you don't intentionally go out to injure someone.''

Aggies = bad to worse?

Despite a disappointing 1-2 start, first-year Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is sticking by his plan for turning around the Aggies.

But so far, even Sherman must admit that nothing has gone according to plan.
You don’t exactly draw up a season-opening loss to Arkansas State and shoulder injuries to your top two quarterbacks in the opening month of the season.

That’s right — two quarterbacks.

Sherman revealed Monday that sophomore Jerrod Johnson sprained his throwing shoulder when he was tackled in the second quarter against Miami in his first career start. It’s the same shoulder he separated against Nebraska last season.

Johnson finished the game, completing 19 of 32 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies’ 41-23 loss at Kyle Field, but he experienced pain and stiffness in the locker room afterward.

His injury comes just one week after senior Stephen McGee suffered a more severe shoulder sprain at New Mexico. That left the door open for Johnson and ended McGee’s 29-game starting streak at Texas A&M, but Sherman was admittedly evasive about who will start Saturday against Army.

Neither quarterback threw passes during Sunday’s practice as third-string quarterback Ryan Tannehill ran the first-team offense.

"I think both quarterbacks, Stephen and Jerrod, will be fine by the end of the week, but we’re just going to wait and see on that," Sherman said. "The decision [on the starter] will be made during the course of the week, on how they’re functioning and how things are going and their health status."

The Great Larry Munson shuts it down

In the final analysis, Larry Munson just didn’t think he could hunker down one more time.

Georgia’s legendary play-by-play radio announcer, who will turn 86 this weekend, decided to hang up his microphone on Monday after 43 seasons of calling the Bulldogs’ football games.

Due to declining health, Munson gave up traveling to road games last season and worked only Georgia’s two home games this season. According to a statement released by the school Monday evening, Munson decided over the weekend to stay home and watch Saturday’s game between Georgia and Alabama with family and friends.

“I can’t express enough my deep feelings toward the Georgia football fans,” Munson said in the statement. “They have been so friendly especially during this most recent period of time. I feel I owe them so much more than I can give. I’ll remember all the great times with the Dogs and have the fondest wishes and good luck toward them all.”

Munson’s longtime partner Scott Howard, who has been calling the road games in Munson’s absence, will take over at the main mic for the rest of the season. Former Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier assumes Howard’s color commentary duties.

Athletics director Damon Evans could not say whether Howard and/or Zeier will take over permanently.

“We’ll evaluate that after the season,” Evans said. “I want this to be about Larry’s retirement. For now, Eric and Scott are our crew. Nothing’s set in stone, but I will say those two have done a very good job.”

Howard officially took over for Munson as moderator of the Mark Richt Call-in Show Monday night on the Bulldog Radio Network. Just before going on air, Howard was asked what it feels like following a legend.

Did I forget about the Rangers? Not completely …but the fact the Athletics have caught and passed them is about as sad a story as I can imagine…I have to figure Daniels/Washington are enjoying their final week in power…

Second place is still a possibility for the Texas Rangers.

A .500 record isn’t.

The Oakland Athletics took over second place in the AL West from the Rangers on Monday night, winning 4-3 in 11 innings and extending the Rangers’ losing streak to five games.

The loss cost the Rangers in several ways.

First, the Rangers surrendered second place for the first time since July 24, hurting the team’s bid to snap a streak of finishes of third place or worse that dates back to a first-place finish in 1999. The Rangers, who trail Oakland by a half-game, still need to win one of their final five games to surpass last season’s victory total of 75.

And most importantly, the Rangers will finish below .500 for the fourth consecutive season and the eighth time in the last nine years.

"As long as you’ve got games on the schedule, you want to try to win them all," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We wanted to try and be better than .500. It came down to a battle of bullpens, and theirs put up zeros."

While winning the final six games to finish with a .500 record was unlikely, a .500 record was one of Texas’ targets after its late-season struggles. It seemed like a reasonable goal, too, as late as last week as the Rangers stood 75-77 two games into their final homestand.

The Rangers haven’t won since, as an inconsistent two months is catching up with them. The Rangers dropped to 8-11 in September and 15-28 since they reached a season-high six games over .500 after beating the New York Yankees on Aug. 5.

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fickle said...

I think the defensive takeaways will come.

My biggest concerns are:
1) Endless penalties
2) TO staying healthy

Jay said...

Santana Moss is going to miss Roy Williams more than anybody come Sunday. Redskins always seem to play well but I just feel like the Cowboys are ready to take a team behind the woodshed and this might qualify. The Cowboys are getting too much pressure not to have a break out game with a bunch of turnovers, I feel like it's going to happen here pretty soon as the schedule gets decidely softer the next several weeks. The Cowboys did great to start off strong even with a couple pretty difficult opponents early.