Trivia and Stats

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Jason Witten Continues to Move Up on Stat Rankings

Jason Witten is 151 yards away from his fourth career and third consecutive 1,000-yard season. His receptions have dropped off this year, but he is still on pace to record at least 80 this season. He currently has 68.

Witten is just five yards away from surpassing Drew Pearson for third place on the team’s all-time list for receiving yards. He only trails Tony Hill by 172 yards for second place on the list. Michael Irvin’s record of 11,904 is still more than 4,000 yards away, but Witten hasn’t reached the age of 30.

He is one of only four tight ends with more than 600 career receptions and surpassed Ozzie Newsome to rank third on the all-time list of receptions by a tight end. Witten made this lists in only 141 career games. The other three, including Tony Gonzalez (236 career games), Shannon Sharpe (204), and Newsome (198), played in many more.

As far as receiving yards, Witten trails Jackie Smith by 102 yards and Newsome by 164 yards. It will take a while to catch Gonzalez and Sharpe.

Witten currently ranks 22nd in terms of career TD receptions by a tight end. However, he will rapidly move up on the list. By recording just seven more TDs, he will move into the top 10 on this list. He’ll move into the top 5 by recording 15 more TDs.

Tuesday Trivia: 7-5 Starts

Since the NFL expanded to a 16-game schedule in 1978, the Cowboys have started 7-5 just five times.

In three of those seasons, the Cowboys failed to make the playoffs. Which ones?

In only one of those seasons did the Cowboys eventually win the NFC East. Which one?

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Some are treating the Cowboys’ December woes as a Tony Romo issue exclusively. The truth is, though, that the Cowboys have had trouble towards the end of seasons for 15 years now.

Recall the 1997 season. Dallas wasn’t setting the world on fire, but heading into the week before Thanksgiving, the Cowboys were 6-5. Five games and five losses later, Dallas was 6-10 and looking for a new head coach.

In 1998, an 8-3 start ended at 10-6. A year later, the Cowboys went 1-3 in December and struggled to an 8-8 finish.

Goodbye, Chan Gailey.

The Dave Campo years were completely forgettable. So were the ends of seasons during the Bill Parcells era.

The 8-3 start in 2003 ended up being a 10-6 season. A record of 8-5 in 2005 led to a 9-7 finish.

Then came Romo’s first year as a starter in 2006. Dallas had an 8-4 mark after beating the Giants on the road. But Dallas lost three of its next four games to finish at 9-7 once again.

And, of course, Romo and the Cowboys haven’t figured out a way to win in the final quarter of the season since then (save for a nice three-game stretch to conclude the 2009 campaign).


Cowboys vs. Cardinals as Non-Division Rivals

The St. Louis (and later Phoenix/Arizona) Cardinals long served as thorns in the side of the Dallas Cowboys. Even when the Cardinals didn’t quite pull out wins, Dallas often struggled.

For most of these years, the Cowboys and Cardinals were in the same division. Dallas joined the NFL’s Eastern Conference in 1961 and played St. Louis twice per year from 1961 to 1966.

Things changed for a few years in 1967, though, as the Cowboys moved to the Capital Division while the Cardinals were members of the Century Division. Dallas and St. Louis still played one another, though they faced off only once per year.

Both teams were members of the NFC East from 1970 through 2001 and played a total of 63 times. Since 2002, Dallas has been in the NFC East while Arizona has been in the  NFC West.

When the teams were division rivals, Dallas had a record of 49-26-1 against Arizona, including a playoff loss after the 1998 season.

As non-division opponents, the teams have played a total of 10 times. Their 11th meeting takes place on Sunday.

Here is a look at the other games played as non-division opponents:

Cowboys Hoping to Improve Record After Thanksgiving

Three years ago, I wrote a post about the Cowboys’ record after Thanksgiving. What I noted there was that between 1966 and 1984, the Cowboys’ record during the week after Thanksgiving was 16-1.

Between 1985 and 2007, though, the record in those games sank to 10-13. It has not gotten much better. In 2008, Dallas lost to the Steelers in a game that hurt the team’s playoff chances. One year later, the Cowboys had a one-game lead in the NFC East after Thanksgiving, but they lost to the Giants during week 13. In both 2008 and 2009, the Cowboys had won their Thanksgiving Day matchup.

Last season was a bit different. Dallas was unable to hang on to its lead against New Orleans on Thanksgiving and lost 30-27 to the Saints. A week later, Dallas traveled to Indianapolis to face the Colts. The Cowboys pulled out the win in overtime thanks in large part to Sean Lee’s breakout performance.

The last time that Dallas won both the Thanksgiving Day game and the next game was 2007, when the Cowboys beat the Jets on Thanksgiving and then wrapped up the NFC East by beating the Lions.

Cowboys Continue Success vs. Former Assistant Coaches

A total of 14 former assistant coaches with the Cowboys have later become head coaches, including three current head coaches. Other than Dave Campo, whose only head coaching service was with Dallas, the Cowboys have played against each of these coaches.

The Cowboys total record vs. these coaches: 39-27-1.

The latest former assistant to face the Cowboys was Tony Sparano. Interestingly, the Cowboys have beaten each of these coaches at least once. Five coaches only faced the Cowboys one time, and each of them lost.

Dick Nolan
Dallas Assistant, 1962-1967, 1982-1990
San Francisco Head Coach, 1968-1975
New Orleans Head Coach, 1978-1980

vs. Dallas as head coach: 2-6-1

Note: The Cowboys went 5-2-1 against Nolan’s 49ers team and 1-0 against Nolan’s Saints team.

Raymond Berry
Dallas Assistant, 1968-1969
New England Head Coach, 1984-1989

vs. Dallas as head coach: 0-2

Gene Stallings
Dallas Assistant, 1972-1985
St. Louis/Phoenix Cardinals Head Coach, 1986-1989

vs. Dallas as head coach: 4-4

Mike Ditka
Dallas Assistant, 1973-1981
Chicago Head Coach, 1982-1992
New Orleans Head Coach, 1997-1999

vs. Dallas as head coach: 5-3

Ditka was 3-3 vs. Dallas in Chicago, losing his final game as Bears’ head coach in 1992. Ironically, Ditka won his final game as a head coach by beating the Cowboys in 1999.

Dan Reeves
Dallas Assistant, 1972, 1974-1980
Denver Head Coach, 1981-1992
New York Giants Head Coach, 1993-1996
Atlanta Head Coach, 1997-2003

vs. Dallas as head coach: 5-8

Reeves was 1-1 against Dallas with the Broncos, 2-6 with the Giants, and 2-1 with the Falcons.

John Mackovic
Dallas Assistant, 1981-1982
Kansas City Head Coach, 1983-1986

vs. Dallas as head coach: 0-1

Dave Shula
Dallas Assistant, 1989-1990
Cincinnati Head Coach, 1992-1996

vs. Dallas as head coach: 0-1

Dave Wannstedt
Dallas Assistant, 1989-1992
Chicago Head Coach, 1993-1998
Miami Head Coach, 2000-2004

vs. Dallas as head coach: 3-1

Note: Wannstedt went 2-1 vs. Dallas with Chicago and 1-0 with Miami.

Butch Davis
Dallas Assistant, 1989-1994
Cleveland Head Coach, 2001-2004

vs. Dallas as head coach: 0-1

Dave Campo
Dallas Assistant, 1989-1999, 2008-present
Dallas Head Coach, 2000-2002

Obviously, Campo could not have played against himself as head coach of the Cowboys. Dallas would have found a way to lose at any rate.

Norv Turner
Dallas Assistant, 1991-1993
Washington Head Coach, 1994-2000
Oakland Head Coach, 2004-2005
San Diego Head Coach, 2007-present

vs. Dallas as head coach: 6-9

Note: Turner went 4-9 against Dallas with Washington, 1-0 with Oakland, and 1-0 with San Diego.

Todd Haley
Dallas Assistant, 2004-2006
Kansas City Head Coach, 2009-present

vs. Dallas as head coach: 0-1

Sean Payton
Dallas Assistant, 2003-2005
New Orleans Head Coach, 2006-present

vs. Dallas as head coach: 2-1

Tony Sparano
Dallas Assistant, 2003-2007
Miami Head Coach, 2008-present

vs. Dallas as head coach: 0-1

An Odd Twist to a Cowboys-Redskins Trivia Question

Three weeks ago, I posted a question about which running backs played for both the Cowboys and the Redskins. At that point, the Redskins had just signed Tashard Choice after Dallas had waived the running back.

On Sunday, Choice became the seventh running back to have played for both teams. Here is the complete list:

J.W. Lockett– Dallas 1961-1962; Washington 1964
A.D. Whitfield– Dallas 1965; Washington 1966-1968
Calvin Hill– Dallas 1969-1974; Washington 1976-1977
Duane Thomas– Dallas 1970-1971; Washington 1973-1974
Timmy Smith– Washington 1987-1988; Dallas 1990
Adrian Murrell– Washington 2000; Dallas 2003
Tashard Choice– Dallas 2008-2011, Washington 2011

As it turns out, Choice’s only game with the Redskins will have been the Cowboys game. Washington waived the back today after Choice gained just 7 yards on 6 carries. He had a decent run of 9 yards early the game (after which he made some gesture to the Dallas sideline), but he had trouble for the rest of the game.

In four seasons, he has gained 1,146 yards with 8 touchdowns.

* * *

Two individuals with ties to the Cowboys are semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Charles Haley once again made the list, as did Bill Parcells. This is Parcells’ first year of eligibility after retiring following the 2006 season.

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Not good news: Gerald Sensabaugh may have to miss Thursday’s game against Miami with a foot injury. He joins Tony Fiammetta, Miles Austin,  and Mike Jenkins among the starters on the injury report.

On Paper, This Might Become Romo’s Best Year

The passer rating system in the NFL isn’t perfect, and modern quarterbacks certainly have an advantage over QBs of yesteryear.

On 14 occasions, the Cowboys have had a quarterback attempt at least 100 passes in a season and finish with a QB rating of at least 90. Roger Staubach did this three times during his career. Troy Aikman did it twice, as did Danny White.

Tony Romo has finished with a rating of at least 90 six times. That’s every season he has served as a starter for a full or partial season, including 2010.

At this point, his QB rating of 97.7 is higher than his rating in any other season. He has a completion percentage of 64.7% and has 16 TD passes compared with 7 interceptions. The numbers are just slightly better than his 2009 season, when he finished with a rating of 97.6.

Notably, the only player on the list to finish a season with a QB rating of at least 100 was Staubach, who did so in 1971. It was a very different era, obviously, and he did not throw nearly as often as Romo. Moreover, he only started 10 games that year. Nevertheless, he threw only four interceptions compared with 15 TD passes.

Here is the list:

Tuesday Trivia: Winning Big

The Cowboys’ 44-7 win over Buffalo was impressive on many levels. The team scored at least 40 points for the first time since 2008, and the Cowboys had their largest margin of victory since beating Arizona 48-7 in an otherwise dreadful 2000 season.

Trivia question #1: The Cowboys had one other game between 2000 and 2011 in which Dallas scored at least 40 points and won the game by more than 30 points. Who was the Cowboys’ opponent, and during which season did this occur.

In their history, the Cowboys have won a total of 19 games in which they have scored at least 40 and outscored their opponent by 30. The Cowboys have managed to do this only seven times since 1980.

This leads us to trivia question #2. The Cowboys accomplished this feat four times in a single season. In fact, Dallas did this three times during a four-week period. During which season did this occur?

Romo’s Great Day Sets Completion Percentage Mark

Tony Romo started yesterday’s game against Buffalo by completing his first 13 passes. By the end of the game, he had only thrown three incompletions on 26 attempts for a completion percentage of 88.5%.

As you may have read, that set the team mark for completion percentage for any QB who has attempted at least 10 passes in a game. Danny White was the previous leader in this category when he completed 87.5% of his passes against the Eagles in 1983.

Dallas QBs have completed at least 80% of their passes on at least 10 attempts a total of 18 times, including Sunday. Here is the list:

Tuesday Trivia: Backs with 400 Yards in Three Consecutive Games

DeMarco Murray followed up on his 253-yard performance in week 6 by gaining 74 yards against the Rams and another 139 against the Seahawks. His three-game total of 466 yards is the highest among any Dallas running back in history.

Murray is one of only four players who have gained 400 yards or more over a three-game stretch. Two of those backs are named Emmitt Smith and Tony Dorsett. More on them in a minute.

Today’s trivia question: who was the other back besides Murray, Smith, and Dorsett?

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Smith had three-game totals of more than 400 yards seven times during his career. All of these occurred between 1992 and 1995. His best three-game total came in weeks 6, 7, and 8 in 1993 when he gained 92 yards vs. San Francisco, 237 yards vs. Philadelphia, and 117 yards vs. the Giants. This gave him a total of 446 yards.

He also had three-game totals of 427 and 425 yards during the 1995 season.

Dorsett’s best three-game total occurred in weeks 1, 2, and 3 of the 1981 season when he had a total of 423 yards. He gained 132 yards against Washington, 129 yards against St. Louis, and 162 yards against New England.