Trivia and Stats
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As we all know, the 2015 Dallas Cowboys will go down in history as one of the worst teams in franchise history.
And, of course, the team might be best known for its lack of turnovers. The team forced only 11 turnovers in 16 games.
In the history of the NFL, the team’s turnover differential of -22 ranks as the 27th worst in a season. Among teams playing 16-game seasons since 1978, only 14 teams have had a turnover differential worse than -22.
The 14 teams with turnover differentials worse than -22 since 1978 have won an average of 3.78 games.
It is only fitting that Dallas went 4-12.
This was not the worst season in NFL history or in team history, however. Below are a few points about turnover differential in league history.
Worst of all time: 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers
The worst turnover differential in league history, or at least dating back to 1940, was -30 by the 1965 Pittsburgh Steelers.
The 1965 Steelers were a miserable 2-12. Pittsburgh turned the ball over six times in a game against the Cowboys and seven times in a game against the Redskins.
What gave those Steelers the worst turnover differential was Pittsburgh’s miserable performance against the Cardinals on December 12, 1965.
Quarterback Tommy Wade threw seven interceptions, while Bill Nelson threw two more. Moreover, the team lost three fumbles, giving Pittsburgh a total of 12 turnovers in one game. It tied a league mark for most turnovers in a single game.
The Steelers turned the ball over five times in their season finale, giving the team 57 turnovers in one year.
Modern futility: 2000 San Diego Chargers
Since the league expanded to 16-game seasons in 1978, the worst team in terms of turnover differential has been the 2000 San Diego Chargers.
Led by the infamous Ryan Leaf and the 37-year-old Jim Harbaugh, the Chargers went 1-15 that season. They turned the ball over at least twice in every game that year and suffered five turnovers in three consecutive games.
By season’s end, the Chargers had 50 turnovers. The defense only managed 22, giving the team a turnover ratio of -28.
Worst in Cowboys’ history: 1989 and 1960
The worst seasons in team history remain the 1960 and 1989 seasons. The 2015 season was not far behind, though.
In 12 games during the franchise’s inaugural season of 1960, Dallas turned the ball over 50 times while forcing only 26 turnovers, giving the team a differential of -24.
That mark stood for 29 years until the 1989 Cowboys had a turnover differential of -25.
The 2015 Cowboys will take their place among those horrible teams with the third-worst season.
1989 Cowboys (1-15): -25
1960 Cowboys (0-11-1): -24
2015 Cowboys (4-12): -22
1988 Cowboys (3-13): -21
2004 Cowboys (6-10): -15
The Best of All Time: 1983 Washington Redskins
Not surprisingly, teams with the highest positive turnover differential have performed well.
The team with the highest differential were the 1983 Redskins, who finished with a 14-2 record. Washington forced an incredible 61 turnovers while committing only 18, for a differential of 43.
The next highest number on the list was +30 by the 1958 Baltimore Colts.
The Best of Dallas Teams: 1981
The Cowboys have had some great defenses, but in terms of regular-season statistics, no team has had an especially impressive turnover ratio.
The best season for the franchise in this context was the 1981 Cowboys. Thanks largely to rookie Everson Walls’ 11 interceptions, Dallas forced 53 turnovers and finished the season with a ratio of +18.
Here is the list of the top five:
1981 Cowboys (12-4): +18
1971 Cowboys (11-3): +16
1973 Cowboys (10-4): +13
1970 Cowboys (10-4): +11
1998 Cowboys (10-6): +11
Once upon a time (2010), I owned a fantasy team in a league on Yahoo. Jay Cutler was my starting quarterback. I needed something like seven points to win that week, and Cutler and the Bears were playing the Giants on Sunday Night Football.
Cutler was typically good for 15 to 20 points per game, so I should have had this one. Instead, Cutler threw for only 42 yards with an interception and a fumble lost. He was sacked nine times and was injured near the end of the first half. He did not play the rest of the game and finished with -3.32 fantasy points. To my knowledge, it is the only time during the past 18 years of playing fantasy football that I had started a quarterback who finished with negative fantasy points.
Anyway, I originally drafted Tony Romo in one of my fantasy leagues and then drafted Cutler, of all people, as a backup. When Romo went down with an injury, I was somehow able to acquire Carson Palmer, so I have only had to play Cutler once. I cut Romo but picked him up in time to have him on my roster for the playoffs.
My only football-related thanks on Thanksgiving? I did not start Romo against the Panthers. His three-interception dud left him with -1.76 fantasy points before he left the game with another clavicle injury.
It marked the second time in Romo’s career that he ended up with negative fantasy points. The first occurred in 2005, when as a backup, he knelt on the ball twice in a 33-10 win over the Eagles. That gave him -0.2 points, but that hardly counts given that it was his first appearance in an NFL game.
So in 127 career starts, yesterday marked one of the worst performances of his career and easily the worst fantasy performance of his career.
Here’s a summary of five of his worst games (taking into account both on-field performance and fantasy performance). Note that fantasy points are based on standard scoring on NFL.com.
2015: Carolina 33, Dallas 14
11-21, 106 yds., 0 TD, 3 Int.
-1.76 fantasy points
2007: Philadelphia 10, Dallas 6
13-36, 214 yds., 0 TD, 3 Int.
4.06 fantasy points
2008: Philadelphia 44, Dallas 6
21-39, 183 yds., 0 TD, 1 Int.
4.42 fantasy points
2008: Pittsburgh 20, Dallas 13
19-36, 210 yds., 1 TD, 3 Int.
6.0 fantasy points
2009: Denver 17, Dallas 10
25-42, 255 yds., 0 TD, 1 Int.
6.20 fantasy points
To be sure, he had plenty of dishonorable mentions. For example, he played part of the season finale against the Redskins in 2007 in a 27-6 loss. He posted only 1.44 fantasy points. Few games, however, match yesterday’s performance in terms of futility.
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant set a team record on Sunday by connecting on their 50th touchdown. This mark broke the previous high of 49 set by Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin.
Here is a look at the highest number of touchdown connections in team history, organized chronologically by quarterback.
Eddie LeBaron (1960-1963)
LeBaron threw 45 touchdown passes during his career in Dallas, connecting 21 times to Frank Clarke.
Don Meredith (1960-1968)
Meredith had 135 touchdown passes during his career from 1960 to 1968. He connected with Bob Hayes on 36 of those.
Craig Morton (1965-1974)
Hayes was also at the top of Morton’s list. Of Morton’s 80 touchdown passes as a Cowboy, 21 went to Hayes.
Roger Staubach (1969-1979)
Two receivers had 27 touchdown receptions from Staubach. Both Billy Joe DuPree and Drew Pearson had 27 touchdown receptions from Staubach, who had a total of 153.
Danny White (1976-1988)
White threw two more touchdowns than Staubach, finishing with 155. He connected with Tony Hill on 31 of those.
Steve Pelluer (1984-1988)
No, Pelluer does not belong on this list. He connected with Irvin on four touchdowns, but the player who caught the highest number of Pelluer’s 28 touchdown passes was Ray Alexander. Remember that name?
Troy Aikman (1989-2000)
Aikman connected with Irvin for 49 touchdowns between 1989 and 1999.
Quincy Carter (2001-2003)
Another one who I could omit, but I included him anyway. He connected on five touchdowns with three different players, including Antonio Bryant, Terry Glenn, and Joey Galloway.
Drew Bledsoe (2005-2006)
Bledsoe threw 30 touchdown passes with Dallas. He connected with Jason Witten on six of those.
Tony Romo (2003-present)
Romo shattered the team record for touchdown passes, as he has thrown for 247. In addition to the 50 touchdowns to Bryant, Romo has also connected with Witten 37 times and Terrell Owens 34 times.
The Cowboys released Joseph Randle this week. That means he will forever be known in Cowboys nation as the player who said DeMarco Murray left meat on the bone even after Murray led the league in rushing in 2014.
Of course, Murray was a bit more effective than Randle. Murray started 47 games with the Cowboys between 2011 and 2014, and he gained at least 100 yards in 19 of those games.
Randle started a total of eight games for the Cowboys between 2013 and 2015. He gained at least 100 yards in…
Well, he never gained 100 yards in a single game.
This lack of production puts Randle in an obscure category. How many running backs in team history have started at least eight games but never rushed for at least 100 yards in single game?
The answer is a bit tricky. Some halfbacks started at least eight games, but they played during eras when fullbacks ran the ball much more frequently. For example, Don Perkins was the Cowboys’ primary ball carrier between 1961 and 1968, but he was actually a fullback.
Two halfbacks started at least eight games during the 1960s but never rushed for 100 yards. They included Jim Stiger and Craig Baynham.
A third running back, Doug Dennison, played almost a decade later and started 13 games in 1975 and 1976. He too never rushed for more than 100 yards in a game.
A number of fullbacks who played since the 1980s could fall in this category, but I would not count them. Most, including Daryl Johnston, were never primary runners like Randle was supposed to be.
With the Eagles’ win over the Giants on Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys are now a half-game behind both of those teams and a half game ahead of the Washington Redskins.
Dallas faces the Giants next Sunday and could end up back in first place with a win coupled with a Philadelphia loss at Carolina.
Anyway, below are a few random statistics.
Joseph Randle vs. DeMarco Murray
Murray rushed for 107 yards against the Eagles, giving him 239 for the season. He still trails Joseph Randle’s five-game total of 289 yards, but Murray has shown improvement while Randle has not.
At his current pace, Randle would finish the season with 924 rushing yards. Of course, with Christine Michael expected to carry the ball more often, Randle may not reach the 900-yard mark.
Witten has 30 receptions in five games, putting him on pace to catch 96 passes in 2015. That would be the most since he caught 110 in 2012.
He is not on pace for 1,000 receiving yards, though. The last time he topped 1,000 yards was also 2012, when he had 1,039.
Witten’s 9.0 yards-per-catch average is the lowest in his career.
The Cowboys have drafted a tight end in the second round of a draft three times during the past decade. The strategy has not worked.
The last of those three picks, Gavin Escobar, was supposed to be more of a weapon this year, but he has managed only 4 receptions for 24 yards. That gives him 22 receptions for 263 yards in three seasons.
That’s 8 fewer receptions than Witten has this year alone.
Brandon Weeden’s Lack of Touchdown Passes
Weeden has attempted 98 passes this season but has thrown only 2 touchdown passes.
In team history, a Dallas quarterback has attempted at least 98 passes in a season 72 times (this includes backups, of course). No quarterback has thrown for fewer than 3 touchdown passes while attempting at least 98 passes. The closest to Weeden is Steve Pelluer, who threw 3 touchdown passes in 1987 in 101 attempts.
As we all know, the Dallas Cowboys lost to the New Orleans Saints on a 80-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to C.J. Spiller in overtime. At 13 seconds, it marked the fastest overtime win in NFL history.
The Cowboys are now 20-16 in overtime games since the league added overtime in 1970. Of those 16 losses, 6 have occurred when the opposing team has scored touchdowns. Here is a summary.
1975: Washington 30, Dallas 24
The Cowboys had a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, but a touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Jerry Smith tied the game. Kilmer scored on a one-yard touchdown run in overtime to give Washington the win.
The win dropped Dallas to 5-2 while improving Washington’s record to 5-2. The Redskins, however, lost two straight overtime games to the Cardinals and Raiders. Washington ended up with an 8-6 record and missed the playoffs, while Dallas finished at 10-4 and made it all the way to the Super Bowl.
1987: Minnesota 44, Dallas 38
This was Danny White’s last good game as he threw for 341 yards and 4 TDs. However, he threw three interceptions as well, including one in overtime as it appeared that Dallas would be in position for the game-winning field goal. Darren Nelson scored on a 24-yard touchdown run in OT, ending the game.
Dallas missed the playoffs that year, while the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship Game.
2000: Jacksonville 23, Dallas 17
The Cowboys overcame a 17-7 halftime deficit to force overtime. However, Mark Brunell hit Alvis Whitted on a 37-yard touchdown pass less than four minutes into overtime to win the game for Jacksonville.
2008: Arizona 30, Dallas 24
The Cowboys scored 10 points in the final two minutes, including 3 on a 52-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time expired. However, the Cardinals blocked a Mat McBriar punt in overtime and returned it for the game-winning touchdown.
2011: Arizona 19, Dallas 13
The Cowboys lost a second-half lead to the Cardinals, and the teams went to overtime. Arizona ended the game quickly as Kevin Kolb hit LaRod Stephens-Howling on a 52-yard catch and run for the score.
2015: New Orleans 26, Dallas 20
Backup Brandon Weeden led Dallas on a game-tying drive in the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys then watched as the Saints missed a potential game-winning field goal.
The Dallas celebration was short-lived, though, as Brees hit Spiller for the long touchdown on the second play of overtime.
So it’s my blog, and if I want to give Brandon Weeden the nickname “We Done,” I will. (Or, um, already did.)
Just over 11 months ago, I also put Weeden on the list of 10 worst performances by a backup quarterback in team history.
He nearly made the list with his performance yesterday thanks largely to a bad decision that led him to throw an interception. His performance against Atlanta will not be on the list, though, because that was his only interception.
We Done nevertheless made team history yesterday. He completed 22 of 26 passes, giving him an 84.62% completion rate.
During nine games in team history, Dallas quarterbacks (with at least 10 attempts) have completed 84% of their passes. This includes Staubach, Aikman, Romo, Meredith, and White.
And Kyle Orton.
And Brandon Weeden.
The difference between Weeden and the others? Each of them threw at least one touchdown pass in the games when they completed at least 84% of their passes.
We Done didn’t. So congratulations, Brandon. You made history.
A huge play in the Dallas Cowboys’ win over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday was Danny McCray’s blocked punt, which Kyle Wilbur returned for a touchdown.
I have heard a number of different estimates about the last time the Cowboys returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, but most of the estimates I heard were wrong.
According to the data on Pro-Football-Reference, the last time the Cowboys returned any type of blocked kick for a touchdown was 2007, when Pat Watkins returned a blocked field goal 68 yards for a touchdown against the Minnesota Vikings.
We have to look back to 1992 for the last time the Cowboys scored on a blocked punt. In week 2 of that season, Robert Williams scored after the Cowboys blocked a Sean Landeta punt.
That was actually Williams’s second career touchdown from a blocked punt. One year earlier, he scored after Dallas had blocked a Greg Montgomery punt against the Houston Oilers.
Here is a list of all five times the Cowboys have scored on blocked punts.
1977: Charlie Waters scored after a blocked punt in a 16-10 win over the Eagles.
1985: Jesse Penn returned a blocked punt 46 yards for a touchdown in a 50-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
1991: Robert Williams returned a blocked punt 18 yards for a touchdown in a 26-23 loss to the Houston Oilers.
1992: Robert Williams recovered a blocked punt and scored in a 34-28 win over the New York Giants.
2015: Kyle Wilbur returned a blocked punt 26 yards for a score in a 20-10 win over the Eagles.
As the Dallas Cowboys prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, most eyes have been on how Dallas will handle former Cowboy DeMarco Murray. He, of course, led the NFL in rushing last season with 1,845 yards and set a franchise record in doing so.
A Dallas running back has gained at least 1,000 yards 25 times during the past, including the 2014 season with Murray. A total of six running backs have accomplished this, including Murray, Emmitt Smith, Tony Dorsett, Herschel Walker, Calvin Hill, and Julius Jones.
Among these players, the Cowboys later had to face Smith, Walker, Hill, and Jones when those backs played for other teams. Like Murray, two of these players joined division rivals. Here is a short review of how those backs fared against the Cowboys.
Hill played with the Cowboys from 1969 to 1974 before joining the World Football League. He returned to the NFL in 1976 and joined the Washington Redskins. He played there until 1978, when he joined the Cleveland Browns.
In five games against Dallas, Hill was never a factor. He never rushed for more than 44 yards, and in five games only gained a total of 108 yards on 20 carries (for an average of 21.6 yards and 4 carries per game).
The Cowboys were able to build a dynasty thanks in part to their trade of Walker to the Minnesota Vikings in 1989. He gained 1,514 rushing yards in Dallas in 1988.
Walker never played against Dallas as a Viking. He later joined the Eagles, though, and also played for the Giants. In nine games against Dallas (including a playoff game), he ran the ball 79 times for 314 yards. He was most effective against the Cowboys in 1992, when he scored three touchdowns in two regular-season games.
Smith’s return to Dallas in 2003 was as anticipated as the game this Sunday. He did not last long at Texas Stadium. He carried the ball 6 times for -1 yard, and a hit by Roy Williams put Emmitt out of the game.
Jones is probably the forgotten one of this group of backs. He gained 1,084 yards in 2005, but Marion Barber had become the dominant back in Dallas by the end of 2007.
Jones played in Seattle in 2008 and 2009 before joining the Saints in 2010. He faced Dallas twice as a Seahawk and once as a Saint. In those three games, he gained 138 yards on 36 carries.
Below is a table of the 1,000-yard rushing performances in team history:
As training camp for the Dallas Cowboys begins, here are a few potential career milestones. (And yes, we are stretching a few of these.)
Wins as a Starter: Tony Romo
By leading the Cowboys to at least 11 wins in 2015, Tony Romo will surpass Roger Staubach in regular-season wins as a starter. Romo’s record is now 75-48, while Staubach’s was 85-29.
Staubach also led Dallas to 11 playoff wins and 2 Super Bowl titles. Romo’s playoff record is 2-4.
Career Touchdown Receptions: Jason Witten and Dez Bryant
Jason Witten has 57 career touchdowns, just eight shy of Michael Irvin’s mark of 65. It’s more likely that Dez Bryant will catch Irvin, though, as Bryant enters this season with 56 career TDs.
Bob Hayes holds the franchise record with 71 TDs.
Career Rushing Marks (Pitiful)
We all know that the Cowboys lost DeMarco Murray and his 4,526 career rushing yards. He left ranked sixth in team history in career rushing yards.
That leaves Tony Romo as the current franchise leader in rushing yards with 607. Romo ranks 30th in team history, just 31 yards behind Charley Young.
Among quarterbacks, Romo probably won’t catch Roger Staubach in career rushing yards. Staubach rushed for 2,264 yards, best in team history among quarterbacks and 12th among all players.
Joseph Randle is exactly 100 yards behind Romo with 507 career rushing yards.
Meanwhile, Darren McFadden had 4,247 career rushing yards with Oakland. He surpassed 1,000 yards only once (in 2010).
Field Goals: Dan Bailey
Dan Bailey has the highest career field-goal percentage with 89.8%. Chris Boniol connected on 87.1% in three seasons with Dallas.
At his current pace, Bailey will eventually surpass Rafael Septien in career field goals made, but not in 2015. Septien had 162, while Bailey has 114.
Punting: Chris Jones
Chris Jones’s average punt traveled 45.4 yards in 2014, and his career average is 45.0. Mat McBriar holds the franchise mark for best career average, with 45.3 yards per punt.
Tackles: Orlando Scandrick
Orlando Scandrick has 282 career tackles and ranks 17th on the franchise’s all-time list. Players just ahead of him on that list include Robert Jones (283), Jack Del Rio (292), and Kevin Smith (334). Scandrick has averaged just over 40 tackles per year since 2008.