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By: David Howman
Mike McCarthy’s offense is continuing to improve.
It is officially time for all of the doubters to start putting some respect on Mike McCarthy’s name. After some initial bumps along the way, McCarthy came out of the bye week with plenty of adjustments and tweaks to his Texas Coast offense, and the Cowboys have been roaring ever since.
Over the last three weeks, this offense has averaged 478 yards a game and 6.7 yards per play. They’ve scored touchdowns on 41.2% of all their drives. They have a red zone touchdown rate of 68.75%, seventh best in the league over that span. And they rank second in both EPA/play and success rate.
It’s easy to dismiss this week’s offensive onslaught, saying it was “only” against the Giants. While New York doesn’t boast the best defense, they still were nothing to sneeze at. This is the same defense that limited the Bills to 14 points and a fairly hot Commanders offense to just seven.
To underscore this point, let’s look at weekly DVOA, which factors in strength of schedule. Against the Giants this past week, the Cowboys recorded a 41.7% offensive DVOA grade. That’s their best weekly DVOA grade of the year. Only two teams had a better grade on offense this week: the Lions and 49ers, both of whom faced better defenses in the Chargers and Jaguars, respectively. So while the Cowboys did beat up on a bad opponent, their offense significantly outclassed the Giants defense relative to expectations.
The best part is that McCarthy did it the way he’s been doing it since the bye week. Dak Prescott is being given more and more trust each week, for starters. After the Cowboys started the season with a respectable 56.7% early down pass rate (11th in the NFL), McCarthy has leaned on Prescott more. Since the bye week, Dallas is fifth in the league with a sky high 62.7% early down pass rate.
Prescott has justified this uptick as well. He’s topped 300 yards through the air in all three games and thrown 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He’s also averaged 4.2 yards a carry, with an increased willingness to scramble. For the full year, Prescott is second in EPA/play and fourth in CPOE, both great marks. But in these last three weeks, he leads the league in both categories by a wide margin.
Since the bye week, the #Cowboys rank 8th in shift/motion rate. Prior to the bye, they ranked 14th. Not a coincidence that DAL’s offense has improved by being less reliant on static, 2×2 formations. Doing a much better job of creating easy wins and advantageous matchups.
— John Owning (@JohnOwning) November 13, 2023
McCarthy has also continued to lean into the use of pre-snap motion, which has made things easier for Prescott and everyone else on this offense. There are countless examples from these past three games where motion played a direct role in getting someone open. This has been the most drastic change to the offense, cosmetically speaking, since the bye and it’s encouraging that it’s become a regular thing as opposed to specific plan for just one game.
The Cowboys have also started to run the ball a little bit better since the bye, something that was a massive Achilles heel beforehand. In these last three games, the Cowboys have averaged 4.62 yards per carry, not counting quarterback scrambles. That’s a significant improvement, and it’s underscored by ranking seventh in EPA/rush since the bye week.
This most recent game was the best one for Dallas, by far, as they averaged 4.87 yards per carry. That coincided with a pretty sharp change in the distribution of carries, as Rico Dowdle received 12 carries to Tony Pollard’s 15 carries. Dowdle averaged an electric 6.6 yards per carry, while Pollard looked more like himself in the reduced workload. In fact, he’s averaging 4.08 yards per carry since the bye, an improvement over his 3.85 average prior to the bye.
That wasn’t the only problem McCarthy solved on offense this week, though. After plenty of criticism for not getting Brandin Cooks involved enough, McCarthy fixed that right away. Cooks saw the first target of the game and finished as the team leader in yards. That didn’t come at the expense of featuring CeeDee Lamb either, as the star receiver had 11 catches for 151 yards on the day.
The Cowboys were undeniably helped out by the quality of competition in this one, but McCarthy still called a masterclass of a game. Moreover, the things that worked on Sunday are things that have been working the last three weeks. McCarthy seems to have gotten into a groove calling plays, and Prescott is playing the best football of his career as well. If those two can keep this up, the Cowboys will become an offensive juggernaut for the remainder of the year.
Originally posted on Blogging The Boys