5 surprising stats from the Cowboys’ 2021 season
There are few things in this world as bewildering as the 2021 Dallas Cowboys. The roller coaster ride of a season that ended in a first-round exit has been a bewildering year full of twists and turns.
But, looking to the future, there is only more uncertainty. Which free agents will be selected? Will there be a star player removed from the roster? What will happen to the Cowboys coaching staff? Questions abound. But there are several certainties of the 2021 season that we know for a fact.
Micah Parsons did it all
Statistics: Of the Cowboys defensemen targeted more than 20 times in coverage, only Trevon Diggs finished with a lower allowable passer rating than Micah Parsons.
When it comes to a player who can both get to quarterback and stop the run, it’s easy to overlook covering ability. But despite the slow start against the pass, Parsons has become a decent cover linebacker.
On 35 targets, Parsons allowed just 7.6 yards per reception on a 68.6 percent completion percentage, no touchdowns, and just 137 yards after the catch. While it wasn’t perfect, Parsons finished with the team’s second-best coverage rating according to PFF, and the second-best allowable passer rating at 80.9.
Admittedly, these numbers are somewhat inflated by the lack of opportunities against the pass and a low average depth of target. However, he impressed with his coverage, and there is still incredible room for growth in this area.
The special teams did not disappoint
Statistics: The Cowboys have blocked more punts in 2021 (3) than they have in each season from 2001-2020 combined (2).
John Fassel is an aggressive man. Blocking 1.5% of all punts last season is probably unsustainable, as teams use extra men for protection to keep the Cowboys from getting to the punter. But the three blocked punts in a season are unprecedented.
At the start of the year, over the past twenty seasons, Dallas ranked last in punt blocks at two. But everything changed in 2021.
If three kick blocks doesn’t surprise you, consider that 24 teams have failed to block a single punt this year. This is not an indictment of other teams; getting to the punter is incredibly difficult.
But the Cowboys accounted for 25% of all punt blocks in the league this season. Again, that’s probably not going to continue, but it was impressive to watch for a year.
Trevon Diggs is a certified bullet hawk
Statistics: Diggs finished with more interceptions (11) than Byron Jones, Tre’Davious White, Marlon Humphrey, Casey Hayward, Eli Apple, Kendall Fuller, Jalen Mills, Nate Hobbs, Chidobe Awuzie and Adoree Jackson combined (10).
Alternative statistics: Diggs finished with more interceptions (11) than Joey Bosa had sacks (10).
Trevon Diggs’ interception numbers have been beaten to death, and it’s only piling up. But were you expecting a surprising statistical article without mentioning Diggs’ picks?
In addition to Diggs recording the second most interceptions in the NFL in a single season since 1980, he accounted for 42% of Dallas’ 26 turnovers last year. If you remove Diggs from the team, the Cowboys go from the league’s best team by turnovers to tied for 11th.
If there’s any certainty to that, Diggs won’t repeat an eleven-steal season in 2022. He has room to grow in his covering ability; no one is debating it. It wasn’t all pretty, but that’s why Cowboys fans should appreciate Elvish interceptions even more. You probably won’t see it from Diggs again.
Offense was inconsistent at best
Statistics: The Cowboys have scored more points in six games than the Jacksonville Jaguars have had all season.
Alternative statistics: Dak Prescott has thrown more touchdowns in three games (13) than Trevor Lawrence in 17 games (12).
This is not meant to serve as an encouraging statistic; it should in fact be interpreted as the opposite. Because as explosive as the Dallas offense has appeared at times, it has also been absent in a handful of games.
Because in the games of the Panthers, Giants, football team, Falcons and Eagles, the Cowboys totaled 271 points. That’s more than the 253 points amassed by the Jaguars all year. Where was that offense in the playoff game and at the end of the year? Where were Dak Prescott’s “thirteen touchdowns in three games” against the 49ers?
The apparent distinction is that the Cowboys took advantage of a mediocre division, wiped the floor with the bad teams, then struggled against the good teams. It’s just confusing to consider now that the end of the season has arrived.
Say What You Want About Ezekiel Elliott, But He Improved In One Area
Statistics: Among running backs with more than 200 runs, only three players have had fewer fumbles than Ezekiel Elliott.
If there’s one statement all Cowboys fans can agree on, it would be that 2021 hasn’t been Ezekiel Elliott’s best year. Playing through a torn PCL, it’s unclear how it affected his game. But it wasn’t all bad.
Because after three seasons with an average of four fumbles per year, Elliott has put the ball on the ground once this year. Only Alvin Kamara, Elijah Mitchell and Najee Harris finished the season with zero fumbles despite exceeding 200 carries.
To put that into perspective, Tony Pollard fumbled twice in 2021 but only scored two touchdowns. It also ties 2017 as Elliott’s lowest single-season fumbles total, which is particularly impressive considering the criticism he received after 2020.
It wasn’t a good year for Elliott, but credit where credit is due, he kept the ball.
It was a season that had it all; disappointment, sadness, joy, optimism, anger, and almost any other emotion you can think of. While there were jaw-dropping moments and equally startling stats, it’s all worth nothing now.
So go watch the Super Bowl. Share these stats with your fellow Cowboy fans, as this is the only mention of Team USA performing on Sunday.