DALLAS - If you're wagging your finger at the Cowboys defense for their 2-2 start to this season, you probably aren't alone. They certainly haven't been great, ranking 18th in the NFL in yards allowed per game at 339.2.
But that isn’t where Dallas’ problems start.
Oh no, where the Cowboys’ problems really begin are on the other side of the ball.
Coming into the year, no one expected the Cowboys’ defense to be spectacular. At most, they just needed to hold their own and not give up the big play when they were called upon.
Through four games, however, Dallas' defense has been called upon far too much — and that’s the offense’s fault.
Look no further than these two stats: time of possession and third down conversions.
In 2014 when the Cowboys made it to the NFC Divisional game, they ranked third in the NFL in time of possession averaging 32:13 minutes of clock time per game.
Last season, Dallas went 13-3, made it to the NFC Divisional game and also ranked third in the league in time of possession with an average of 31:23 of possession each game.
This year, the Cowboys are 23rd in time of possession. They're averaging just 28:24 of possession each game, and as a result, are hanging their defense out to dry. Key pieces like Sean Lee and DeMarcus Lawrence become more susceptible, and have already sustained minor injuries, while young members of the secondary have more opportunities for mental lapses.
Dallas has been equally as dreadful on third down, a category they excelled in 2016.
The Cowboys are 20-of-52 on third down this season, a 38.5 percent conversion rate good enough for 17th in the NFL. Last year, Dallas was 10th in the league at 42.3 percent.
Part of the problem stems from the Cowboys frequently putting themselves in 3rd and long situations. In 2016, Dallas had only 13 third downs of 10 yards or more.
This season, the Cowboys have already had 15 third down conversions of 10 yards or more, and it’s only been four games. They’ve converted on just two of those opportunities.
Blame can be placed on just about everyone. The offensive line hasn’t meshed well, Dak Prescott is missing routine throws, Ezekiel Elliott has looked lackadaisical and receivers have dropped passes and not gotten open. That isn’t a recipe for winning football, especially with an average to below-average defense.
Dallas’ best defense is a good offense that keeps Rod Marinelli’s group off the field.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys offense hasn’t held up its end of the bargain.
What are your thoughts on the Cowboys offense so far this season? Share you throughts with Reece on Twitter @ReeceWaddell15.
© 2017 WFAA-TV