I hate to be controversial, but sometimes you just can't help it.
I apologize in advance to everyone I offend. Your feelings are important to me and I'm sorry I'm going to hurt them.
Are you sufficiently prefaced?
The Cowboys have not been very good in fourth quarters this season.
(Pause for collective gasp from audience.)
Most of the blame lies on the defensive side of the ball (I know, I know, I continue with the shocking statements today). The Cowboys have allowed fifteen touchdowns this season (which is strange, because it seems like Calvin Johnson had at least fifteen TDs last week). Eight of those fifteen have come in the fourth quarters of games. Put another way, in a collective 25 percent of the football played against the Cowboys, opposing teams have managed to score 53 percent of their TDs.
Compounding that is the fact that five field goals have been scored against Dallas in the final frame of games. That adds up to a total of 73 points against the Cowboys in fourth quarters. This is where things get interesting- the team has allowed a total of 351 points. The fourth quarter points against represent only 21 percent of that total, which is less, percentage wise, than you'd expect.
Partially that's because in the team's three solid wins, against St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Washington, the team has allowed a total of 10 points. You could even add the narrow loss to Kansas City in and have 16 points across a quartet of quarters. In the other five games:
New York scored 14 to make what should have been a gasser into one that worried you.
San Diego scored 10, taking the lead and the game.
Denver scored 13. We all know what happened. It was awful.
Detroit scored 24. We all know what happened. It was even worse.
Minnesota only scored 6 on an Adrian Peterson play that will either lead off or finish his Hall of Fame induction highlight package; a small amount, but it took the lead and very nearly the game.
The Cowboys under Jason Garret have made a minor fetish out of keeping games close, one way or the other. It's one of the maddening things about being a fan of the team; you squint one way, and you could imagine another three wins each year for your team if only a few things went their way. Then you squint the other way and realize the team could have lost another three games if a few more bounces went against them.
That's the agony of living in the middle.
On the other side of the ball, the team has scored 75 fourth quarter points. Scored 75, allowed 73- the team loves being in the middle so much it shows even when you break down into splits.
Of course, you can't talk about the offense without talking about Tony Romo (especially since he pretty much IS the offense since the running game got demoted to the practice squad). The team has had 138 offensive plays in fourth quarters- 89 of them pass attempts (64 percent). Of those 89 passes, he's completed 64 (71.9 per cent, which is the highest completion percentage of any quarter for Romo). He's averaging 8.1 yards per attempt in fourth quarters – again, highest of any quarter. He's passed for 36 first downs, which is tied with what he's produced in the second quarter on 15 more attempts. Seven touchdowns.
You all know what's coming next – two interceptions. The odds are those can't be removed from your memory, which is ok, because they were bad. But on the whole, Romo has been very, very good in fourth quarters this year (and for his career). His QB rating of 112.8 in fourth quarters is his highest of any period, and it's significantly better than his 100.0 mark for the year on the whole.
Sometimes, though, you eat the narrative, and sometimes the narrative eats you (with apologies to The Big Lebowski for altering it's quote, and using it in a very non-Dude way). Romo's narrative is one of his fourth-quarter failings, not the larger pattern of success.
With regard to the opener, maybe the most controversial thing I can say is “Romo is pretty good in the fourth quarter”. That, or “Jerry the Owner should fire Jerry the GM”, but let's leave that original line for another article, on another day.