What went right for the young Cowboys in 2017

DALLAS - I’ve thought a lot, this season, about what it meant that the Cowboys kept winning games. They ultimately won nine, which doesn’t blow anyone away after a 13 win season but it’s worth noting that they’ve only won nine games eight times since the year 2000, and four of those were between 2003 and 2007.

The point is, it used to seem pretty hard to win nine games around here. It didn’t seem hard this season.

I mean how did they do it? They had, whatever you think it might turn into in the future, real mediocre quarterbacking. Dak threw for 22 TDs, which is not embarrassing, but solidly middle of the pack – tied with Cam Newton, Derek Carr, and Case Keenum, one ahead of Blake Bortles.

He threw 13 INTs, tied for 8th in the league with – right there with pretty much everyone else in the NFC East, non-Eagles category, Bortles, Carr, and Joe Flacco. He was between Eli Manning and Andy Dalton in yards, and 19th in net yards per passing attempt.

The run game was very good, believe it or not, even with their star running back out for six games. The 2170 yards Cowboys players ran for was 2nd in the league, as was the 18 touchdowns they scored on the ground. Oh, the blessings of still having a very good offensive line.

The defense, overall, was okay. The 5,089 yards they gave up was eighth in the league, and they were especially good at not giving up rushing touchdowns – tied for 3rd in the league, with the Panthers and Eagles.

They were – this won’t surprise you – not very good at stopping passing TDs. The 28 they gave up put them in the heady company of the Cleveland Browns, good for 27th overall. But they were overall not so bad at stopping the pass itself. The 3,425 yards they gave up, was just 11th in the league, and the 6.7 yards per attempt was 8th.

So here, basically is what I’m trying to tell you. Going into the season, it seemed like the team was going to be led by a strong passing attack, and that, with Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension looming, the run game might be in trouble. The defense had its high points and low points, but overall seemed chancy, as well as fragile.

What actually ended up happening was that the run game was terrific, the pass game mediocre, and the defense at least relatively stout.

Overall this season won’t be anyone’s favorite Cowboys memory, but it does seem like one to grow on. The QB, RB, and CBs are mostly young, and there’s reason to hope the great offensive line has at least a little more time. They were okay at lots of stuff, and they have a whole offseason to try and get better.

 

Do you think the Cowboys can build on their nine win season or are they going to continue a downward trend? Share your thoughts with Andy on Twitter @andytobo.

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