Goska: Cowboys cashing in on long drives
Plunk yourself down in Dallas.
Amarillo is roughly 350 miles distant. Brownsville is about 550 miles to the south. El Paso is approximately 630 miles to the west.
Moving about the state of Texas can involve distance. Reaching a destination may require extended travel.
The Cowboys, the Packers’ opponent Sunday at Lambeau Field, are no strangers to elongated excursions. The team has gone to great lengths to move the football this season.
Sixteen of the Cowboys’ 48 drives (33 percent) have consisted of 10 or more plays. That number and corresponding percentage lead the league.
The Colts are second with 12. The Lions are No. 2 in percentage at 23 percent (11 of 48).
Dallas has staged at least two prolonged advances in each of its five games. They have had four (Giants), four (Redskins), three (Bears), three (49ers) and two (Bengals).
Seven of the 16 drives culminated in touchdowns. Eight resulted in field goals.
One, their most recent, ended with a fumble.
Long drives are often assumed to end with positive results. The majority do. But scoring on 15 of 16 (93.8 percent) is above the norm. Through Week 5, teams had scored on 208 of 258 drives of 10 or more plays (80.6 percent).
Dallas has become so adept at stringing together plays, it is the only team to have produced the majority of its yardage during 10-play drives. The Cowboys have gained 1,061 of 1,985 yards (53.4 percent) under those circumstances.
The league average is 30.5 percent.
OPPOSITE SIDELINE:Defense, Dez and Romo
Overstaying their welcome is a new wrinkle for the Cowboys. The team is on pace to stage 51 drives of 10 or more plays this season, which would easily be the most by any team this century. In each of the last 10 years, Dallas had fewer than 30 except for 2006, when it had 32.
Of course, there’s a new sheriff in town. Dak Prescott has been running the show since Tony Romo broke a bone in his back in August.
Prescott pointed Dallas in the right direction shortly after the season-opening kickoff. On the team’s first possession, he oversaw a 15-play, 70-yard advance.
The rookie quarterback didn’t stop there. The next two times out, he led drives of 15 and 11 plays as Dallas amassed 185 yards in the first half of its 20-19 loss to the Giants.
Had those outings resulted in touchdowns rather than field goals, the Cowboys might be unbeaten.
Scoring points is one benefit to these long hauls. Keeping an opponent’s offense on the sidelines is another.
The Cowboys’ average time of possession is 33:49. That ranks second to the Eagles’ 34:59.
All but two of Dallas’ 10-play drives have taken more than five minutes to play out. Four have persisted for more than seven minutes. That opening drive against the Giants clocked in at a season-high 8:25.
The Cowboys have had the greater time of possession in four of five games. The Bengals got the better of them (32:17 to 27:43) in a 28-14 loss last weekend in Dallas.
So, are the Cowboys a different team when engaged in 10-play drives? Do their numbers go up when they get on a roll?
Dallas has rushed 90 times for 403 yards (4.48 average) and six touchdowns during 10-play drives. The team has run 79 times for 373 yards (4.72) and five scores otherwise.
Prescott’s passer rating on shorter drives is 96.4. On longer excursions, his rating jumps to 106.0.
So there are differences. But what becomes clear is just how effective Dallas is at moving the ball in general. Any team that averages 4.6 yards per rush while compiling a passer rating of 101.5 is not to be trifled with.
Green Bay will have its hands full trying to rein in these Cowboys. The Packers already have permitted 10 drives of 10 or more plays, four each to the Jaguars and Lions.
Whether Dom Capers’ defensive unit is successful may have an impact on more than just the final score. It’s possible the losing team might find itself saddled with having to take a long trip to the home field of the winner come playoff time.
sportingcharts.com, pro-football-reference.com and nflgsis.com were used as references for this article.Regular-season series
Overall: Green Bay leads 14-12.
At Lambeau Field: Packers lead 7-1.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers (83-40 overall; 3-1 vs. Dallas)
Cowboys: Dak Prescott (4-1; 0-0 vs. Green Bay)
Since 2000, the teams with the most drives of 10 or more plays have been the 2014 Saints and 2015 Falcons, each with 42.
The Packers have had seven 10-play drives, two resulting in touchdowns and three capped by field goals.
Driving the Cowhide
Through Week 5, teams that have staged 10 or more drives of 10 or more plays. Field-goal attempts are counted as a play. TD = total drives.
10+ TD Team
16 48 Cowboys
12 56 Colts
11 48 Lions
10 53 Bills
10 55 Falcons
10 56 Broncos
10 57 Bengals
10 57 Patriots
10 59 Steelers