Dallas Cowboys Fail In Toxic Events Battle Yet Again; Even The Jets Are In On It

This season, we've focused on how the big play dictates game outcome more than anything else. Week 15 was no different.

All good things must come to an end. Fortunately, bad things come to an end, too.

With Saturday night’s loss to the New York Jets, the Dallas Cowboys have officially been eliminated from the playoff race, adding certainty to a notion that has existed for a while. After another lackluster start from Matt Cassel, Dallas turned the reigns over to Kellen Moore, making his first professional appearance of his career. It made little difference, going to their fourth quarterback of the season. Dallas hasn’t had to do that since 2001.

Moore was finally able to get the wide receivers involved in the gameplan again, something that had disappeared as Cassel grew less effective with each susbsequent appearance. Still though, Moore’s debut did little to invigorate anyone outside of the most diehard optimists. He finished his evening 15 for 28, for 158 yards, 1 touchdown and three interceptions, with a passer rating of 52.2. That’s not going to get it done at any level.

Neither Moore nor Cassel was able to complete a single explosive play with their arms on Saturday night, a tiring trend that’s been evident since Dallas has gone to their backup QBs. Here’s a look at the Toxic Events of the loss.

______TOXIC EVENTS LEDGER______

TEAMEVENTLEDGER
DAL 1 2-10-DAL 36 (13:49) L.Whitehead left end to NYJ 31 for 33 yards (L.Williams). Reverse on a pitch back DAL +1
DAL 1 2-5-NYJ 26 (12:24) D.McFadden right guard to NYJ 15 for 11 yards (D.Davis; S.Richardson). DAL +2
NYJ 1 2-17-NYJ 50 (8:42) (Shotgun) M.Cassel pass short right INTERCEPTED by D.Revis [L.Williams] at NYJ 41. D.Revis to DAL 35 for 24 yards DAL +1
NYJ 1 1-10-NYJ 40 (2:18) (Shotgun) B.Powell up the middle to DAL 50 for 10 yards (A.Hitchens). EVEN
NYJ 1 2-10-DAL 37 (1:11) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep right to B.Marshall pushed ob at DAL 12 for 25 yards (B.Carr). Pass complete on a "curl" route NYJ +1
NYJ 1 1-10-DAL 12 (:35) (Shotgun) B.Powell right guard for 12 yards, TOUCHDOWN. NYJ +2
NYJ 2 3-7-DAL 29 (9:59) (Shotgun) K.Moore pass deep middle intended for T.Williams INTERCEPTED by M.Gilchrist at NYJ 45. M.Gilchrist to DAL 24 for 31 yards NYJ +3
DAL 3 1-10-DAL 18 (9:21) D.McFadden left tackle to DAL 29 for 11 yards (E.Henderson). NYJ +2
DAL 3 1-10-NYJ 43 (6:42) D.McFadden left end to NYJ 10 for 33 yards (C.Pryor). NYJ +1
NYJ 3 2-6-NYJ 6 (5:25) (Shotgun) K.Moore pass short middle intended for D.Bryant INTERCEPTED by C.Pryor at NYJ -7. C.Pryor to NYJ 11 for 18 yards NYJ +2
DAL 3 2-11-NYJ 10 (4:36) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short right intended for K.Thompkins INTERCEPTED by T.Mitchell at NYJ 19. T.Mitchell to NYJ 21 for -2 yards NYJ +1
NYJ 4 1-10-NYJ 31 (1:01) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep right to K.Thompkins pushed ob at DAL 26 for 43 yards (B.Jones) [G.Hardy] NYJ +2
DAL 3 3-1-DAL 22 (:26) D.McFadden right end ran ob at DAL 34 for 12 yards NYJ +1
NYJ 4 2-2-DAL 32 (:24) (Shotgun) K.Moore pass deep middle intended for D.Bryant INTERCEPTED by M.Williams at NYJ 21. M.Williams to NYJ 19 for -2 yards NYJ +2

Once again, Dallas comes out on the short end of the big play department. This is a script Cowboys fans have surely seen. An interesting tangent here is, the final interception for Moore would’ve put Dallas in field goal range if completed, sent the game into overtime and also tied the Toxic Event ledger up.

____TOXIC EVENTS DEFINITION____

Over the years, Toxic Differential tracking has evolved as a great descriptive tool for explaining wins and losses. A Toxic Event is basically a big play in a game; passes over 25 yards, runs over 10 yards, turnovers and for my purposes, special teams touchdowns.

Toxic Differential is a metric that started with Super Bowl winning head coach Brian Billick when he was the offensive coordinator during the Randy Moss era in Minnesota. It’s used to measure a team’s ability to create and prevent both turnovers and explosive plays. Toxic Differential is calculated by adding together a team’s turnover differential (takeaways - giveaways) and its big play differential (big plays for - big plays against). It basically goes a step further than just saying “Whomever wins the turnover battle normally wins the game”.

Say a team completes five consecutive plays, for gains of 5 yards each; totaling 25 yards. That means there are also 5 opportunities for something to go wrong on the way to that 25 yards. Big plays win games, because they earn a lot of yardage without multiple risks attached to them. There can only be one shot at an interception, one fumble, one sack, etc etc.

Various sites have various definitions for what constitutes a big play. As they have the most comprehensive ranking, we’ll roll with SportingCharts.com’s definition of 10+ yards on a running play and 25+ yards on a pass play.As SportingCharts says, “Over the last 10+ seasons, a majority of teams that have won the Super Bowl finished the regular season in the Top 10 for Toxic Differential.”</p>

TOXIC EVENTS IN RELATION TO SCORING

TEAMEVENTNYJ ScoreDallas Score
DAL 1 2-10-DAL 36 (13:49) L.Whitehead left end to NYJ 31 for 33 yards (L.Williams). Reverse on a pitch back 0 0
DAL 1 2-5-NYJ 26 (12:24) D.McFadden right guard to NYJ 15 for 11 yards (D.Davis; S.Richardson). 0 0
DAL 1 10:49 D.Bailey 27 yd. Field Goal (9-70, 4:11) 0 3
NYJ 1 2-17-NYJ 50 (8:42) (Shotgun) M.Cassel pass short right INTERCEPTED by D.Revis [L.Williams] at NYJ 41. D.Revis to DAL 35 for 24 yards 0 3
NYJ 1 1-10-NYJ 40 (2:18) (Shotgun) B.Powell up the middle to DAL 50 for 10 yards (A.Hitchens). 0 3
NYJ 1 2-10-DAL 37 (1:11) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep right to B.Marshall pushed ob at DAL 12 for 25 yards (B.Carr). Pass complete on a "curl" route 0 3
NYJ 1 1-10-DAL 12 (:35) (Shotgun) B.Powell right guard for 12 yards, TOUCHDOWN. 6 3
NYJ 2 3-7-DAL 29 (9:59) (Shotgun) K.Moore pass deep middle intended for T.Williams INTERCEPTED by M.Gilchrist at NYJ 45. M.Gilchrist to DAL 24 for 31 yards 6 3
NYJ 2 7:01 R.Bullock 36 yd. Field Goal (4-6, 2:44) 9 3
DAL 2 1:17 D.Bryant 10 yd. pass from K.Moore (D.Bailey kick) (4-55, 0:30) 9 10
DAL 3 1-10-DAL 18 (9:21) D.McFadden left tackle to DAL 29 for 11 yards (E.Henderson). 9 10
DAL 3 1-10-NYJ 43 (6:42) D.McFadden left end to NYJ 10 for 33 yards (C.Pryor). 9 10
NYJ 3 2-6-NYJ 6 (5:25) (Shotgun) K.Moore pass short middle intended for D.Bryant INTERCEPTED by C.Pryor at NYJ -7. C.Pryor to NYJ 11 for 18 yards 9 10
DAL 3 2-11-NYJ 10 (4:36) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass short right intended for K.Thompkins INTERCEPTED by T.Mitchell at NYJ 19. T.Mitchell to NYJ 21 for -2 yards 9 10
DAL 3 3:44 D.Bailey 38 yd. Field Goal (4-2, 0:42) 9 13
NYJ 4 8:58 E.Decker 3 yd. pass from R.Fitzpatrick (R.Bullock kick) (9-70, 5:07) 16 13
DAL 4 1:55 D.Bailey 50 yd. Field Goal (11-51, 7:03) 16 16
NYJ 4 1-10-NYJ 31 (1:01) (Shotgun) R.Fitzpatrick pass deep right to K.Thompkins pushed ob at DAL 26 for 43 yards (B.Jones) [G.Hardy] 16 16
NYJ 4 0:36 R.Bullock 40 yd. Field Goal (8-58, 1:19) 19 16
DAL 3 3-1-DAL 22 (:26) D.McFadden right end ran ob at DAL 34 for 12 yards 19 16
NYJ 4 2-2-DAL 32 (:24) (Shotgun) K.Moore pass deep middle intended for D.Bryant INTERCEPTED by M.Williams at NYJ 21. M.Williams to NYJ 19 for -2 yards 19 16

Dallas opened the game with two explosive offensive plays on the opening drive. To do this and walk away without points is damn-near impossible, but only scoring three points highlights the ineptitude of the offense under Matt Cassel. The Jets interception on the Cowboys subsequent possession would've led to at least three points, but New York went for it on fourth down. Here we saw Demarcus Lawrence becoming a true playmaker. This offseason, his skillset was compared to that of Michael Strahan's and it was very obvious in this game. Defensively against their own end zone, Lawrence made not one, but two tackles for loss inside the five yard line to thwart the Jets attack.

Those are game-winning plays when the team is more competitive than they are right now.

The Jets turned their next three Explosive Plays into points on their final drive of the quarter; a 10-yard run to get them to midfield, and a 25 yard pass that brought them inside the red zone. The final play, a Bilal Powell run for 12 gave them their first lead.

Kellen Moore entered the game at that point, and promptly threw a pick on his second pass. The Jets wasted the Toxic Event and didn't score. The teams traded scoring drives without any big plays, with a Moore-to-Dez touchdown strike giving Dallas a 10-9 halftime lead. Dallas once again had two explosive plays on the same drive, but Kellen Moore's interception in the end zone squashed that opportunity. New York turned right back around and gave Dallas a Toxic Event with an interception; but this time Dallas cashed in with a short field goal, making it 13-10.

That's when the Dallas defense broke down, again. The Jets were able to march down the field to take the lead without the help of the big play. 14 yard pass. 13 yard pass. 20 yard pass. 24 yard pass. Dallas' defense was unable to get the necessary pressure on the Jets, and allowed New York to escape a 2nd and 19 and 3rd and 14 prior to the three-yard pass to Eric Decker where Byron Jones tried with all his might to get Brandon Carr to take him on the motion.

Dallas was able to tie the score late on a Dan Bailey field goal, but one final big play from the Jets offense sealed it. Byron Jones thought he had safety help, he didn't get it,and the Jets were easily in field position for the game-winning kick. Game over, season over.


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