FRISCO, Texas – So we've been inundated recently with what the Dallas Cowboys should have learned over the past two weeks, leading up to Super Bowl LI and day in and day out following Super Bowl LI.
Here is one you have yet to see:
As in points.
Mark that down, exactly what the Cowboys should have learned. Should have learned that this year. Should have learned that in 2014 and 2009 and 2007 and in those three consecutive seasons from 2011-13 when the NFC East titles came down to the final games of those seasons.
Funny, haven't heard a peep all week about that real old, tired, nauseating cliché insisting offense sells tickets and defense wins championships.
Bull, go defend this:
There were 11 playoff games this season, four wild-card weekend, four divisional round, two conference championships and a Super Bowl. Got any idea how many times the winners of those games scored at least 30 points?
Got any idea how many times the winners scored at least 26 points?
Only Pittsburgh won a playoff game this year scoring fewer, and that was the 18-16 victory over Kansas City in the AFC Divisional Round, and the Steelers' 17 the next week against New England got them nowhere, losing 36-17.
Now then, if we continue with our Q&A from this year's playoffs, got any idea how many times the losers scored no more than 21 points?
Nine of the 11, and seven of those did not score more than 17 points.
The only two losers to score more?
Now this may be too soon, but Atlanta in the 34-28 Super Bowl loss to New England and the Cowboys in the, uh, 34-31 loss to Green Bay.
Want that to hurt even more?
The Cowboys were the only team this season to score at least 30 points in a playoff game and lose. And they certainly didn't lose because that big, bad Green Bay defense shut them down. They simply didn't score enough points. Can't get nothing when second-and-1 at the Packers' 19-yard line and expect to win in the playoffs. Can't kick a field goal when third-and-2 at the Packers' 32 and expect to win. Can't kick another field goal facing third-and-3 from the Packers' 33 with 44 seconds remaining to tie the game when a touchdown wins – maybe – the game.
Ponder this, too. In the Cowboys' previous eight playoff losses, taking us all the way back to the 1996 season after their run of winning three Super Bowls in four years expired, here were the scores:
Carolina 26-17, Arizona 20-7, Minnesota 27-10, Carolina 29-10, Seattle 21-20, Giants 21-17, Minnesota 34-3, Green Bay 26-21. Detect a trend? That averages out to 11.66 points a playoff loss. Not going to win like that, no matter how well your defense plays.
And, oh, how many points did the Cowboys score in those season finales from 2011-2013 when a victory would have clinched an NFC East title each year?
Well, try 14, 18, 22.
There is no way I'm saying the Cowboys should ignore efforts to improve their defense this offseason. They must, especially the pass rush, which in turn would aid the backend pass defense.
But here is what I know from this 2016 season: In the only three games the Cowboys lost they scored 19, 7 and 13. But in the 11-of-13 they won, the Cowboys scored at least 26 points. So there is no sense thinking your stripes are going to change once hitting the playoffs, like all of a sudden you're going to win by shutting someone down. Had the Cowboys played a cleaner game on offense, taken advantage of their opportunities at AT&T Stadium that Sunday, they would have scored 40 points against the Packers, just like the Falcons did in the NFC title game.
Speaking of the Falcons, they scored more than the 28 they did against New England in 10 of their 11 victories in the regular season and in both NFC playoff games. Only game they won scoring fewer than 28 was the 23 scored in a victory over Denver (23-16).
Here is another offensive factor to consider in the 51 Super Bowl games played, dating all the way back to the first one following the 1966 season: 32 of the 51 winners have scored at least 27 points. And if we take into consideration those first 10 were in a different age of football, then 30 of the past 41 Super Bowl winners have scored at least 27 points.
So not sure wherever this notion came up about defense wins championships when the overwhelming majority of the Lombardi's have been captured by teams scoring at least 27 points, with just more than half (26) scoring at least 30 points, including the Packers in the first two Super Bowls.
Let's also take a closer look at the Cowboys' eight Super Bowl appearances. In the five victories the Cowboys scored 24, 27, 52, 30 and 27. In the three Super Bowl losses they scored 13, 17 and 31, uh, giving up 35 to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XIII.[embeddedad0]
And one last shot: How come 43 of the 51 Super Bowl game MVPs have been offensive players? That must mean something, no? By the way, here is somewhat of an oddity: Of the eight games honoring nine defensive MVPs, the Cowboys contributed four guys to that list: linebacker Chuck Howley Super Bowl V (in a losing cause), defensive linemen Randy White and Harvey Martin co-MVPs in Super Bowl XII and cornerback Larry Brown Super Bowl XXX, his two interceptions saving the Cowboys, who were hanging on for dear life in the fourth quarter.
So yep, the Cowboys defense must improve to take the next step. They know this. Didn't need to watch the conference championship games and Super Bowl to figure that out. But standing out to me in those three games has been the winners scored 44, 36, 34. And darn it, the Cowboys certainly were capable of posting such numbers.
Just remember, and again, hopefully not too painfully to do so, the Packers scored on six possessions in the playoff game against the Cowboys, and the Cowboys scored on six possessions against the Packers. The final difference:
The Packers scored four touchdowns. The Cowboys just three.
Gotta score, that's the name of this game.