The Cowboys’ Week 4 matchup with the Chargers is a really important one just due to the fact that the Cowboys have the Broncos on deck. If Dallas goes down in Week 4, there’s a good chance that they’ll fall to 2-3. It’s pretty imperative that they come out of San Diego victorious. Here are three numbers that can help them do it.
32: Chargers’ pass defense rank
It’s been well-documented that San Diego currently ranks last in the NFL in pass defense, but they really do have perhaps the worst unit in all of football. Their cornerbacks are playing really poorly, perhaps due to an underwhelming pass rush, and starter Shareece Wright will be out. That leaves cornerback Johnny Patrick to start, and he’s allowed 12.5 YPA in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus. At 5-11, 191 pounds, Patrick is going to struggle against whoever he’s covering.
2.46: Numbers of seconds until the average Philip Rivers throw
The Chargers have really changed their offense this year, emphasizing quick throws. Rivers, who has historically hung in the pocket for a while, has gotten the ball out extremely quickly in 2013. That’s one of the reasons he’s been able to beat the blitz, compiling a 122.9 passer rating when defenses send more than four rushers.
With the Cowboys potentially capable of getting pressure with just four rushers, I don’t think there’s much incentive to blitz Rivers. Their best bet might be to sit in conservative zones and force the Chargers to continually beat them underneath.
45: Percentage of Chargers’ runs that have increased their chances of scoring on a drive
This stat is also known as “run success rate,” and the Chargers actually rank fifth in the NFL. That’s notable because San Diego has run for only 3.9 YPC, ranking them 18th in the league. Thus, while traditional numbers suggest the Chargers have been pour on the ground, the truth is that they’ve been rather efficient.
YPC is influenced so heavily by game situations that it’s really a useless stat. Teams that run when they should run, especially in short-yardage and goal line situations, typically have low YPC. We shouldn’t penalize a team for gaining two yards on third-and-one, and that’s exactly what YPC does. Run success rate captures true efficiency, rewarding teams for run that increases their probability of scoring.
The fact that San Diego ranks high in run success rate but low in YPC is actually a good thing; it means they’ve used the run in a lot of low-upside situations, such as near the goal line, which is fine. That’s also undoubtedly helped their passing efficiency—one of the “hidden” benefits of using the run as a complementary piece of the offense instead of the core.