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    The secret is out: The Cowboys suck on third down. Their conversion rate for the whole season is 33.3% (34 of 102). That’s hideous and ranks the Cowboys 28th in the league White Troy Aikman Jersey , just ahead of the inept offenses of the Browns, Jets, Bills, and Cardinals. Here’s Calvin Watkins of The Athletic, laying the blame for the Cowboys’ third-down woessquarely at Prescott’s feet.A lot of people will reflexively blame this on the quarterback, and while that’s not entirely wrong, it’s not entirely right either. Watkins does add the following quote from Jason Garrett, who points out that the inability to execute on third down goes beyond the just the QB:Still, a lot of the discussion about the Cowboys over the last week has centered on Prescott, so let’s examine Prescott in a little more statistical detail.Watkins uses Prescott’s passer rating and completion percentage to illustrate Prescott’s struggles on third down, and that’s a good starting point. So let’s extend that a little and look at Prescott’s passer rating and completion percentage across all three downs: Interestingly, Prescott’s passer rating on first down (91.7) ranks him 19th among 34 QBs with at least 100 pass attempts through Week 9. Similarly, his rating on second down (95.9) ranks him 20th. But on third down, he drops to 30th (74.0), barely ahead of part-time QBs like C.J. Beathard (65.0), Ryan Tannehill (57.4), Josh Allen (41.1), and Josh Rosen (39.1).So here’s the key question: What’s happening on third downs that turns an otherwise average QB into a bottom-of-the-league passer? To get a better handle on that question, we have to move beyond passer rating. One of the issues with passer rating is that it rates an eight-yard gain on third-and-10 more favorably than a two-yard gain on third-and-one. But the game of football is predicated on “moving the sticks” to achieve a new set of downs. So when looking at third-down performance we need to understand a team’s, or a QB’s, ability to gain a first down in such situations, and not just look at some random yardage numbers that don’t tell you anything about the ability or inability to move the sticks.One metric that does that is a stat called “Failed Completions” which denotes the percentage of attempts that a quarterback threw short of the minimum yards needed for a successful play. On first down, a play is considered a success if it gains 45 percent of needed yards; on second down, a play needs to gain 60 percent of needed yards; on third or fourth down, only gaining a new first down (or scoring a TD) is considered success.Here’s the Failed Completions Percentage on first, second, and third downs for the 34 quarterbacks who have had a minimum of 100 pass attempts through Week 9 this year. For your convenience, the table is sortable (just click on the blue column headers).Failed Completion percentage through Week 9, 2018 On first down, Prescott ranks in the top 10 of all passers by failed completion percentage; only 15.2% of his completions fail to get at least 45% of the required yardage on first down. One second down, Prescott ranks just outside the top ten (13th) with a failed completion percentage of 21.4%. Combined, Prescott has a failed completion percentage of just 18.6% (19 failed completions on 90 total completions) on first and second down, which ranks as the ninth best value in the NFL.The numbers here are clear: The Cowboys have a quarterback who reliably delivers the required yards on first and second down, never mind what some hothead on Twitter may claim about his accuracy, reads, or footwork.That doesn’t mean Prescott is perfect, far from it. He still has issues with his mechanics, he doesn’t throw downfield enough, and his completion percentage isn’t where it should be. But on first and second down, the Cowboys’ passing game with Prescott at the helm is keeping the offense “on schedule.”The Cowboys are a run-first, ball-control offense. As such, the entire offense is predicated on staying on schedule with a high percentage of runs and a lot of short passes on first and second down that are designed to get the team into manageable third-down situations. But this year, things went to hell in a hand basket on third down for Prescott and the Cowboys, where Prescott has a staggering failed completion rate of 51.4%, the worst value of any QB on the list above.So the question again is: What is happening on third downs that turns a top 10 QB in terms of failed completions on first and second downs into the worst-ranked passer in the league on third downs? To get a better feel for that, here’s a look at how Prescott’s failed completions compare between his standout rookie season in 2016 and this year: Again, the numbers are clear: On first and second down, Dak Prescott is playing as efficiently as he did in 2016, regardless of the many hot takes out there claiming otherwise. Sure, defenses may be more willing to give up the underneath stuff, and that might influence the numbers, but that’s impossible to quantify.So if Prescott is playing as well today on first and second down as he did two years ago, then the failure on third down must be due to more than just the “DAK SUCKZ!!!” battle cry of disappointed fans. And Roger Staubach seems to agree:You’d think that one of those “other things” might be the length of third downs in 2018, on the assumption that the Cowboys are facing more 3rd-and-long situations than they did in 2016, which would make it harder to convert for a first down. Surprisingly though Ezekiel Elliott Jersey 2019 , that’s not the case. The average yards-to-go on third down this year is 7.98 which is only marginally higher than the 7.32 in 2016.What’s a lot more interesting to look at is who Dak Prescott is throwing to on third down. In 2016, Prescott threw the most completions on third down to Cole Beasley (23 completions), Jason Witten (18), and Ezekiel Elliott (11). In 2018, the slot guy, the running back, and the tight end continue to get the most completions, even though the name of the tight end has changed. Cole Beasley (14), Ezekiel Elliott (10), and Geoff Swaim (4) are the Cowboys’ leading receivers in terms of completions on third downs this year. Here’s how their numbers compare: Cole Beasley had a spectacular year in 2016, when only two of his 23 receptions on third down (8.7%) were failed completions that ended up short of the sticks. Beasley that year was a veritable first-down machine, but that was then, and this is now: with a failed completion percentage of 42.9% Beasley isn’t even an average player anymore, as the NFL failed completion average on third down for the 34 quarterbacks we looked at above is 30.5%.Also in 2016, we were already seeing that Jason Witten was no longer a reliable target on third down, and his 55.6% failed completion percentage documents that. Unfortunately, his replacement in 2018 hasn’t improved on that number. Ezekiel Elliott wasn’t and isn’t a viable option on third down passes. 18 of the 21 passes completed to Elliott on third down in 2016 and 2018 were failed completions. Essentially, throwing to Elliott on third down is equivalent to punting. Elliott’s numbers are obviously hurt by him being Checkdown Charlie on third downs, but why Elliott remains a part of the game plan on passing third downs – beyond being an extra blocker – is a mystery.That still leaves the other receivers and other running backs and their effectiveness on third down.The Cowboys have seen wholesale change among the wide receivers above, but the results have remained surprisingly consistent: When Dak Prescott completes a pass these wide receivers on third down it usually results in a first down. Again, Prescott also needs to improve his completion percentage on third downs, but it looks like who he throws to is a much bigger determinant of third-down success than how accurate he is with his throw.So why do the Cowboys continue to dump off passes on third down to their slot guy, their running back, and their tight end?Is it because Prescott doesn’t see the supposedly open guys downfield, or is it because those receivers can’t get separation once they are beyond the sticks? Or is it because the Cowboys hardly ever try to scheme their wide receivers open, instead hoping for each WR to win his one-on-one matchup on his own? Or is it because the offensive line can’t hold off the pass rush long enough for the receivers to get open beyond the sticks? Or is it because the offensive coordinator continues to call plays featuring an ineffective Beasley, Elliott, and Swaim?Since Beasley’s breakout year in 2016, opposing defenses have regularly put him in bracket coverage, and have essentially removed him as an effective third-down threat. The Jaguars are the only team so far this season not to do so and were promptly burned by Beasley for a season-high 101 yards. Even more significantly, Beasley had four successful third-down conversions against the Jaguars, which is as exactly as much as he had against the remaining seven opponents combined!So if you know that Beasley is going to get bracket coverage, why continue calling plays designed to get him the ball on third down? If you know you’re QB might be prone to dump off the ball to the RB on third down, and that those plays almost never succeed, why have a running back on the field on passing third downs in the first place?And if you know that you have a high success rate throwing to your wide receivers on third down, but that they have trouble getting sufficient separation beyond the sticks, why not scheme to get them open with rub routes or pick plays? Or perhaps aligning your receivers a little more often in bunch or stack formations in order to gain a little bit of free space for them to operate in?Many of the issues with the Cowboys’ third-down offense are home-made, and when the next pass is completed short of the sticks, it is the culmination of a lot of things that have gone wrong before Prescott even threw the ball. A lot goes into the successful execution of third-down play, starting with the right play-call, the proper blocking by the O-line, receivers who can get open beyond the sticks, and a QB who can deliver the ball.The numbers show that throwing to Ezekiel Elliott on third down is essentially equivalent to punting. So why do the Cowboys continue doing it?When opposing defenses took away Cole Beasley as a reliable first-down machine, the Cowboys had no answers.In this context, I’d be looking very, very hard at the guy in charge of the offense and play-calling.But sure, let’s focus only on Prescott and his shortcomings. Kevin Byard was expecting his interception celebration Monday night against the Dallas Cowboys to be similar to that of Terrell Owens in more ways than one.Byard said after the game that he was expecting to get drilled as George Teague did to Owens when he ran to the star logo at midfield for a second time during a Cowboys-San Francisco 49ers game in 2000.“It was just something I thought about at the hotel, just thinking about Monday night in Dallas,” Byard said, via quotes distributed by the Cowboys. “Thinking what can I do if I make a play. And it was really just to show the team that we are not scared. We are here to play ball. We are here to win the game. I made the play and I ran straight to the 50 yard line. It was kind of off the wall a little bit.”Byrad intercepted Dak Prescott on a pass intended for Amari Cooper on Dallas’ third possession of the game. The Cowboys had been given great field position after a Marcus Mariota fumble and had the ball on the Titans 6-yard line. Prescott tried to float the pass to Cooper as Logan Ryan had coverage underneath and Byard over the top. Byard made the grab in the back of the end zone and immediately took off for the midfield logo.He was joined for a bit of a dance off by several teammates before Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones – wearing No. 31 as Teague did nearly two decades ago –聽 did give Byard a bit of a shove from behind out of the logo.“I just ran to the star to celebrate,” Byard said. “I was actually expecting somebody to knock my head off. Then we just started dancing. I was like, if we get to the 50, if we get enough guys to the 50, we are just going to start dancing on the star.”The Cowboys had dominated the first quarter in many ways but had only managed to score one touchdown despite fortunes favoring them in the early stages. The interception kept Dallas off the board and the Titans began to sustain their offense afterward en route to a 28-14 victory over the Cowboys. 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