Dallas Cowboys had more lost penalty yards this season than 4 teams had rushing yards

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If there's a word that can sum up the Dallas Cowboys' 2021 season it's this: discipline.

As in, a lack thereof.

The Cowboys watched their season crater in Sunday's NFC wild-card loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and it happened in perhaps what should have been predictable fashion.

Sure, the end-of-game execution on Dak Prescott's failed QB sneak and spike was big. But there's no way we can overlook the impact of the huge holding call in the first quarter (see below) or the delay of game following the successful fake punt or the third-and-12 hands to the face call with less than five minutes remaining.

Even as the 49ers tried their best to give the game away, the Cowboys were not having it. Their own mistakes ended up trumping all in the end.

Yahoo Sports' Dan Wetzel seemed to recognize this way back in October: Despite all the talent and upside the Cowboys displayed, they were often their own worst enemy, possibly because of a lack of coach-instilled discipline.

The Dallas Cowboys hurt themselves with penalties all season long. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)
The Dallas Cowboys hurt themselves with penalties all season long. (AP Photo/Ron Jenkins)

The penalties have been a story all season for Dallas.

The Cowboys had the most of any NFL team, and 10 more flags than the next team on the list. Dallas' 1,192 penalty yards against also were a league-high. Their 20 declined penalties were behind only the 3-13-1 Detroit Lions' 21 declined flags.

The Cowboys almost had as many flags as the United Nations. But there's more pain behind those penalties, a hidden-yards value that's often overlooked: offensive yards gained and subsequently lost because of penalty.

Example: In the first quarter of Sunday's game, Prescott hit CeeDee Lamb on what appeared to be a 32-yard catch. Holding wiped out those 32 yards — as well as knocked the Cowboys back 10 more for the hold. So yes, it's a 10-yard loss. But it's a net loss of 42 yards when you count the play that was disallowed.

The Cowboys were flagged 14 times Sunday for 89 yards. There were seven offensive penalties, six more on defense and one on special teams. Those seven offensive penalties also wiped out 53 yards of gains. So that's a total of 142 yards that penalties cost them.

Add it to the total. Once again, according to @acCOUNTableRefs on Twitter, which tracks all kinds of penalty data on the NFL, the Cowboys led the way in this statistic with 413 negated offensive yards this season.

If you add up the Cowboys' 1,192 penalty yards, plus the 403 they lost in negated gains over 18 games (regular season and playoffs), you get 1,595 total lost yards because of penalties. (That's an average of 88.6 yards per game.)

For comparison's sake, that lost-yardage total is more than four teams — the Houston Texans, Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers — totaled in rushing yards this season.

And more significant, it was a far higher combined penalty total than any other NFL team this season.

Want to know why the most talented teams don't always have the greatest postseason success? This type of development is a decent place to start.

What this means for head coach Mike McCarthy's fate is anyone's guess now. It should, at the very least, be pretty damning.