One of the many reasons the Dallas Cowboys beat the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday was their efficiency in fourth down. Three times they decided to go for it, three times they were able to move the chains and keep the drive going. This football team is playing aggressively, and RB Ezekiel Elliott is here for it.

“We’re going to play aggressive, that’s our mentality,” said the Cowboys’ running back after the big win.

Going for it on fourth down is getting more and more popular by the day in the NFL. Teams are going for it at historic rates as information has continued to increase on why it’s usually the right call. Especially in short-yardage situations.

But there’s so much to take away from what the Cowboys have done on fourth down through ten weeks this season. Elliott mentioned the mentality aspect of it. While math and probabilities back up these decisions to go for it instead of settling for three, it’s something that resonates with players and coaches as well.

If a coaching staff defines that going for it is what the team will consistently do, it helps build an aggressive mindset in the locker room. “We’re going for it because we think we’re better than you” is something that players enjoy, I would think.

“Consistently” is the keyword here. It almost becomes part of the team’s identity.

Three fourth-down conversions might not sound like much in a 43-3 blowout win, but there will come a time in a big game – perhaps in a playoff showdown – in which going for it will not be uncharted territory for these players. It will be a part of what they do.

Plus, if an offense is operating knowing that it likely is going to get the green light on fourth down, it can open the playbook on earlier downs.

What’s even more important than the Dallas Cowboys moving the chains on Sunday in these situations is the fact that they’ve stuck to it. Against the Denver Broncos, the Cowboys went for it four times and got zero conversions. Such a blow would make many coaching staffs hesitate, but Mike McCarthy and Co. didn’t waver.

Actually, this is an area where the Dallas Cowboys have to improve. Getting a 100% conversion rate versus the Falcons in three attempts was a step in the right direction. Through ten weeks, they still rank 21st in the league in fourth-down conversion rate. In fact, including third downs, they’re 18th in efficiency measured by Football Outsiders’ DVOA. 

Compare that to their performance on early downs, which has been one of the best in the NFL. On first down, they rank 4th in the league, and on second they’re the 7th best team (DVOA).

Last year, I doubted Mike McCarthy’s commitment to analytics. The Dallas Cowboys didn’t seem to stick with an aggressive mindset in such situations. This season, it’s been a different story. While execution still has to improve, it’s great for the team that it’s turning the aggressiveness into part of the locker room mentality.

Featured image via Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports