Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Decoding the Offense - Week 4

I realize it is not good form to quote yourself, but…from last week’s break down

Garrett will have to make sure he just doesn't get too cute, because he has many toys in his toybox these days...

Alas. He got too cute. You will be amazed by some of the numbers below, and the few that jump of the page at me are the following:

After gashing the Green Bay Packers 20 times for over 130 yards in power running situations (2 or 3 Tight Ends), the Cowboys tried to run power plays just 3 times on Sunday against Washington.

Also, the other stat of amazing proportions was the fact that they went shotgun 36 times and passed out of it 35 times. The one run? A Romo scramble! Yes, a 36th pass play.

Finally, they threw 11 of the 12 times they had a 3rd down. The one time they ran? Terrell Owens was playing HB.

Marion Barber must be bitter this week…


Another new personnel look for week 4 – we are now up to 15 different looks.

“S12w” = This is not really a new personnel look, but since it was a radically new formation to get on film, I wanted to give it a little attention. Basically, the Cowboys are obsessed with something fresh and new every week. Well, this one did not produce like some of the others have. It is Curtis and Witten both lined up as “H” or “F” backs in front of Barber and behind Romo when Romo is under center. Many times, Witten would motion out before the snap.

They debuted it on Sunday and ran it 8 times. 3 runs for 19 yards and 5 passes for 1measley yard. Don’t be shocked if they go back to the drawing board with that one. Why that got 8 snaps, and the “13” package that dominated in Week 3 only had 1 snap is beyond all reasonable comprehension.

58 Offensive plays in the loss to the Redskins: Here is how we break it down:

1st Down plays (28 = 10 different packages – 3 runs/25 passes):

“11H” – 2 (2 passes for 0 yards, INT)
“12” – 2 (2 passes for 18 yards, FD)
“12w” – 3 (1 run for 15 yards, FD/ 2 passes for 0 yards)
“13” – 1 (1 pass for 5 yards)
“20” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“21” – 4 (2 runs = 4 yards, 2 passes = 29 yards, including 21 yard TD pass to Witten)

Shotgun looks
“S01” -1 (1 pass to Austin for 13 yards, FD)
“S11” – 10 (10 passes for 87 yards, 3 FD, and TD to Austin)
“S12” – 3 (3 passes for 10 yards, including 10 yard TD pass to Owens)
“S21” – 1 (1 pass for 9 yards)

2nd Downs (18 plays – 4 looks):

“21” – 5 (4 runs for 8 yards/ 1 pass for 12 yards, FD)
“12w” – 5 (2 runs for 4 yards, FD/3 passes for 1 yard)
“S11” – 7 (7 passes for 44 yards, 2 FD )
“S21” – 1 (1 pass = 11 yards, FD)

12 3rd downs for the Cowboys – 3 looks (6-12, 50%)

“11” – 1 (1 run – Owens for 5 yards, FD) 1-1, 100%
“S11”- 10 (1 run for 7 yards, FD, 9 passes = 54 yards, 4 FD) 5-10, 50%
“S21” – 1 (1 passes = 0 yards) 0-1, 0%

Regardless of Down and Distance, here are the yardage results for each personnel package:

11 runs - 47 passes

UNDER CENTER 22 times (10 runs/12 passes)

“11” – 1 (1 run for 5 yards)
“12” – 2 (2 passes for 18 yards, FD)
“12w” – 8 (3 run for 19 yards, 2 FD/ 5 passes for 1 yards)
“13” – 1 (1 pass for 5 yards)
“20” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“21” – 9 (6 runs = 12 yards, 3 passes = 41 yards, FD, including 21 yard TD pass to Witten)

SHOTGUN 36 times (1 run/35 passes)
“S01” -1 (1 pass to Austin for 13 yards, FD)
“S11” – 27 (1 run for 7 yards, FD, 26 passes for 185 yards, 9 FD, and TD to Austin)
“S12” – 3 (3 passes for 10 yards, including 10 yard TD pass to Owens)
“S21” – 3 (3 passes for 20 yards, FD)


Personnel Packages Defined

“11” = 1 running back and 1 TE
“12” = 1 running back and 2 TE
“12w” = same as 12, just with both TE’s in the backfield in front of Barber
“13” = 1 running back and 3 TE
“21” = 2 running backs and 1 TE
“22” = 2 RB and 2 TE
“23” = 2 RB and 3 TE
“11H” = 1 RB and 1 TE, but Witten is playing the “H” of “F” back – which means he is lined up where a FB might normally be deployed.
“12H” = 1 RB and 2 TE, with Witten playing “H”.
“S11” = Romo in Shotgun, 1 RB, 1 TE
“S11H” = Shotgun, 1 RB, 1 TE, Witten playing “H”.
“S12” = Shotgun, 1 RB, 2 TE
“S21” = Shotgun, 2RB, 1TE
“31” = 3 RB’s and 1 TE. Jones, Barber, and Anderson.
“S01” = Shotgun, 0 RB, 1 TE, 4 WR –

Big Drama - Just Ask Sportscenter

Owens, Garrett, Romo…See how much fun it is when you lose around here? Lose a 2 point game to a division rival and the sky is falling…Life with the 2008 Dallas Cowboys…

Anyway, all of this talk about distribution, audibles, and play calling suggest a few things to look at. First, I don’t buy all of this business about audibles. It tells your fans that Romo wanted to pass while you wanted to run and why that may have happened some, let’s not get carried away. They broke the huddle 36 of 58 times in a shotgun formation – so if he audibled out of a run, it is merely a delay draw or something like that out of the shotgun. You (Jason Garrett/Wade Phillips) decide the personnel packages – not Tony Romo, and when you take out your base personnel and insert another WR and go Shotgun, you are taking all of the priority off of the power running game and showing Washington that you want to sling it around. Sometimes it works, but Sunday it didn’t – so let’s not be disingenuous about where the blame should lie. This is Jason Garrett’s rodeo. Jason rammed the ball down the Packers throat, and decided that was not the way to get to the Redskins. I suggest he was wrong, and I firmly believe that they all know it.

As for Owens, I would not worry too much about his act, and I also believe the Cowboys braintrust knows that, too.

Here is a look at the Run% of the Cowboys through week 4:

Week 1: 31 runs in 63 plays (49%)
Week 2: 24 runs in 54 plays (44%)
Week 3: 35 runs in 69 plays (51%)
Week 4: 11 runs in 58 plays (19%)

And now a look at the Shotgun formation % through the same 4 weeks:

Week 1: 15 plays in shotgun in 63 plays (24%)
Week 2: 17 shotgun in 54 plays (31%)
Week 3: 22 shotgun in 69 plays (32%)
Week 4: 36 shotgun in 58 plays (62%)

Looking at these numbers suggest that the Cowboys might have lost sight of what made them so successful through 3 weeks. They fell in love with the pass and the shotgun. I would think they will get back to what has worked in week 5.

Owens wants to be loved …ignore him..

Terrell Owens' frustration with the Dallas Cowboys offense carried over from the field to the locker room Sunday.

Owens, despite having 18 passes thrown his way in the loss to Washington, had what was deemed a serious conversation about the offense with quarterback Tony Romo after the game, according to multiple sources.

The types of routes and throws are what concerns Owens, the sources said. The receiver, who the sources said was venting to Romo about his frustrations, has not liked how some of the throws were coming from the quarterback as far back as the season opener.

But Owens said Sunday he is still confident in Romo.

In the loss to the Redskins, Owens finished with seven catches for 71 yards and one touchdown.

"There were some opportunities there, and there were some opportunities there where they were holding and the refs just didn't call it," Owens said after the game. "You can't blame the refs; we just didn't make the plays."

Owens didn't talk to reporters Monday when he slipped into the locker room near lunch time.

Owens is tied for 26th in the NFL this season with 17 receptions, and he's 15th with 264 receiving yards.

He wants better numbers and is frustrated with his lack of touches, especially in the deep passing game, he has said. Defenses are covering Owens with a cornerback underneath and with a safety 15 to 20 yards away from the line of scrimmage to prevent the Cowboys from throwing deep to him.

Owens likes to go deep. Three of his first eight receptions of the season were for 20 or more yards. But he hasn't caught a pass for more than 20 yards the last two games.

"Man, like I said, the dude's a competitor," receiver Patrick Crayton said of Owens. "Any competitor in this league, a receiver, running back, quarterback – whatever the situation is – if you don't want the ball, what are you playing that position for?"

The Cowboys audible explanation …very simplistic view…

When quarterback Tony Romo comes to the line of scrimmage, he can call for a running play or a pass. The defensive formation dictates what he ultimately decides.

Coach Wade Phillips said Romo called too many passes in Sunday's 26-24 loss. Marion Barber had only eight rushing attempts. Felix Jones didn't have any.

That after the Cowboys averaged 30 rushing attempts in the first three games.

"We didn't run the ball enough," Phillips said. "That's my fault."

The Redskins continually had a safety close to the line of scrimmage. Running backs coach Skip Peete said the Redskins had not done that as much in the first three games as they did against the Cowboys.

At that point, it becomes a numbers game. Seven offensive players can't block eight defenders.

"If they send the safety down in the box, you have to assign somebody [to block] for that eighth guy," Peete said. "You check it with the pass."

Guard Leonard Davis said: "Then when we've got the numbers, we feel like our running game is better than their front seven."

Romo's third-quarter interception came when the Redskins moved safety Chris Horton close to the front seven. Romo checked to a pass from a running play. Miles Austin was 15 yards away from the closest defender, but Horton raced to the sideline and made the interception.

Phillips wouldn't say whether he instructed offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and Romo to run the ball no matter how the Redskins lined up.

"Bottom line, we didn't run the ball enough," Phillips said. "That's what happened."

Michael Lombardi is quite a worthy read…

Josh Howard proves he has the sense at least to speak about his issues at media day …I suppose I would prove to be a media jerk if I ask why he had to wait until media day to get around to this, so I should just take what we got and celebrate his contrition even if it was team ordered…

For five seasons, Dallas Mavericks small forward Josh Howard, defined by his gangly frame and lighthearted smile, his headband and explosive bursts to the basket, soaked in the love of an adoring fan base.

It took just five months of self-destructive behavior, culminating with disrespecting the national anthem, for Howard to stretch his fans’ loyalty to the breaking point.

During Monday’s media day at American Airlines Center, Howard took the first positive step toward repairing his tattered image, offering an apology that seemed to come from the gut rather than cue cards.

"I’d like to state that I truly and really am sorry for everything that’s happened in the past five months with me," Howard said to open his 10-minute news conference. "This is not the way I carry myself. This is not how I want to be portrayed, and I really and truly am sorry to everybody that I offended. I’m upset with myself and the way I’ve acted the past five months. I truly and really am sorry."

Howard’s missteps started during last season’s playoffs when he admitted to smoking marijuana, followed by his late-night birthday party after a playoff game. An arrest for driving 94 mph on a North Carolina highway preceded the YouTube video of Howard rejecting the "Star-Spangled Banner" as it played before a charity flag football game.

The 8-second clip set off a firestorm of anger and disgust. Howard, 28, said he was regrettably goofing off and that his words that day do not represent his true feelings.

"I went to military school, I have friends that served in the military, I know how it is to wake up and salute the flag," Howard said. "And the national anthem every game, I have my hand over my heart. It’s nothing new to me. It was just me not thinking."

New Mavs coach Rick Carlisle visited Howard and his family in his hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C., last month, and he again praised Howard’s work ethic this summer during extensive workouts at the AAC.

Carlisle said he’s excited to coach a refocused Howard, who had career-high averages in points (19.9) and rebounds (7.0) last season despite a late slump on and off the court. Carlisle said he doesn’t anticipate handling any more uncomfortable situations with Howard.

"I don’t handle players. If you worked in a zoo you could say you handled the giraffes and the lions, and you handle horses. But you work with I know that he’s ... men.

Love CC Sabathia

A 122-pitch, four-hit complete game on short rest to seal the Brewers' playoff spot on the final day of the regular season? Whoa. Get Steven Spielberg on the phone. Here are a few nuggets about CC and the Brewers to chomp on:

• He's only the sixth pitcher in the past 10 seasons to make at least three starts in a row on short rest. The others, according to Elias: Esteban Loaiza in 2003, Danny Graves in 2003, Bobby Jones in 1999, Pedro Astacio in 1999 and Darryl Kile in 1999.

• And CC isn't done. Asked Sunday if he could come back for a FOURTH straight start on three days' rest on Thursday, in Game 2 of the NLDS in Philadelphia, he replied: "No doubt." So in case you're wondering -- and who wouldn't be? -- the last pitcher to make four starts in a row on short rest was Graves, for Jack McKeon's 2003 Reds.

• That lack of rest is really bothering this man, too, isn't it? Sabathia's ERA over those three starts is 0.83. "What he's done is, he's gone to his changeup more [in these starts]," said one scout. "And he's been really effective with it from both sides of the plate."

• Since Aug. 31, the Brewers are 5-2 when Sabathia starts -- and 6-14 when anybody else starts.

Another week, another Aggie Game not on TV

The Big 12 crashed the national polls on Sunday with more teams ranked in the top 10 than any other conference.

And even with conference play beginning, those rankings should hold if the ranked teams all can win on Saturday. The first week of Big 12 play features no games between two ranked foes.

But it should provide a couch potato's dream with five game available from late morning until nearly midnight.

Here's a viewer's guide to help guide you through your afternoon. Plan your Saturdays and set your Tivos accordingly.

Like always, a ranking of four stars indicates must-see television, and maybe even a game tape to be savored by more devoted viewers. Three-star games are worth the investment in time. Two-star games bear a quick glimpse or two for occasional score updates. And one-star games are indications that your time might be better spent with your family away from the television.

All kickoff times are for those viewers in the Eastern time zone.

Four-star game

Texas Tech at Kansas State, 3:30 p.m., ABC-TV: Will the Wildcats' leaky defense show much improvement after two recent struggling performances? Mike Leach and the Red Raiders are licking their chops thinking about their opportunities.

Three-star game

Texas at Colorado, 7 pm. Fox Sports Net: Buffaloes hook up with Longhorns for the first time since their historic 70-3 blowout victory in the 2005 Big 12 championship game. Throw in the bad feelings from Darrell Scott recruiting battle between the two schools and you could have a grudge battle.

Missouri at Nebraska, 9 p.m., ESPN: Wounded Cornhuskers still have history on their side. Missouri last won in Lincoln in 1978 and it will facing a difficult task Saturday night. But I bet that Bo Pelini will remain rather silent along the bench after last week.

Two-star games

Oklahoma at Baylor, 12:30 p.m., Fox Sports Net: No. 1 Sooners should have a chance to build confidence in their running game with Red River rivalry looming. But their defense will be challenged by talented Baylor freshman QB Robert Griffin, who will be facing his biggest college test so far. The Sooners have never lost to Baylor in the 16-game series.

Kansas at Iowa State, 12:30 p.m., Versus: Jayhawks hope to start their North Division title hopes by claiming their first road game of the season. Something will have to give in the pillow fight between Kansas' impotent rushing game (94th in the nation) against Iowa State's struggling rush defense (95th nationally).

Texas A&M at Oklahoma State, 7:05 p.m.: The Aggies have dominated this series in recent years, claiming 10 of the last 12 games including a pair of one-point victories in the last two seasons. But that was then and this is now. This one could get ugly as the Cowboys' No.1 ranked rushing game will face an A&M defense that ranks 115th nationally against the run and 76th overall in total defense.

Good Email:

Hey Bob,

Long-time listener, first time e-mailer, big fan of the show. While watching the game on Sunday, amongst some fantastic chicken wings and plenty of beer, I started to notice an ugly trend developing. Throwing the ball towards the sidelines was simply not working. Now I'm not sure whether it was bad timing, the Redskins defensive scheme, or a combination of both, but the passes thrown to the outside of the field got the Cowboys in some major trouble. It wasn't until I watched the game again tonight (thank God for DVR, didn't even notice T-New getting shredded), that I confirmed my suspicion. Take a look at the oh-so unofficial stats:

1st Half :

Outside 7-14, 52 yds, 1 near interception
Inside 8-9, 90 yds, 1 TD, (1 potential huge gain and/or TD lost due to Crayton's bobble)

2nd Half :
Outside 3-9, 20 yds, 1 INT
Inside 10-15, 138 yds, 2 TD's

Outside 10-23, 72 yds, 1 INT, 1 near INT
Inside 18-24, 228 yds, 3 TD's, (1 potential huge gain and/or TD lost due to Crayton's bobble)

It all points to the fact that Owens and Witten do the majority of their damage in the middle of the field. When a team like Washington stacks the box and plays man-to-man, they want you to throw towards the sideline because it give them another "defender." When the Cowboys' receivers got open in the middle of the field, their YAC went way up. Anyways, I didn't hear anybody mention this today so I thought I would just throw it out there. Have a good one man.

- White Mike

Redskins Song

Jedi Gym

Monday, September 29, 2008

Week 4: Redskins 26, Cowboys 24

I am as guilty as anyone. And really, I should have no excuse. I spend hours talking about this rivalry and the thing that makes this a real classic rivalry is that no matter what – you must throw the records and the point spreads out the window when these two teams meet. 1989. 1991. 1995. When one team appears much better than the other, the other wins. Of course, we don’t know if Washington is inferior, but Vegas suggested an 11 point gap in the Cowboys favor between them yesterday.

Regardless, I spent hours all week and then 3 more hours on game-day documenting this crazy rivalry, but at the same time not really thinking the Redskins had the ammunition to slow down the Cowboys “unstoppable” offense and doubting Jason Campbell and his grasp of the Jim Zorn offense. I guess I was quite wrong.

The Redskins put a very fine clinic on the field on Sunday, and not only beat the Cowboys in front of 65,000 Cowboys faithful, but ground them into submission on both sides of the ball. Surely, this is not something that will derail the 2008 Cowboys march to Tampa, but it does provide distinct evidence that regardless of how easily previous opponents have been dismantled, the Cowboys must put the work and execution in each and every week to get its desired results.

The Redskins have put together 3 weeks of solid football that has answered some questions about their team. Their QB play has been plenty good, they have been able to run the ball, and cover receivers relatively well after containing Boldin/Fitzgerald one week and Owens/Witten the next. They still have no pass rush to speak of, but they did put just enough pressure on Tony Romo to make him uncomfortable. But, the biggest issue yesterday was simple: Their defensive backs were never out of position and they never lost their shape. They kept 81/82/84 and friends under wraps. 10 months after Owens had 4 TD’s against this Redskins team, they appear to have a far better grasp of how to defend him.

More notes and items from the first loss of 2008:

• Jason Campbell looks really composed in the pocket. I like how he was able to keep some plays alive with his feet and make good decisions with his arm. I wasn’t sure he made sense for the “West Coast Offense”, but having seen his every snap this year – I may also put it on the list of things I was wrong about. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think he is ready to be called a franchise QB, but for what they are asking him to do, I think he is doing very well. He has a talented offense with above average players at RB, TE, and reasonable WRs, so he is just letting those guys get in good matchups and then putting the ball where it needs to go.

• Meanwhile, Tony Romo did not look very Romo-like in my estimation. But, in this sports-talk-radio age we live in where we must now deduce that he had his mind on Jessica, Golf, or a commercial, I want to say that I think Romo is only guilty of not having the normal wide-open receivers all over the field. The Redskins had some various dangerous schemes on their defense that put a ton of pressure on their defensive backs to cover tightly. If you give Romo any space, he will kill you, but to the great credit of the Skins, Witten and Owens almost never ran free. When they did, Romo found them, but they just weren’t able to solve a scheme from Washington that somehow found the magic key of stopping the run (like Philly) AND stopping Owens (like Green Bay). But, unlike the Eagles and Packers, they did not sacrifice huge gains in the other departments to fulfill their mission. In a word, they were able to contain Barber, Owens, and Witten. That was previously thought to be impossible. I am not trying to take Romo’s play off the hook, but I think this is where Jason Garrett has got to show far more determination to run a more simple, bruising offense. Barber, Barber, Barber. The “13” formation was not present at all, and I don’t get why. After running “13” 12 times last week at Green Bay for nearly 10yards a carry (Barber with 3 TE’s) the Cowboys ran it once on Sunday. Once!

• I think part of the Washington success on defense was based on the ability to keep the defense off the field quite a bit. The Cowboys had the ball for less than 22 minutes. This allows Washington to play an aggressive style of defense despite the weather. If the Cowboys had the ball for 32 minutes, then even more of the Skins talented backs are over on the sideline with dehydration and exhaustion. And of course, this speaks to the ability for the Redskins to not only score, but also to eat up plenty of clock during those drives. Washington had 6 drives of 7 plays or more, the Cowboys just had 3.

• The chess match was alive and well yesterday and both teams did well to win their share of battles. On both the Witten and Owens TD passes, the Cowboys used pre-snap motion to move a defender away from their intended targets. Felix Jones took London Fletcher and Chris Horton out to the sideline as he went in motion, leaving Witten 1-on-1 with Marcus Washington which was amazingly simple for a score. On the Owens TD, motion again (To Barber) took out London Fletcher, and Owens ran right to that space to get open. Meanwhile, Romo saw Miles Austin lined up against Leigh Torrence late in the 3rd Quarter, where Torrence was giving at least a 15 yard cushion on 1st and 10. This is not a terribly uncommon possibility after Austin showed his world class speed the week before in Green Bay. Romo saw the bait, and took the bait thinking he had a pitch and catch first down, but what he didn’t see is Horton who started on the hash mark sprint straight to the spot Austin was going to, and he had a free interception. Romo likely did not see that one time on film, and although at the stadium it looked like an absolutely horrible decision from Romo, I think closer to the truth is to tip your hat to the Redskins for a great scheme. And while I am going on and on about the brilliance of coaching schemes, let’s not forget the James Thrash TD, where he had Newman so frustrated with his back and forth motion that clearly had Newman panicking as he knew the Cowboys were about to get toasted at the snap of the ball.

• It is quite possible you lose the game with or without the 12-men on the field penalty, BUT. What in the wide, wide world of sports is going on around here when you have an entire timeout to get your act together on a 3rd and 2, and you allow your team to have 12 men on the field at the same time? Apparently it was a mix up with Pac Man and Patrick Watkins mis-identifying the personnel of the Redskins. I enjoy Wade’s answers where he takes the blame for everything, but good gosh. Brian Stewart, what exactly is going on down there that you don’t notice that? The Cowboys had 2 timeouts left at the time, and I might have liked to use one there. Instead, nearly 4 more minutes went off the clock before the eventual Field Goal, and instead of down 9 with 7 minutes to go, the Cowboys were down 9 with 3:16 left. Game Over.

• Santana Moss vs Terrence Newman. Winner: Moss. And not by a little bit. Elite corners get beat. But Newman’s day is one that was horrible from top to bottom. If you remember Harold Jackson lighting up Charlie Waters , you can compare that day and decide for yourself. Yikes. Moss was all over the field. Again.

• When Kenny Loggins was over-singing the Anthem, I heard someone suggest that he had the right to do that as he has such a body of work that he can do no wrong. C’mon. Is Loggins really Springsteen now? He is Kenny Loggins. Danger Zone and Footloose do not quite give you legendary status like Sinatra, right?

• Big winner yesterday? Casey Rabach. His two penalties that took away two Redskins touchdowns on that 3rd Quarter drive were no doubt weighing heavily on his mind. But, when you win, we forget about those penalties. And when you lose, you wonder how you get 12 men on the field flags.

• Remember Felix Jones? I wonder if the Cowboys do? And Barber? 11 touches should bring his season average down to a reasonable level. You know, I said this before: The Cowboys 2 biggest enemies as it pertains to their offense are the following: 1) Tony Romo’s wandering attention span and 2) Jason Garrett trying to get too cute. If they simply do what they do, they are fine. But I think yesterday Garrett got too cute with the inverted wishbone and no touches for Felix Jones.

Props to Tim McMahon for the research about the last 5 teams to keep the ball away from the Cowboys: I thought this stat was pretty telling: the Redskins held the ball for 38 minutes, 9 seconds. It was the fifth time since 2006 a Cowboys' opponent has held the ball for more than 37 minutes. Not surprisingly the Cowboys have lost all five. Oct. 14, 2007 vs. New England, 38:15 – L; Sept. 28, 2008 - vs. Washington, 38:09 – L; Dec. 10, 2006 - vs. New Orleans - 37:11 – L; Dec. 30, 2007 - at Washington, 37:08 – L; Dec. 25, 2006 - vs. Philadelphia - 37:06 – L.

• How do they miss Pac Man’s facemask against? Horrible call. Horrible!

• 1 loss. No big deal in the big scheme of things. It is a fair point to question how well the Cowboys deal with success. When they get people telling them how great they are, they always seem to come out flat. It isn’t easy hearing that you are going to the Super Bowl in September. But, “get better” week against the Bengals is here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Redskins Week

Thanks for the picture to this link ...

Redskins Thoughts for this Sunday:

I think it is a good, but not great matchup for the Cowboys. The Redskins are using their weapons with a lot more efficiency with Jim Zorn the last few weeks, as it appears they have some clue what to do with Santana Moss (this always seemed an issue with Joe Gibbs aside from “Go Deep”). Now, with Cooley, Portis, Moss, El, And using Devin Thomas plenty more each week (Like Felix Jones), the Redskins have plenty of weapons to keep a drive alive and not ask Jason Campbell to make tough throws. Hit the weapons in the flats and let them get yards after the catch.
On Defense, they still lack a real pass rush that provides pressure consistenly, but I have really liked what I see from Carlos Rogers who is now locking down players like Larry Fitzgerald with some fine effectiveness. Fitz had a huge TD last week, but that was on a zone play where Rogers let him go. Otherwise, Rogers is looking to jump routes and cause problems.

The Cowboys should win, but the Redskins are gaining some confidence. And, they recently can say they play the Cowboys pretty well, so I have this game closer than Vegas does.

Dallas 28, Washington 21

3rd Down Conversion Stats:

The Cowboys are #1 in the NFL in 3rd Down Conversions:

Here are the top 10 (Converted - Attempts - Percentage)

1 Dallas Cowboys 21 35 60
2 San Diego Chargers 19 35 54
3 Denver Broncos 15 30 50
4 Philadelphia Eagles 19 40 48
5 Indianapolis Colts 16 35 46
5 New York Giants 16 35 46
7 Chicago Bears 20 46 44
8 New Orleans Saints 16 37 43
9 Baltimore Ravens 12 28 43
10 Arizona Cardinals 17 40 42
10 Green Bay Packers 17 40 42

And the Bottom 10

23 Minnesota Vikings 13 41 32
24 Pittsburgh Steelers 11 35 31
24 Washington Redskins 11 35 31
26 Tennessee Titans 12 39 31
27 Miami Dolphins 10 34 29
28 Detroit Lions 9 34 26
29 Oakland Raiders 10 38 26
30 Carolina Panthers 10 39 26
31 Houston Texans 6 25 24
32 St. Louis Rams 8 36 22

So, I wanted to break down the Down and Distance to show why the Cowboys are so good at this most important of stats:

3rd and Short (3rd and less than 4) = 6-8, 75%
On 4 of the 8 times, it was 2 TE sets, the other 4 was shotgun.
4 run, 4 pass. Run converted 3 of 4, Pass converted 3 of 4.
Romo: 3-4, 40 yards, TD 145.8 QB rating

3rd and Long (3rd and 4 – 10 yards) = 14-20, 70%
3 times Romo was under center, 17 times in Shotgun (S11 & S12)
2 run, 18 pass. Run converted 2 of 2, Pass was 12-18.
Romo: 13-16, 207 yards, TD, Sack 139.5 QB rating
8 Targets to Witten, 5 to Owens, 2 Crayton, 1 Barber

3rd and Really Long (3rd and More than 10) = 1-7, 14%
All 7 times were shotgun formations.
All 7 pass. One completion was Miles Austin TD in Green Bay on 3rd and 20
Romo’s line: 1-7, 52 yards, TD, INT, 58.3 QB Rating
Crayton, Bennett, Barber, Witten, Austin all target once, 2 throws Out of Bounds.

Kige: Meet Vince

Oh Dear

HSN Host Has Mental Breakdown On Air - Watch more free videos

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Decoding The Offense - Week 3

Here we go with looking at the play calling in Week 3, the domination at Green Bay- For help on the formations, scroll to the bottom:

New Packages for week 3!

“20” = now with Felix getting more work, the Cowboys actually have a package that includes 0 Tight Ends. Which is odd, because they most likely enjoy 3 Tight End packages more than any team in the sport. Bottom line, Jason Garrett is a kid in a candy store right now trying all sorts of looks, and making the opponents’ heads spin. Anyway, they used it twice for 2 runs and 14 yards. It is odd to see no “82” on the field, but they may be trying to use him more sparingly with the shoulder.

“S21” = this also is a by-product of more Felix. This was only used once, but the longer the season rolls, the more they will be figuring out creative ways to use MB3 and El Gato on the field simultaneously.

No Deon Anderson this week, so no "23" or "31" packages. They will be back when he is...

One other quick thought is that it appears the last few weeks that they have fallen in love with "13" quite a bit on the early downs - they can do so many things with it, as Owens is out wide, Witten to one side by himself, and Bennett and Curtis on the other. I think this is a real favorite as they can run or pass, but the opposition has to put in a power defense or they will get gashed by Barber all night. "13", of course, was the formation when Felix sprung his huge run in the 2nd Quarter.

Garrett will have to make sure he just doesn't get too cute, because he has many toys in his toybox these days...

69 offensive plays against those Packers – here is the breakdown:

1st Down plays (31 = 10 different packages):

“11” – 1 (1 pass for -5 yards (sack))
“12” – 4 (1 run = 3 yards/ 3 passes for 11 yards – including the Crayton to Owens pass)
“13” – 8 (5 runs = 74 yards (Jones 60 yd TD)/3 passes = 42 yards, FD)
“20” – 2 (2 runs = 14 yards)
“21” – 9 (6 runs = 29 yards, 2 FD/ 3 passes = 66 yards FD)
“22” – 3 (3 runs = 5 yards and Fumble)
“S11” – 3 (2 runs = 4 yards/1 pass =0 yards)
“Knee” – 1

2nd Downs (23 plays – 8 looks):

“12” – 2 (1 run = 5 yards/1 pass = 0)
“13” – 4 (4 runs for 13 yards, FD)
“20” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards, Grounding)
“21” – 5 (3 run = 21 yards, 2FD, TD, 2 pass = 29 yards, FD)
“22” – 4 (4 runs = 22 yards, 2 FD)
“S11” – 3 (2 runs = 28 yards, FD/ 1 pass = 0 yards, Grounding)
“S11H” – 1 (1 pass = sack -16 yards)
“S12” – 3 (3 pass = 12 yards, FD)

14 3rd downs for the Cowboys – 5 looks (7-14, 50%)

“22” – 3 (2 runs, 5 yards, 2 FD/ 1 pass = 0 yards) 2-3, 67%
“S11”- 5 (5 passes = 73 yards, 2FD, 52 yard TD to Austin) 3-5, 60%
“S11H” – 2 (2 passes = 22 yards, FD) 1-2, 50%
“S12” - 3 (3 passes = 7 yards, FD) 1-3, 33%
“S21” – 1 (1 passes = 0 yards) 0-1, 0%

1 4th Down (0-1)

“S11” – 1 (1 pass = 7 yards) 0-1, 0%

Regardless of Down and Distance, here are the yardage results for each personnel package:

34 runs - 35 passes

“11” – 1 (1 pass for -5 yards)
“12” – 6 (2 run = 8 yards, 4 passes for 11 yards, 2 FD)
“13” – 12 (9 runs = 87 yards, FD, TD/ 3 passes = 42 yards, FD)
“20” – 2 (2 runs = 14 yards)
“21” – 14 (9 runs = 50 yards, 4 FD, TD to Barber, 5 passes = 95 yards, 2 FD)
“22” – 10 (9 runs = 32 yards, 3 FD/ 1 pass = 0)
“S11” – 12 (4 run = 32 yards, FD, 8 pass = 80 yards, 2 FD, TD to Austin)
“S11H” – 3 (3 pass = 6 yards, FD
“S12” – 6 (6 passes = 19 yards, 2 FD)
“S21” – 1 (1 pass)
Knee - 1

Personnel Packages Defined

“11” = 1 running back and 1 TE
“12” = 1 running back and 2 TE
“13” = 1 running back and 3 TE
“21” = 2 running backs and 1 TE
“22” = 2 RB and 2 TE
“23” = 2 RB and 3 TE
“11H” = 1 RB and 1 TE, but Witten is playing the “H” of “F” back – which means he is lined up where a FB might normally be deployed.
“12H” = 1 RB and 2 TE, with Witten playing “H”.
“S11” = Romo in Shotgun, 1 RB, 1 TE
“S11H” = Shotgun, 1 RB, 1 TE, Witten playing “H”.
“S12” = Shotgun, 1 RB, 2 TE
“S21” = Shotgun, 2RB, 1TE
“31” = 3 RB’s and 1 TE. Jones, Barber, and Anderson.
“S01” = Shotgun, 0 RB, 1 TE, 4 WR –

Hockey Season

Since we will be out at Stars Training Camp today for the show, I thought that leading with hockey was appropriate.

Brad Richards and Jere Lehtinen are both booked for the 1:00 hour today...

The Stars are pretty darn solid this year entering camp, and they are worrying about issues like who is the last guy to make the team?

B.J. Crombeen has taken advantage of his opportunities during the Dallas Stars' training camp.

That puts James Neal on the bubble.

Crombeen, 23, and Neal, 21, are among the forwards trying to snag what appears to be one last spot on the Stars' opening day roster. And while Ray Sawada, 23, Chris Conner, 25, and Landon Wilson, 33, have similar designs on the job, Crombeen and Neal are clearly taking the lead.

Neal started the race with a strong performance in an eight-team prospects tournament in Michigan a week ago. Neal had four goals and five assists in four games, and led the Stars to the championship.

Crombeen answered with impressive play and a couple of goals in two weekend scrimmages, and he added to that Wednesday with a dominant performance in a 60-minute scrimmage that was probably the most intense of camp.

Crombeen scored three goals and was on the ice for all five of his team's scores. He and center Steve Ott combined on a line that was difficult to miss.

"We may have found something there," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "[Crombeen] had some pretty goals."

Crombeen also played Tuesday night against the Blues in the preseason opener, and while he didn't have a shot on goal in 8 minutes, 27 seconds of ice time, he had a nice, physical game.

"If I'm going to score goals, they're not going to be pretty ones. I think they're going to be bang-around-the-net, tap-in goals," Crombeen said. "My role will be more of a grinder."

The son of former NHL player Mike Crombeen, B.J. grew up in Ontario and played four solid seasons for Barrie, scoring 86 goals among 170 points – and earning 516 penalty minutes – in 248 games.

After a season with Iowa, the Stars shipped Crombeen to Finland for a season to work on his skills. He came back last season and had 14 goals and 14 assists in 65 games for Iowa, and played eight games with the Stars.

"He's a very focused guy right now," Tippett said. "He recognizes an opportunity and he's not going to let that opportunity slip by. Those things don't go unnoticed."
Crombeen is not scheduled to play in tonight's preseason game against the Colorado Avalanche, giving Neal a chance to catch up. Neal hasn't been as noticeable in scrimmages so far, but he has six preseason games to make his mark.

"We chirp back and forth all of the time, but you're always trying to push each other," Neal said. "It's an important time, and I think we're both trying to leave it all out there."

Cowlishaw looks ahead on Rangers baseball

The Rangers played their final home game Wednesday afternoon. In true Rangers fashion, they provided the ultimate tease in a 14-4 victory over Oakland.
Matt Harrison became the club's first-ever nine-game winner among rookie left-handers, making fans forget Jim Umbarger (they already have) and Mitch Williams (in Philadelphia, they never will).

In the process, Harrison makes you think ... "what if?"

Blalock hit a home run for the fourth straight game. He's been on fire since coming off the disabled list. This is back-to-back years he won't get near 300 at-bats, so these late-September bombs make you think ... "what if?"

Nelson Cruz hit another home run and is second only to Blalock with his 20 September
runs batted in after his call up from Oklahoma where he was Pacific Coast League MVP with out-of-sight numbers (37 homers, 99 RBIs, .342 average). Cruz is 28, but a 43-homer season under any circumstances makes you think ... "what if?"

The Rangers now lead Oakland by 11/2 games in that battle for second in the A.L. West which may not sound like much, but Michael Young has been here eight years and never finished second.

Call it the Rangers' version of progress.

But Rangers fans know it's not the real thing. This team lost 41 of 81 home games in 2008, but maybe more importantly, it lost 400,000 fans. The Rangers failed to draw two million.

This was their lowest attendance in 20 years. Blame it on the price of gas, economic woes, only one visit each from the Yankees and Red Sox, if you like.

The truth is that a lot of former Rangers fans finally had enough.

What can bring them back? What would constitute real progress in 2009, not just beating out Oakland's Triple-A roster for second place?

"I think what [fans] saw today is that it's about to happen," Washington said. "We've just got to clean up some deficiencies."

Oh, really?

We're not talking about a little cleanup on aisle seven here.

Stop me if you've heard this one before, but the Rangers lead the A.L. in runs scored by a mile. A good weekend in Anaheim and they might reach 900 runs.

They also have the worst ERA by a mile. And they have allowed by far the most unearned runs because they are the league's worst fielding team.

How do you go from worst pitching and worst defense to contender in one winter?
The answer is you don't.

How about this disturbing paragraph?

Washington said he expected to talk with Daniels on the final road trip, which begins today. The manager has not invited any of his coaches back and said he has yet to be given authority to make decisions on coaches.

Ryan and Daniels are expected to meet with owner Tom Hicks shortly – perhaps before the end of the season Sunday – to discuss and evaluate the year. Hicks declined to comment on personnel matters Wednesday.

Asked why he couldn't make an unequivocal commitment to either Daniels or Washington, Ryan cited still-unfinished business.

"It's premature to say that," Ryan said. "The season isn't over. We haven't sat down with Mr. Hicks. Just because people want to hear me say something, it isn't fair to say absolutely until you finish the process. In my mind, I don't anticipate a

Washington, after 2 years, has still not been allowed to make decisions regarding
his own coaching staff?

Double Owens at your own risk

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has grown accustomed to seeing Pro Bowl receiver Terrell Owens draw two defenders, but Sunday night he had never seen anything like Green Bay’s sellout coverage. Owens had two shadows on every play — run or pass.

“No one has done that to this extent,” Romo said. “A guy would run with T.O. the whole time. A lot of times, they’ll double him at the line and let him go to the
safety. This team would not let him go.”

Even on a trick play with receiver Patrick Crayton launching a pass to the end zone,
Owens was draped by a pair of defenders. So the plan worked — Owens caught two passes for 17 yards.

The plan also blew up.

The Cowboys ran for 217 yards, and receiver Miles Austin caught two passes for 115 yards with a touchdown.

Owens is 27th in the NFL in receptions with 10, and the Cowboys still have the No. 1 offense in the league.

“It’s no different than when I was in San Francisco and Jerry [Rice] played,” Owens said. “I’m familiar with the territory and the role I possess.”

Call it the T.O. Effect, and a lot of people benefit. Here’s how:

1 Space for the tight ends

When asked to name the player who benefits the most from his play, Owens said, “Pretty much the tight end. The numbers speak for themselves.”
Hard to argue. With a safety chasing Owens, it often clears up space underneath for a tight end, in this case Jason Witten. Over a six-quarter stretch when Owens had two catches, Witten had 11 receptions for 118 yards. Witten leads the team with 20 receptions for 273 yards.

2 Single coverage outside

Not only will Owens normally take a pair of defenders with him, he’s usually drawing the opponent’s best defensive back. That means a wide receiver — last season it was Patrick Crayton with 50 receptions — can line up one-on-one against an inferior defensive back. Or it can allow Miles Austin to run deep, as he did with receptions of 52 and 63 yards against Green Bay.

3 More running room

On plays Owens is taking a safety with him, that’s one fewer defender that can come up and try to stop Marion Barber or Felix Jones. The offensive line had more to do with the Cowboys’ 217 rushing yards against the Packers than Owens, but he had an effect.

“They were double-covering Terrell the whole time,” coach Wade Phillips said, “and
that leaves someone out of the run game, and we tried to take advantage of that.”

4 T.O. will get open anyway

Even against two defenders, T.O. can get his catches. Against the Washington Redskins last season in Week 11 at Texas Stadium, he finished with eight receptions for 173 yards and four touchdowns.

It wasn’t all against single coverage. “It’s not like it’s rocket science. Sometimes he’ll beat the double coverage,” Romo said. “It’s about doing what’s right for the team and no one wants that more than 81.”

Amazing Link: A Picture Diary of Hurricane Ike

Reviewing the first episode(S) of Heroes …I am not sure this show is great or not anymore…

By the way, Survivor and the Office BACK TONIGHT!

Guillermo at the Emmys


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In Nolan You Trust?

A fairly short morning blog, as I anticipate a delayed EPL update to follow late this morning:

Nolan declares Washington/Daniels are back! …And at this point, I believe I will trust in Nolan, but as I indicated yesterday, I could have believed that a change is needed…So far, the Nolan Ryan Honeymoon is continuing...by this time next year?

Team president Nolan Ryan said Tuesday, five days short of the end of the season, that he expects manager Ron Washington to return to the Texas Rangers in 2009.
No formal announcement has been made, mostly because Ryan doesn’t believe it’s necessary. Washington rallied the Rangers from a 7-16 start in April and had the club six games over. 500 on Aug. 5 before a recent slide that will assure the Rangers of a losing record for the eighth time in the past nine seasons.

"I have no intentions of making a change at this point in time," Ryan said. "He’s under contract for next year. I think that speaks for itself."

Washington was hired Nov. 6, 2006, signing a two-year contract with a club option that was exercised in August 2007. The Rangers have gone 151-164 under Washington, who has the sixth-most victories all-time among Rangers managers.

But Ryan said Washington was responsible for a drastic turnaround that began in May and resulted in the Rangers getting as close as 4 1/2 games back in the American League wild-card standings.

Ryan said the Rangers are hardly perfect, but Washington knows of his club’s faults as well.

"I think the players like him," Ryan said. "I think he’s gotten them to respond to them. I think that’s important. I really believe his intent is trying to get them to improve and address our shortcomings."

General manager Jon Daniels will also be back, Ryan indicated, as the Rangers stick to the plan to develop their own players and build a winner from within. That plan was hatched in May 2007, nine months before Ryan was hired as club president.

With their 6-4 victory Tuesday over the Oakland A’s, the Rangers guaranteed that they will finish with a better record than in 2007. Each level of the Rangers’ organization showed improvement this year, including division titles at Triple A Oklahoma, Double A Frisco, Class A Clinton and Class A Spokane.

Ryan conceded that the big-league club made the fewest gains, but drastic improvement wasn’t expected to come overnight.

"It’s easy to see where we ended up and where we finished and say, 'We need " Ryan said. "We all agreed that we’re to go out and make all these changes,’ going to develop within our system. When you say 'develop,’ that’s not a quick fix.

"We still believe that that is the route that we’re going to take for this organization. I think we have shown that we are committed to that. I don’t think that when you didn’t see our record change from one year to the next you just dump the program that you’ve committed to."

That seems to include keeping the big-league manager and general manager.

"I’m just trying to make it through the rest of these games and see how many we can win," Washington said. "I do know we’re a better team than we were last season, and
that’s all I can go on."

Blue and Silver breaks down the defense

Dallas’ Rush vs. Green Bay

 3 men - 2 plays;
 4 men — 28 plays;
 5 men — 11 plays;
 6 men — 3 plays


– Ain’t Too Proud to Crib

The Eagles run a very effective overload blitz, where they flank two outside linebackers together outside their four man line, rush both linebackers off the edge and drop the weakside DE into coverage.

The Cowboys used variants of this overload from their 4-2-5 and their 3-4 base sets Sunday night. The first time Bradie James got a free run at Rodgers and forced a hot throw for a five yard gain. The second time the Cowboys got two men free and forced an incompletion.

– Don’t go Too Tall Jones on us, Jay, okay?

Jay Ratliff has a nasty punchout. At least once a day during training camp, the 290 lb. Ratliff would bow the 355 lb. Leonard Davis backwards with a two handed stunner to the chest. Ratliff used this devastating move on Packers RG Tony Moll in the 3rd. The Packer thought he was set, but Ratliff’s punchout knocked him back a solid three yards. While Moll was trying to re-establish his set, Ratliff used a swim move to get past him and sack Aaron Rodgers.

– Everybody is getting in on the fun:

Bobby Carpenter got some reps when the Cowboys played a 3-2-6 dime package in the middle

– Chaos unveiled

The Cowboys used their chaos package in the 2nd quarter when the Packers were deep in Dallas territory. Dallas lined up with two down linemen, Chris Canty and Jason Hatcher. The team stood up four more potential rushers — Jay Ratliff, Kevin Burnett, Greg Ellis and Demarcus Ware — and let them roam along the line. Just before the snap, Ratliff jumped into a three point stance on the nose. Ware roamed out to the right end spot and Ellis and Burnett lined up directly behind Ratliff. At the snap, the two inside LBs criss crossed and broke the middle of the Packers’ pocket.

Archer looks at the offense

THE THREE TIGHT END FORMATION: It's worked pretty good the last two games, and especially good on Felix Jones' 60-yard touchdown run.

Tight ends Tony Curtis and Martellus Bennett set the strength of the formation to the right. The Packers overloaded that side with six defenders, thinking the run was going that way. That left two defensive linemen and one linebacker in the box on the other side, which was a mismatch.

Jason Witten pinned defensive end Michael Montgomery at the snap, creating room for Jones outside and the linebacker took himself out of the play by going up field. That left cornerback Charles Woodson as the only defender within 15 yards of Jones, and his arm tackle wasn't enough to slow him down.

Jones did the rest by freezing Peprah and bouncing wide. The rest was history with Owens shielding Peprah for any last-ditch try and safety Nick Collins near the goal line.

ROCKY MARCIANO: Right tackle Marc Colombo grew up near Brockton, Mass., home of the former heavyweight champ and has been known to wear a Marciano t-shirt now and again.
He wasn't exactly undefeated, like Marciano, against the Packers but he was close. Aaron Kampman had 1.5 sacks but I'd say only the half sack came against Colombo. Kampman did an excellent job of snuffing out a waggle play when he wasn't even Colombo's responsibility and the half-sack came in almost a pile-on situation after Romo stepped up in the pocket.

I didn't see Colombo getting much help. And he didn't need it. He kept Kampman under control in the pass and run games. He is in a contract year and it might be time for the Cowboys to look at signing him to an extension.

And the Defense

Matt Bowen on what happens at Halftime in the NFL


Here are a couple Cowboys items that may or may not be worth the paper they are printed on:

• Tony Romo has started 29 games in his NFL career. In just 5 of those games, has he had multiple interceptions. In fact, in just 2 games since the start of 2007 has he had multiple interceptions in a start.

• Sacks allowed on Sunday Night in Green Bay – the first 3 sacks allowed this season: 1st one is tough to say for sure, as somehow Colombo appeared to be left to block Aaron Kampman AND Cullen Jenkins after Jason Witten went out on his route. 2nd sack early in the 2nd Q was half Colombo and half Leonard Davis as Kampman and Jenkins met at the QB. And the 3rd sack was allowed completely by Flozell Adams, as Jenkins ran right around him and caused the fumble that Adams ultimately recovered. So, Colombo 1.5, Davis .5, and Adams 1 are the season totals to date.

• In the 2nd Quarter when NBC is showing the Ice Bowl highlights (what a great idea!), behind Bart Starr at the game Sunday night is none other than the great Gabe Kapler – for some reason wearing a Fedora. Not sure how he got that close to the action, but he certainly used his Milwaukee Brewers connections to get close.

Miami Arena goes boom – thanks to Barry Horn’s blog for finding this

Cowboys- Redskins Rivalry Week

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What Could Derail the Cowboys Train?

One thing we have done here for years is track the turnovers in the NFL. We here, as well as pretty much every coach in the NFL, know that winning the turnover battle means winning the game 80-85% of the time. That is right, no other stat equals winning as much as just not giving the ball away as much as your opponent.

Here are the numbers so far through 3 weeks, thanks to Intern TC’s research:

Positive 29-8 0.784
Even 10-10 0.500
Negative 8-29 0.216

+5 1-0 1.000
+4 0-0 0.000
+3 1-0 1.000
+2 10-2 0.833
+1 17-6 0.739
0 10-10 0.500
-1 6-17 0.261
-2 2-10 0.167
-3 0-1 0.000
-4 0-0 0.000
-5 0-1 0.000

As you can see, teams who lose the turnover battle are off to a 8-29 start or 21% winning percentage.

TC wrote me the following:

Eight times this season had a team lost the turnover battle and won the game. Three of those eight times, the Cowboys have been that team. Despite being -3 in turnovers for the season (-1 in each of the three games), Dallas has outscored its opponents by 33 (96-63). So on average, they give up one more turnover than they get and still win by 11. Also, they have yet to notch an interception this year. The Cowboys' season becomes even more impressive when you consider the other four teams that have yet to intercept a pass: the Bengals, Lions, Chiefs, and Rams. Four teams that don't have a win between them. I don't know exactly what this all means, but it seems important.

Amazing! The Cowboys in 2008:

Week 1: At Cleveland -1 WIN
Week 2: Philadelphia -1 WIN
Week 3: At Green Bay -1 WIN

They have lost all 3 weeks turnover battle, and yet won all 3 weeks games! It tells you a number of things. 1) The Cowboys are really stinking good to do that. 2) The Defense needs more takeaways. 3) The offense (Romo) needs to stop giving the ball away in the end zone. 4) If the Cowboys are this good while losing the turnover battle, how good will they be when they get that fixed? 5) if they don’t get the turnover issue squared away, it might prevent them from their ultimate goal.

As the Football Bible says…”Be Sure your (turnover) sin will find you out”…

Anyway, I thought you might enjoy that stunning number…

Blue and Silver looks at the Lambeau Destruction

Marion Barber’s 4th quarter hairball was the first lost fumble of his career.

Six — The Cowboys defense has absorbed six deep drives into its territory, three against the Eagles and three last night, and held the opposition to field goals. It’s week four. Adam Jones is still making mental mistakes, but the Cowboys showed no fear last night against the Packers. Dallas didn’t make any concessions to a team that has a better passing attack than the Browns.

For much of the game the Cowboys played a base 3-4 against the Packers three receiver sets. Dallas stayed in a front seven to maximize their blitz and their run defense. The Cowboys sole adjustment was removing the strong safety, adding Adam Jones, moving Terence Newman to the slot and playing with three corners and just one safety.

Aaron Rogers had only one play longer than 20 yards against this package. That was his first play from scrimmage, when Greg Jennings caught a seven yard slant and pivoted outside away from Anthony Henry for a 25 yard gain. Mike Jenkins is showing better coverage on the outside each week. (It appears the coaches are making things easy for him and fellow rookie corner Orlando Scandrick. Jenkins is playing outside on the right exclusively and Scandrick is learning the slot. With regular slot man Newman healthy, Scandrick isn’t getting so much work right now.)

Nine — The number of sacks the Cowboys have recorded the last two weeks. They played the top two NFC offenses besides their own and racked up nine sacks. Add this component to the improving coverage and we’re seeing the steady defensive improvement we saw last season.

And, as everyone is saying, This NFC East is GOOOOOD

The East is 10-2 so far, and both losses have come in divisional games.

The Redskins lone loss came to the Giants.

The Eagles lone loss came in Dallas.

The Cowboys showed the Packers are a pretender. The Cowboys wore them out so thoroughly, several Packers were getting IVs at halftime. At Lambeau Field.

The Eagles took arguably the best team in the AFC thus far and beat the snot out of them. Jim Johnson’s guys sacked Steelers QBs nine times today. At one point, game announcers were wondering out loud how Dallas could score 41 points on them and not permit a single sack.

The Redskins took a team that may be the class of the NFC West and beat them.

The Giants looked a little ragged against the Bengals, but hey, they’re 3-0.

One of these teams might finish with a winning record and miss the playoffs. The Eagles were 8-8 last year and finished last.

That narrows the Cowboys margin for error but also improves their post-season chances, should they make the playoffs. In his new book Blindsided, KC Joyner devotes a chapter to the myth that early schedules ease a team’s route to the offseason. He goes back to the merger and rates each division from 1-6 in the six division era and 1-8 in the current system.

He finds overwhelming evidence that teams from tough divisions perform better in the post season. The lowest-rated divisonal winner to win a Super Bowl is the ‘99 Rams, who came from the 6th ranked division. Teams that feast off weak divisions fold far more often than not in January.

Playing tough rivals toughens you up. Look at the ‘07 Giants. They said after their title that Dallas was the toughest opponent they faced. Michael Strahan said they were much tougher than the Patriots.

Wow. The quotes in this story Reveal why football players should wear cups

The result can't deliver any real measure of satisfaction, but the Bears are
expected to take up a matter with the league office.

They want the league to look into the action that preceded Charles Tillman's unnecessary-roughness penalty Sunday.

Buccaneers right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said the skirmish started when a Bears player grabbed him below the belt. ''One thing I don't stand for is someone grabbing you in your genitals,'' Trueblood said.

Replays didn't show that. They showed Trueblood taking a swing at Adewale Ogunleye on the ground with his left arm and using his right arm as a bar across Ogunleye's neck. A big pile ensued, and after Tillman began pulling players off, he engaged with wide receiver Michael Clayton, throwing a punch that earned the flag.

Asked if Trueblood's accusation could be true, Bears defensive tackle Tommie Harris said: ''Probably. I don't know. They grab [testicles], they pinch, they do everything underneath the pile. It's football. It's what goes on during the whistle.''

When asked to clarify if Trueblood actually could be serious, Harris said it was possible. ''Yeah, the same way my junk got grabbed during the game,'' he said. ''That happens, so guard your junk.''

Ogunleye didn't appear in the Halas Hall locker room Monday. Linemate Israel Idonije, who was on the field at the time, as was Harris, was incensed.
''That's a last-ditch effort [by Trueblood] to save face,'' Idonije said. ''He knows what he did is wrong. He was definitely trying to hurt [Ogunleye]. The refs didn't see it, and they called us for something that's not even nearly on the same level as what was going on. But that's the game.

''What was happening in that pile, there was a whole lot of extra. There's plenty of opportunity to injure someone, and you never do because that guy is an NFL player. There's a code. You play tough, you play hard. But you don't intentionally go out to injure someone.''

Aggies = bad to worse?

Despite a disappointing 1-2 start, first-year Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman is sticking by his plan for turning around the Aggies.

But so far, even Sherman must admit that nothing has gone according to plan.
You don’t exactly draw up a season-opening loss to Arkansas State and shoulder injuries to your top two quarterbacks in the opening month of the season.

That’s right — two quarterbacks.

Sherman revealed Monday that sophomore Jerrod Johnson sprained his throwing shoulder when he was tackled in the second quarter against Miami in his first career start. It’s the same shoulder he separated against Nebraska last season.

Johnson finished the game, completing 19 of 32 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns in the Aggies’ 41-23 loss at Kyle Field, but he experienced pain and stiffness in the locker room afterward.

His injury comes just one week after senior Stephen McGee suffered a more severe shoulder sprain at New Mexico. That left the door open for Johnson and ended McGee’s 29-game starting streak at Texas A&M, but Sherman was admittedly evasive about who will start Saturday against Army.

Neither quarterback threw passes during Sunday’s practice as third-string quarterback Ryan Tannehill ran the first-team offense.

"I think both quarterbacks, Stephen and Jerrod, will be fine by the end of the week, but we’re just going to wait and see on that," Sherman said. "The decision [on the starter] will be made during the course of the week, on how they’re functioning and how things are going and their health status."

The Great Larry Munson shuts it down

In the final analysis, Larry Munson just didn’t think he could hunker down one more time.

Georgia’s legendary play-by-play radio announcer, who will turn 86 this weekend, decided to hang up his microphone on Monday after 43 seasons of calling the Bulldogs’ football games.

Due to declining health, Munson gave up traveling to road games last season and worked only Georgia’s two home games this season. According to a statement released by the school Monday evening, Munson decided over the weekend to stay home and watch Saturday’s game between Georgia and Alabama with family and friends.

“I can’t express enough my deep feelings toward the Georgia football fans,” Munson said in the statement. “They have been so friendly especially during this most recent period of time. I feel I owe them so much more than I can give. I’ll remember all the great times with the Dogs and have the fondest wishes and good luck toward them all.”

Munson’s longtime partner Scott Howard, who has been calling the road games in Munson’s absence, will take over at the main mic for the rest of the season. Former Georgia quarterback Eric Zeier assumes Howard’s color commentary duties.

Athletics director Damon Evans could not say whether Howard and/or Zeier will take over permanently.

“We’ll evaluate that after the season,” Evans said. “I want this to be about Larry’s retirement. For now, Eric and Scott are our crew. Nothing’s set in stone, but I will say those two have done a very good job.”

Howard officially took over for Munson as moderator of the Mark Richt Call-in Show Monday night on the Bulldog Radio Network. Just before going on air, Howard was asked what it feels like following a legend.

Did I forget about the Rangers? Not completely …but the fact the Athletics have caught and passed them is about as sad a story as I can imagine…I have to figure Daniels/Washington are enjoying their final week in power…

Second place is still a possibility for the Texas Rangers.

A .500 record isn’t.

The Oakland Athletics took over second place in the AL West from the Rangers on Monday night, winning 4-3 in 11 innings and extending the Rangers’ losing streak to five games.

The loss cost the Rangers in several ways.

First, the Rangers surrendered second place for the first time since July 24, hurting the team’s bid to snap a streak of finishes of third place or worse that dates back to a first-place finish in 1999. The Rangers, who trail Oakland by a half-game, still need to win one of their final five games to surpass last season’s victory total of 75.

And most importantly, the Rangers will finish below .500 for the fourth consecutive season and the eighth time in the last nine years.

"As long as you’ve got games on the schedule, you want to try to win them all," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We wanted to try and be better than .500. It came down to a battle of bullpens, and theirs put up zeros."

While winning the final six games to finish with a .500 record was unlikely, a .500 record was one of Texas’ targets after its late-season struggles. It seemed like a reasonable goal, too, as late as last week as the Rangers stood 75-77 two games into their final homestand.

The Rangers haven’t won since, as an inconsistent two months is catching up with them. The Rangers dropped to 8-11 in September and 15-28 since they reached a season-high six games over .500 after beating the New York Yankees on Aug. 5.

Radio is a lot of fun

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Redskins may not like Dallas very much

Monday, September 22, 2008

Week 3: Cowboys 27, Packers 16

The Dallas Cowboys are the best team in the National Football League. There. I said it. It is September 22, 2008 – 132 days from Super Bowl XLIII – So the title of “Best in the NFL” is not really that important right now, but it does speak to the reality of the league after 3 weeks of the 2008 season.

There is no team that can match this team right now. The offense is so full of weapons that on a night in which Tony Romo was not his ordinary self, they still could have posted 40+ points save for a poor 1 out of 5 in the redzone performance. They can win easily on the road in a place where Cowboys teams before have never found success, winning 27-16 at the famous Lambeau Field. Wow.

Surely, the final pieces to the Cowboys World Championship Title would have to be an imposing defensive effort. I would suggest you can consider Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense imposed. That offense can score some points and move the ball, but last night when it mattered, the Cowboys defense was very strong. 5 sacks and more importantly, they limited the Packers to 4-14 on 3rd down. When you can do that, you win easily. And the Dallas Cowboys beat the Green Bay Packers easily on Sunday night.

Here are some random notes and thoughts from a cool, crisp night in Northern Wisconsin, a place that needs no convincing how good the Cowboys are:

• I thought it was awfully interesting how the Cowboys decided to attack Green Bay on Sunday. The game will be remembered for Tony Romo being rather underwhelming, but from the early going, the Cowboys seemed far more determined to run the football. I have to believe the philosophy was to pound that football all week. Was it to counter the Packers pass defense sagging on Owens? Was it to keep Romo from trying to do too much? Or was it just to show the NFL that if Dallas wants to, they can pound the ball for 217 yards on the ground and just demoralize a defense that was thought to be halfway decent. With enormous help from the massive offensive line, Marion Barber was absolutely dominant. 31 touches is a lot of work for Barber, but he appears ready to administer punishment at any moment. Then, when you are exhausted from trying to get him to the ground, Jason Garrett shows no mercy by sending Felix Jones around the flank for a 60 yard touchdown with speed that is just silly. Wow.

• So tell me, when Jay Ratliff signed a $20 million extension last December did it puzzle you? Just a year ago, the question was whether Ratliff could fill in for Jason Ferguson without exposing himself too badly. Now, Ratliff makes plays every week and certainly overpowers interior linemen.

• Speaking of Felix Jones, he is the first Cowboys rookie to score a touchdown in each of his first 3 games. And let’s point out that his TD against Philadelphia was 100 yards away and the TD last night was a 60 yarder. To suggest that he offers a bit more explosiveness to the Cowboys offense is quite an understatement. There is no doubt that he is everything they dreamed he would be.

• The problem with the Packers’ cornerbacks is that despite their quality, they seem to miss plenty of action. Al Harris and Charles Woodson are both really physical players. Of course, the problem with being really physical is that you tend to get hurt yourself.

• Back in camp, I was engaged in a sports debate with Dan regarding Miles Austin. It was my claim that at the end of last year, he began demonstrating his ability to be the deep threat that had been missing without Terry Glenn. Surely, he is not in Glenn's class, but when #19 is on the field, the safeties better take notice. Well, last night, we saw it. I think we will continue to see more and more from him.

• That Lambeau stat about the Cowboys being 0-5 was interesting but irrelevant. In fact, I am willing to say that any of the historical stats of the Cowboys are generally irrelevant as it pertains to the Romo era. Remember the road record of the Cowboys in the earliest part of this decade? From 2000-2002, Dallas had a sparkling road record of 4-20 (including 2 of those wins in Washington). Since Tony Romo took over as QB, the Dallas Cowboys are 13-2 on the road in the regular season – matching Daryle Lamonica as the best start EVER. Where were the two losses? That is right, Washington.

• Early in the 3rd, 2 plays after Donald Driver gained 50 yards on one of the rare moments where the Cowboys defense gave up a play, Aaron Rodgers was chased out of the pocket by DeMarcus Ware. Somehow, after chasing him out of bounds, the sack was awarded to Zach Thomas – who happened to be on the screen at least, but had nothing more to do with the sack than Wade Phillips. I tell you all of this because I believe that was clearly Ware’s sack, and if you are like me, and you want Ware to be credited for all of his sacks and compete for the league sack title, then you want this odd and incorrect ruling changed.

• One thing we don’t talk enough about his the athleticism of the Cowboys defense. They are just so fast in their ball pursuit and I think this improved with Roy Williams out of the mix. It is so tough to move the ball down the field on the Cowboys because they happily allow the underneath routes because they know their pursuit will usually track down most players after the catch. Reggie Bush and Bryan Westbrook may give the Cowboys issues, but a team like Green Bay who has a bruiser like Ryan Grant cannot preserve drives with dump offs underneath.

• I think Greg Jennings is a star. What a nice player, and surely he is Rodgers favorite target. For years, Donald Driver served that role for Brett Favre and it appears the torch has been passed at both spot. Speaking of that, don’t you think everyone will slow down now on their love for Rodgers? I think he is talented and all, but I would suspect his growing pains will continue quite a bit.

• Terrell Owens showed his awesome speed twice last night: You had to see him track down Nick Collins on the interception return from behind with the naked eye. It was awe inspiring. Then, on the Felix Jones TD, the Owens convoy was once again quite impressive. I know he was quiet all night, but those two moments suggest he is playing “team football” and is buying into the bigger cause.

• One thing about last night did bother me from a Cowboys perspective; the offensive line’s ability to give Romo a pocket when the opposition is determined to get to him. Aaron Kampman is a premier pass rusher, and watching him and Cullen Jenkins get after Romo last night for 3 sacks, numerous other pressures, and a few intentional grounding penalties reminded me of when it all went wrong last year against the Giants in the playoffs. It proves the Cowboys must continue to focus on pass protection, because like the Giants game last January, last night Romo looked uncomfortable, and his performance reflected that. I am sure you can tie his statistical brilliance to his level of comfort. 3 sacks is not the end of the world, and the season total is only 3 in 3 weeks, but it is just something to demonstrate how fragile Super Bowl runs are.

• Bottom line, the NFC East is clearly the best division in football. Heck, I think the case can be comfortably made that the 3 best teams in football are the Cowboys, Giants, and Eagles. Imagine that, and the 13 weeks that lie ahead.

• The next 5 games on the Cowboys schedule: H Washington, H Cincinnati, A Arizona, A St Louis, and H Tampa Bay. Wow. 8-0? Doesn’t seem far-fetched as the Cowboys may be touchdown favorites in all 5 of these games.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Breaking Down the Offense - Week 2

Here we go with looking at the play calling in Week 2 versus Philadelphia - For help on the formations, scroll to the bottom:

New Packages for week 2! These 2 formations from the mind of Jason Garrett:

“31” = New for the Philly Game – 3 RB’s and 1 TE. Jones, Barber, and Anderson.

They ran a running play out of the “31” twice for a total of 6 yards.

“S01” = Shotgun, 0 RB, 1 TE, 4 WR – with Austin healthy.

They ran this package once – Tony Romo’s only Interception. So Garrett did not go back to it.

One other observation before we get to the raw data, the “13” package, which utilizes all 3 of the Tight Ends was used 7 times. 3 runs and 4 passes, including 3 passes to Witten. In fact, both plays down the seam to Witten in the 4th Quarter (the one he almost caught and the one he did catch on identical plays were both from “13”). I find this extra interesting given that in the “13”, Owens is the only WR, and he draws free safety attention, which leaves Witten with the strong safety in a foot race, which Witten seems to win – especially when Romo sells the play action fake.

55 offensive plays against those Eagles – here is the breakdown:

1st Down plays (25 = 10 different packages):

“11” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“12” – 3 (3 passes for 6 yards)
“13” – 6 (3 runs = 3 yards/3 passes = 41 yards, FD)
“21” – 3 (3 runs = 17 yards, FD)
“22” – 4 (3 runs = 6 yards / 1 pass = 5 yard TD to Owens)
“23” – 1 (1st and goal, Barber 0 yard run)
“31” – 2 (2 runs = 6 yards)
“11H” – 2 (2 runs = 20 yards, FD)
“S11H” – 2 (2 pass = 19 yards, FD)
“S12” – 1 (1 pass = 6 yards)

2nd Downs (19 plays):

“12” – 4 (1 run = 4 yards/3 pass = 45 yards, 2 FD = both on screens)
“13” – 1 (1 pass to Barber for 7 yards)
“21” – 4 (2 run = 0 yards, 2 pass = 7 yards)
“22” – 5 (5 runs = 14 yards, 2 FD)
“23” – 1 (1 run, 1 yard TD run to Barber)
“S01” – 1 (1 pass, Intercepted)
“S11” – 2 (2 pass = 48 yards, FD)
“S12” – 1 (1 pass = 2 yards)

10 3rd downs for the Cowboys (6-10) – every time the Cowboys were in Shotgun.

“S11” 8 times (1 run/7 pass) 3 yards rushing, 112 yards passing – 5 for 8 with 2 Touchdowns (72 yards to Owens and 16 yards to Barber).
“S12” 2 times (2 pass) 12 yards, 1 first down.

And now, before your head explodes, regardless of Down and Distance, here are the yardage results for each personnel package:

“11” – 1 (1 pass for 0 yards)
“12” – 7 (1 run = 4 yards, 6 passes for 51 yards, 2 FD)
“13” – 7 (3 runs = 3 yards/4 passes = 47 yards, FD)
“21” – 7 (5 runs = 17 yards, FD, 2 passes = 7 yards)
“22” – 9 (8 runs = 20 yards, 2 FD/ 1 pass = 5 yard TD to Owens)
“23” – 2 (1st and goal, Barber 0 yard run, 2nd and goal, Barber 1 yard TD run)
“31” – 2 (2 runs = 6 yards)
“11H” – 2 (2 runs = 20 yards, FD)
“S01” – 1 (1 pass = intercepted)
“S11H” – 2 (2 pass = 19 yards FD)
“S11” – 10 (1 run = 3 yards, FD, 9 pass = 160 yards, 7 FD)
“S12” – 4 (4 pass = 20 yards, FD)

So, in 2 weeks, Jason Garrett and Tony Romo have demonstrated that the favorite formation for great results and damage is the simple “S11”. This is Shotgun with 1 RB (Barber beside him) and 1 TE (Witten lined up on Line of Scrimmage). In 2 weeks, they have run the S11 20 times. They have run the ball 2 times and thrown 18 passes for 252 yards and 12 FD’s. This is easily the most productive of the packages to date.

Personnel Packages Defined

“11” = 1 running back and 1 TE
“12” = 1 running back and 2 TE
“13” = 1 running back and 3 TE
“21” = 2 running backs and 1 TE
“22” = 2 RB and 2 TE
“23” = 2 RB and 3 TE
“11H” = 1 RB and 1 TE, but Witten is playing the “H” back – which means he is lined up where a FB might normally be deployed.
“12H” = 1 RB and 2 TE, with Witten playing “H”.
“S11” = Romo in Shotgun, 1 RB, 1 TE
“S11H” = Shotgun, 1 RB, 1 TE, Witten playing “H”.
“S12” = Shotgun, 1 RB, 2 TE
And, new for week 2! These 2 formations from the mind of Jason Garrett:
“31” = New for the Philly Game – 3 RB’s and 1 TE. Jones, Barber, and Anderson.
They ran a running play out of the “31” twice for a total of 6 yards.
“S01” = Shotgun, 0 RB, 1 TE, 4 WR – with Austin healthy, they rolled this out once.
They ran this package once – Tony Romo’s only Interception. So Garrett did not go back to it.

Hello from Wisconsin

From the inside of a below-average hotel in Appleton, Wisconsin…Here is some Friday linkage:

Scouts Inc breaks down Sunday

Points should come in bunches when these two offenses take their shots Sunday night at Lambeau Field. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, his defensive coordinator Brian Stewart and Packers defensive coordinator Bob Sanders will have their hands full finding ways to contain these explosive attacks.

Expect Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to stay aggressive, using his power running game to set up a potent vertical attack. Meanwhile, Packers coach Mike McCarthy will spread the field with three- and four-receiver sets in his version of the West Coast passing game, exploiting matchups in the secondary and setting up RB Ryan Grant and the zone running game. But amid all the fireworks on offense, the game could be won or lost on the hidden yardage in the kicking game.

When Dallas has the ball

Garrett has blended a power run game led by RB Marion Barber and a quick-strike timing passing attack to form perhaps the league's most intimidating offense. An aggressive play caller, Garrett loves to throw vertically in nontraditional passing situations. Expect him to incorporate varied personnel groupings with an up-tempo approach to try to keep the Packers' defense off balance.
WR Terrell Owens will continue to move around in the formation, with TE Jason Witten often flexing out. But that isn't likely to influence Sanders, who routinely plays four across on the back end, with CBs Charles Woodson and Al Harris in a physical press mode. Sanders isn't a big fan of the blitz, instead relying on his front four (led by DE Aaron Kampman) for pressure and LBs A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett to clean things up. But the Packers are versatile, and Sanders will use an array of personnel groupings.

When Green Bay has the ball
McCarthy would love to hammer away with the run and force Dallas to commit to stopping it, which would effectively set up the play-action attack. But Green Bay's finesse zone run scheme and injury concerns along the interior offensive line could be prohibitive. Instead, expect McCarthy to try to slow a strong Cowboys pass rush by spreading the field with multiple groupings, aligning his receivers in different spots and taking full advantage of QB Aaron Rodgers' quick release, mobility and smarts.
Phillips and Stewart will continue to rely on an attacking 3-4 scheme on early downs, using CBs Anthony Henry, Terence Newman and Adam Jones to match up on the back end. In sub packages, the Cowboys will try to pressure Rodgers with a four-man rush while getting physical in the secondary. Expect a lot of maximum-coverage designs intended to disrupt a Packers passing game that depends on good timing and rhythm.

Dallas Keys to

1Get the run game going early: The Cowboys have the personnel to run inside or outside and attack on all three levels in the passing game, which places a tremendous amount of pressure on a defense. A balanced, dynamic attack starts with a huge offensive line and Barber, a powerful, slashing runner who can wear down a defense. The Packers' undersized defensive line will be prone to fatigue if Barber has early success, and it will need to control its gap responsibilities to allow Barnett to make plays in the box. Expect Dallas to attack the edges of Green Bay's run defense, where the Cowboys hold a decisive power advantage.

2Adjust outside rush lanes and incorporate more inside games.: Last week the Cowboys too often allowed Eagles QB Donovan McNabb to attack the pocket and extend plays. Rodgers has excelled at using his mobility in the pocket to do the same so far this season. The Cowboys need to show more discipline on the edge pass rush while still containing Rodgers in the pocket. Expect Phillips to dial up a lot of interior games and some single-zone pressures to attack inside to try to bait Rodgers into game-changing mistakes.

3Keep attacking downfield: QB Tony Romo has been a whiz at avoiding pressure in the pocket while maintaining his eye level downfield. Owens is an amazing playmaker who can hurt a defense at all levels, and Witten is a dynamic receiver who puts a lot of pressure on opposing safeties. The Packers aren't switching their corners, as they did a year ago, to align Harris over the opposing No. 1 receiver. Expect Dallas to keep sliding Owens around the formation, but Garrett might use more two-tight end packages to get Witten isolated one-on-one on Hawk on the outside.

Green Bay Keys to

1Rodgers protecting the ball: He has been impressive in his first two outings as QB Brett Favre's successor, but Rodgers will be tested by a fast and talented Dallas defense. He has a great understanding of Green Bay's system and processes his pre-snap reads quickly at the line. Rodgers is a good athlete with a quick set up and release. He's very accurate and throws a catchable ball with nice touch. He can hit receivers in stride, allowing them to get upfield quickly. But Rodgers must make excellent decisions in this matchup and avoid turnovers at all costs. The Packers can't afford to let the Cowboys' offense attack from a short field.

2Pressure Romo with a four-man rush: The Cowboys have a big, physical offensive line that is tough for pass-rushers to get around. But if Romo gets time in the pocket, he can expose the Packers' secondary, starting with Harris. Kampman is a very good edge-rusher, but Green Bay also needs a consistent interior rush from DT Cullen Jenkins to force Romo off his landmarks. The Packers will need to maintain a deep line rotation to keep everyone fresh up front.

3Coverage from Woodson and Harris: How much longer can the Packers' cornerback duo play at a high level? In Green Bay's first two games, Woodson played left corner while Harris manned the right side. Last season the Packers matched up on the back side with their corners, but Harris has struggled early on while Woodson has been very reliable. Dallas likely will try to isolate Owens on Harris early in the game. Harris is physical and can be effective in press coverage, but Owens has the strength to match him, and Harris is a risk-taker who can be baited by double moves.

Blue and Silver looks at Romo and Rodgers

Tony Romo’s sudden success in mid-’06 caught a lot of people by surprise. Back then we argued here at BSR that Romo was quick to adapt because he was nutured in the old-school, apprentice system that was the standard in the ’60s and ’70s. A QB, no matter how highly picked, was required to “carry the clipboard” for at least a couple of seasons while he learned the art of quarterbacking. Think of Craig Morton, a top 5 pick for Dallas in ‘65. He was Don Meredith’s understudy for four years before becoming a starter. Roger Staubach was a third year pro before he earned a start.

There was a sound reason for the apprentice method — QBs back then called their own plays. They were “field generals” to a far greater extent than today’s signal callers, who read miniature play sheets velcroed to their wrists. Quarterbacking is still a difficult craft to master but putting the play calling on your coordinator shortens the learning curse.

That said, way too many modern QBs are rushed into play. The good ones, the Payton Mannings, the Troy Aikmans, the Tom Bradys adapt faster. Romo, being an undrafted free agent from a small school, didn’t have the pressure his big name peers like Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson and Drew Henson did. He could learn and grow without media scrutiny, though backup QBs are some of the NFL’s most popular players, no matter the team or city.

Romo had three years of pro experience before he earned a start. He was familiar with his offense, his teammates and the speed of the pro game. Aaron Rogers has started so effectively in Green Bay because he also learned in a pressure-free environment. Rogers was a first round pick but dropped about 15 to 20 spots below his anticipated range on draft day. He also backed up Brett Favre, who was in no hurry to retire.

Look at Jacksonville’s David Garrard, who looked like an old pro when Jacksonville finally made him a starter last year. Look today at New England’s Matt Cassell. He’s another guy with multiple years of backup experience. Replacing Tom Brady has not fazed him. He doesn’t seem to have the superstar potential of Romo and Rogers, but he knows how to move his team and minimize mistakes.

Romo’s and Rogers’ backgrounds suggest an interesting game. Both are still relative newcomers to their starting lineups, but neither is a newcomer to the pro game. Another duel, to rival Monday night’s, may be in the offing.

What does 3-0 mean? ….

The importance of Starting 3-0
Since 1990 (under the current playoff format)
-93 teams have started 3-0
-72 teams (77.4%) made the playoffs
-21 teams (22.6%) did not.

Teams Starting 3-0 and Missing Playoffs - Since 1990
1993 Cleveland Browns
1993 New Orleans Saints
1993 Philadelphia Eagles
1994 New York Giants
1995 St. Louis Rams
1996 Kansas City Chiefs
1996 Miami Dolphins
1998 New Orleans Saints
1998 Seattle Seahawks
1999 New England Patriots
2000 New York Jets
2001 San Diego Chargers
2002 Denver Broncos
2002 Miami Dolphins
2002 New England Patriots
2002 New Orleans Saints
2002 San Diego Chargers
2002 Carolina Panthers
2003 Minnesota Vikings
2004 Jacksonville Jaguars
2006 Cincinnati Bengals

We drove past Burlington, Wisconsin last night….Romo’s home town


Romo starred in football, basketball, and golf at Burlington High School, graduating in 1998.

Tony was on the Little League Roth All-Star teams in 1991 and 1992.

Decision ’08 means Nolan Ryan

Ryan, always an honest type, has admitted his name didn’t carry the clout on the Rangers baseball side that most of us would assume. Go back to March, at the spring training complex in Arizona, and Nolan gathered the entire staff of minor league pitching coaches and instructors, telling them he wanted a coddling of pitchers (in such areas as conditioning and pitch counts) to stop immediately.

"Before we can improve our pitching, we have to change the mentality. We are not grooming pitchers to be mentally and physically tough," said Ryan. "I wanted that change to begin this season in the minors."

And the result of what he asked for in Surprise?

"Not good," said Ryan. "Most of them basically ignored me, and kept doing things the way they were being done."

When it comes to pitching, how does anyone not listen to Nolan bleeping Ryan?
As of next month, however, when there will be no more benevolent Nolan, he told me this a couple of weeks ago in a radio show interview:

"Those who didn’t follow the plan, or don’t want to follow it in the future, I would suggest they look for work in other organizations."

OK, change will come to the Rangers, starting in early October. But how much change? Is Daniels safe? How about Washington?

There are two obvious factors involved in both cases.

First, Nolan had a free skate with the fans and media this season, but now it’s his ball team and ball game. Does Nolan Ryan want to hook his reputation on the work of this GM and this manager, or instead, succeed or fail, with his own people in place? It seems to me, that’s an easy answer.

Second, since attendance bottomed out this season in Arlington (the worst in more than 20 years), how much more difficult will it be this winter to sell tickets on this same Daniels-Washington ticket? Also an easy answer.

Next question: Does fairness matter?

Answer: No.

But if it did, Washington should keep his job. The team never quits on him. I like that about a manager.

Then again, if only Daniels is fired, then the next GM should have the right to hire his own manager. Along those same lines, if only Washington is fired, does Ryan trust Daniels to hire the next manager since Jon is the guy who hired the manager who Nolan just fired?

Bottom line: Keep both or fire both.

Remember when Kyle Field was a fortress?

The Miami Hurricanes have lost eight their last 11 road games, five of them by at least two touchdowns. Miami also has 12 freshmen on its depth chart, yet the Hurricanes are four-point favorites over the Aggies for Saturday's game at Kyle Field, where Texas A&M once held reign over nonconference -- and conference -- opponents.

The Aggies are 35-18 (.660) at home this decade. That pales to A&M's mark of 55-4-1 (.925) in the 1990s, which was fourth best nationally behind Florida State, Nebraska and Florida.

Miami coach Randy Shannon knows the value of a home-field advantage. The Hurricanes
were 50-10 in the 1990s, and Miami won an NCAA record 58 straight home games from 1985-94 that helped it win three of its five national championships.

Shannon, in his second year at his alma mater, hasn't played or coached at Kyle Field, but three of his assistants have. Defensive coordinator Bill Young helped Kansas gain a 19-11 victory last year at Kyle Field, denying A&M its first unbeaten season at home since 1999.

"It is always a tremendous college atmosphere," Shannon said of Kyle Field. "There is tradition there that had been there for a long time, so it is an opportunity to go into another great football environment, which is what college football is all about, and play a good team. They have very devoted fans."

Two weeks ago, Miami played at rival Florida before 90,833.

"I heard [Kyle Field] is probably worse than Florida's stadium," Miami freshman quarterback Jacory Harris. "There are going to be a lot of people in maroon colors cheering for the Aggies, and we're just going to go out there and have a good game."
The Aggies pulled off a 38-30 upset of Texas the last time they were underdogs at home, spurred on by a crowd of 88,253.

That was the final game for head coach Dennis Franchione, who was 32-28 in five years, including 23-10 at Kyle Field.

Mike Sherman was an Aggie assistant during the good times -- from 1989-93 and 1995-'96 -- but his debut as A&M's head coach was a shocking 18-14 loss to Arkansas State in the house he once helped A&M dominate.

"That was not a great feeling," Sherman said. "You feel like you let people down in the stadium. They wanted to see us win, expected to see us win, and we didn't do that. That was very disappointing for me personally. I feel a huge responsibility that they went home without a victory."

Sherman and the Aggies will have several chances for big days at Kyle Field this year. A&M will host Colorado, Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma in Big 12 play.

Lastly, you need to read Mark Cuban’s blog today …on the other hand, you will feel better about humanity if you don’t….

Lambeau Tour from some dude.

Romo, Lombardi, and pictures as some dude tells a Tony Romo story