Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Football 301: Week 1 - Decoding Garrett

mathDISCLAIMER: This is not for everyone. It may not be for you. This is a statistical study of the Cowboys offense with lots of numbers that may make your head tired if you are not up to it. Read it only if it is something that is of interest to you. If not, see you tomorrow.

Sunday in Tampa, the Cowboys offense put up a rare display. 462 yards is amazing. 52 plays is rare. 462 yards in 52 plays so off the charts silly that we might be wasting our time to read any meaning into it.

How crazy is 52 plays for 462 yards? 8.9 yards per play. You may never see that again, so save the tape.

Last year, the Cowboys had 2 games of more than 462 yards. Week 1 at Cleveland (488 yards in 63 snaps = 7.74 yards per play) and Week 3 at Green Bay (481 yards in 66 snaps = 7.29 per play). And, there was only 1 game in 2008 of fewer than 55 plays, which was the Win at Washington when they had 53 plays. So, yes, 52 is uncommonly few - and 462 yards is really impressive.

24 run plays/28 pass plays for the Cowboys (54% pass), and on 25 1st downs, the Cowboys ran the ball 15 times.

Now, what about my summer theories about the Cowboys stressing Multiple TE's? I think I wrote about it 10 times, and it must have been obvious, because Jason Garrett and the Boys seem to be on the same page. In 52 snaps, 30 plays had multiple TEs, with straight "12" personnel being the most-used package of the afternoon. It is a simple question of having either Martellus Bennett or Deon Anderson on the field. I think it a generally an easy choice.

Perhaps most shocking of those 12 plays they played in "12" is that they opted to pass 11 times. I think this is baiting future opponents, because I expect this will be close to a 50/50 split from this look during the year. Not sure if it will be the Giants, but I bet a future opponent is going to be thinking pass (maybe even bring in another DB) and the Cowboys will start using that 7 man Offensive Line to push people around in front of Barber. On the other hand, Romo threw 11 passes from this set for 194 yards (17.6 per att!!!) so maybe they can do whatever they want - which was my dream this summer in the first place.

Totals by Personnel Groups:

PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

Table Tutorial

Definition of the Personnel Groups, click here .

A few more things about Jason Garrett's personnel packages: Let's Define "Other" from the chart above; This week, he ran 3 groups 1 time each. On the 2nd play of the game, he ran out shotgun with 0 RBs, 1 TE, and 4 WRs = "S01"; Then, he had the Cowboys version of the "Wildcat" for 1 play, and in the 2nd half, he had a 3rd down package "S20" which featured 2 RBs, 0 TEs, and 3 WRs. None of them were productive, other than the idea that future opponents will now have to study and consider each of those looks.

The other thing that I have learned in these last few years of my psychotic studying of Garrett's trends is that he never falls into a pattern. He substitutes EVERY play (other than the 2 minute drill). Trust me, he does not have the same personnel Group on the field for 2 straight plays except on rare occasions. On Sunday, it took 45 plays for the Cowboys to run consecutive plays in their base offense with the same look. And, you could easily say that by that point of the game (late 4th Quarter) the Cowboys had iced away the contest and were merely trying to kill the clock.

Big Plays:

#1 - 4th Q - 2/9/D20 - IN "12", Pass to Crayton, 80 yards for Touchdown
#2 - 3rd Q - 2/10/D34 - In "S12", Pass to Williams, 66 yards for Touchdown
#3 - 4th Q - 1/10/D36 - In "12", Pass to Crayton, 44 yards for First Down
#4 - 2nd Q - 1/10/T42 - In "S11", Pass to Austin, 42 yards for Touchdown

So, 4 huge plays, and 3 come with some variation of "12". It is clear that match-ups cause confusion on defense. Confusion leads to open receivers. And open receivers lead to yards in bunches.

I am very excited to add video to my breakdowns this year, courtesy of Brian at DC Fanatic.com and I greatly appreciate his technical abilities and willingness to assist in trying to break this stuff down. Please go visit him when you can.

Let's look at a few plays a bit closer to see what they are doing. I encourage you when you check out the videos to pause it prior to the snap to observe the formation/personnel:

66 Yard TD to Roy Williams:

Here, we have Shotgun "12". Bennett is wide left, Witten is wide right. Tampa Bay puts corners on both Cowboys Tight Ends, I assume because they are lined up as the "widest receivers". Meanwhile, Crayton is in the slot by Witten on the right, Williams is in the slot on the left. In pre snap, Williams comes in motion over to the right side by Crayton, and now you have 2 "speed" WRs in the right slot, with nothing but LBs and Safeties to contend with. 82 and 80 run 10 yard routes and stop. Crayton drags across the field 5 yards downfield, and Williams runs right down the seam. You can see early on that Ronde Barber (#20 - who is lined up with Witten) sees this is very bad and tries to go help on Williams, but it is too late. Candy from babies here, and you can bet the Giants are really trying to figure out what they will do differently.

44-yard to Crayton:

Also, in "12", but with Romo under center. TEs 80 and 82 are lined up tight with the tackles and will assist in pass protection (Martellus does a great job keeping a blitzing LB off Romo). Barber is deep behind Romo, and each WR is lined up rather close to the OL. I have to think in the presnap, TB is looking run here. This is the beauty of "12". What do you do if you are a safety and you see a 7 man OL with Barber deep? You have to be tempted to sneak up. And that is where play action can kill you. Romo offers a play action fake to Barber who heads to the right flat. Once the 6-man rush doesn't get there (with a 7th man hitting Romo as he throws) the Bucs are in trouble if either Crayton or Williams can get open. Crayton does and it is an easy 44 yards.

80 Yard TD to Crayton

Crayton Wide Right, Witten Slot Right, Williams Slot Left, Bennett Wide Left. "12" with Felix Jones deep. The risk here is having enough guys to protect and giving Romo a chance to get the pass off. 5 OL + Felix trying to keep 5 rushers of Romo was not an easy task, but Romo got the pass away. Once the safety took a step to Witten in the flat, Crayton was gone. Again, when it works, it looks so easy.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention something a few of you have pointed out. Notice the key to the safety stepping to Witten is the solid pump fake from Romo. Nothing freezes DBs better than a well-executed pump, and Romo deserves to be recognized for that.

Austin 42 yard TD

Boys are in their base 2 minute offense, "S11". This has Barber and Witten staying in to protect in a 7 man protection scheme. Austin to the far right, Williams the far left, and Crayton in the slot on the left. Elbert Mack is pressing Austin at the line, and honestly, it looks like reasonable coverage to me. But a nice throw and an amazing catch and run by Austin gets the ball in the end zone.

And then the play that I was so excited about yesterday:

Barber's 6 yard TD Run

From Yesterday's Game Notes :
The Cowboys are in “13″ personnel (1 RB, 3 TEs) and are at the 6 yardline. 2 TEs (82, 80) are on the offensive right. John Phillips (88) is lined up as a FB offset to the right. Tampa sees this huge overload and they adjust the defense accordingly. Then, at the snap, Phillips heads right behind Witten to the right. At the same moment, the Left Guard (Kosier – 63) pulls to the right edge. Every single Cowboy is selling that this play is going to the right. Watch the Tampa Linebackers and safeties at the snap – they are following their keys. Key on the lead blocker. Key on the pulling guard. Almost everyone is running towards that edge where the Cowboys are all deployed. One problem. Romo flips it to Barber who heads to the Left. He doesn’t follow any of his blockers. And the play is so well executed that Barber is to the 1 before he has to do anything but stroll into the endzone. Roy Williams helped at the end with a block, but it was a total shock to the defense. I love it. Genius stuff. You have to go back and watch that play if you get the chance.

Brian put a key piece of audio on here that has Patrick Crayton explaining that the offense did not know any of this! Funny stuff.

Target Distribution:

I think it is important to find out where Romo is going with the ball every week. One practical application is just to help you win debates with your buddy. When the topic turns to "Who is the Cowboys #1 WR?", you can merely show them (I assume the evidence will bear itself out again) that the #1 target is not a WR at all. It is Jason Witten. In the last 33 games (32 of which Terrell Owens was a Cowboy), Witten has 32 more catches than any other player (182 for Witten, 150 for Owens) and only 239 fewer yards than Owens. If you divide that by the 32 games, that means Owens accounted for less than 8 more yards per game than Jason Witten. Losing Owens doesn't mean they don't have a #1 receiver. It simply means they have a TE as a #1 WR.

Sunday, Jason Witten caught 5 passes. 4 went for 1st downs, and the 5th pass was on 1st and 10 when Witten only gained 9 yards. He remains money.


Table Tutorial

3rd Down Target Distribution:

And to further pound home the point of Witten's dominance, you must study 3rd down targets. After 1 game, there is no sample size worth noting. But, watch during the season to see that #9 trusts #82 on the most important down. This is just the start.


Table Tutorial


All season long, I want to focus on Cowboys pass protection (since it was such an issue last year in December). So, this chart may help us assign blame on sacks and see who is leaking. The trouble is, some sacks are tough to tell who blew it. For instance, the Ronde Barber sack on Sunday during the 1st drive has me wondering if that was just a case of a corner blitzer coming free and Romo has to see it or he is dead. Sometimes, on a blitz like that, the defense outsmarted you.

UPDATE: I talked with 2 people in the know this morning, and both tell me Martellus had his right assignment on the blitz. Both guys told me that the credit goes to Tampa DC Jim Bates for calling a perfect blitz on a play the Cowboys were running to the left. The blindside blitz from the right was just the right call. Blame? Maybe Romo, maybe nobody.

Anyway, we will continue to update this chart as the season goes on:


Table Tutorial

More Game Highlights

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