Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Football 301: Week 3 - Decoding Garrett

DISCLAIMER: 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.

The win versus Carolina resulted in many people who follow this team to suggest it was a disappointing night for the offense. After all, they had 0 points at halftime, and really only accounted for 1 TD and 2 FGs against a defense that does not stun you with its talent.

But, was the offense bad? And if so, how do we define that?

They ran 65 plays on Monday (plus they took a knee twice to finish the game) for 449 yards. 6.9 yards a snap? To make it even more impressive, consider that there was but 1 play of over 26 yards (1 40 yard run from Felix Jones). So the average was not thrown off by a 99 yard run or several monster passes like we saw in the Tampa Bay game. Just 7 yards a snap. Marching down the field.

This was actually a performance that the Cowboys offensive staff will be quite pleased with. Mostly. Nothing was broken off for a touchdown, but the offense found success in just about everything they tried. But as I pointed out yesterday, it was more about the Cowboys stopping themselves with a drive killer.

Consider again those "drive killers":
1st Drive – Thomas Davis sack forces a missed FG
2nd Drive – Jon Beason sack forces punt
3rd Drive – Martellus Bennett holding penalty halts drive
4th Drive – Felix Jones leg whip penalty ends drive
6th Drive – John Phillips False Start forces FG, rather than TD
9th Drive – Tony Romo grounding penalty ends drive

Mix in some odd (poor) play calls at the goal line, and the poor field position, and you see the fine line between the Cowboys performance on Monday night that scored 13 points, and the other performances this season that scored over 30. There were no 3-and-outs. They had drives of 58, 51, and 42 yards on Monday night that combined for 0 points. That is called leaving a ton of points out on the field.

You can see for the 3rd straight week, that this offense is very dangerous, and very capable of putting up points if they have their pieces healthy.

Here is what Garrett chose to use on Monday -

Totals by Personnel Groups:

PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

Table Tutorial

Definition of the Personnel Groups, click here .

3 snaps fall under the heading of "Other" this week, but really it was just 1 because the other 2 were knees at the end of the game in the "Victory" formation. The 1 other was their snap under the "Razorback" formation - they tried to run another, but a penalty nullified that play. It was an 11-yard gainer on a keeper from Tashard Choice as a limping Felix Jones ran by as a decoy in a curious use of an obviously injured player so that they could run this look that they no-doubt wanted to unveil a bit further.

Video Breakdowns:

Thanks, Brian at DC who provides the videos (and the biting commentary) for this exercise. And Shawn for his work in compiling numbers.

The Play:4th Q - 2/10/C21 - Carolina forces slant to Smith, Intercepted by Newman for Touchdown

(I admit this has nothing to do with the offense, but it still has worthwhile applications, so here is a little defense).

What Happened: This is the play of the game, and I discussed this in pretty lengthy detail in yesterday's game notes so if you haven't read that, I invite you to click over there. Beyond the several paragraphs I spent on that yesterday, I wanted to make sure you reviewed the ESPN Montage from the broadcast that details the principles of "bracket" coverage. Usually, this done against premier TE's down the seam with a LB underneath or on the inside shoulder of the Tight End, and then a safety over the top of him (downfield but able to intercept anything thrown with air underneath it) beyond the trailing defender. But, in this case the Cowboys are putting Newman right up in the face of Steve Smith, and Hamlin over the top. Yesterday, I went to great lengths on why it is a good idea - as it worked brilliantly on Monday, but one thing I did not cover is why it is a bad idea.

Bracket Coverage is a particularly bad idea against teams with multiple receiving threats. We have pointed out that Carolina is a rare team that has 1 guy who catches the majority of its passes, and nobody else comes close. Usually, teams will have a Tight End or a 2nd Receiver who makes you respect them a bit more, but the Panthers have fallen into a rut where if you wait long enough, they will get to a big spot and force the ball back to 89. For that reason, the Cowboys had a very sound philosophy.

But, we saw on a few other occasions - as you will see below - where the Cowboys paid the price of bracketing Steve Smith:

Above is a montage of Ken Hamlin's spots on Monday where things got away from him. As is sometimes the case, (despite Brian's commentary about "Hamlin not getting it done right now"), I think this is more of a scheme result of the coverage being rolled so heavily to Smith. This is what we never know for sure on some of these video breakdowns - what did the scheme call for. It looks like a certain player is at fault, but is he being deployed properly or is he being asked to do something that is nearly impossible?

For instance, on the two long catches to the TE Rosario at the end of the first half that you will see in the video, how can Hamlin give Newman help on Smith on the offensive left side of the field, and then be expected to help Bradie James and Mike Jenkins with the TE on the right side? I believe that is asking a bit much, although Gruden and Jaworski obviously disagree with me, too.

In my opinion, the Cowboys asked Ken Hamlin to make sure that Steve Smith never beats them deep all night. I think they were willing to live with Carolina's counter plan. Which was obviously to send Smith to one side, draw the safety, and then have man-to-man on the other side. Then, could the Cowboys stop Rosario or Muhammad? The answer is 52 plays for the Panthers - 7 points.

One last thing on the above "Hamlin" video that there is no excuse for was his attempted kill shot on Muhammad after the catch at midfield (1:50 on the video). See your target, wrap up your target. This technique of throwing your shoulder at a defender with your head down is so fundamentally poor that it would make many coaches ill. That could have cost the Cowboys 50 yards and 7 points, but he was taken off the hook by the offensive pass interference.


The Play: 1/G/5 - Draw to Choice for Touchdown

What Happened: On this play, the Cowboys are set up in "21" personnel (1 TE, 2 RB). They had run "21" personnel 3 times in the 2nd half prior to this snap, with a pass to Roy Williams, a pass to Jason Witten, and a reverse to Patrick Crayton. So, when the Cowboys break the huddle, you have to believe the Carolina LBs are not sure what to think as far as what the Cowboys might try.

Williams is out Wide Right, Crayton is in the right slot. Witten is off Left Tackle. The Panthers have 3 DBs dedicated to the Right side with 11 and 84. So now, it is up to the LBs and last DB to account for 82, 23, and 34. Witten heads left, which takes the edge DB and the last Safety leans that way for a minute, and never has a chance. Romo's fake to the right sideline is the key as they point out on the video. Just watch #52 for Carolina who takes one step toward that side of the field when Romo does this. In this game, one step in the wrong direction and it is over.

By spreading out the defense, and selling the fake, the Cowboys have taken a game that is 11-on-11, and narrowed it down to Deon Anderson versus on the "Will" linebacker. Choice waits for Deon to lean, and then runs off his back for a Touchdown.

Below, Trent Dilfer and Tim Hasselbeck show the Cowboys did this time and time again. The draw play was a huge player for Garrett this week, and I since this breakdown is solid, let's just roll with them.


The Plays: 3 plays from the 1 yard-line versus the Panthers

What Happened:In fairness, this proves the dilemma any coach has when you examine their work. Sometimes, the only difference between a good call and a bad call is the result. Honestly, it shouldn't be that way, but in listening to Wade Phillips explain the concept of getting a match-up that you are sure you could win (Roy Williams vs Richard Marshall) then you throw the fade on 2nd and goal at the 1. But, I must again direct you to either the season stats, or just the stats from Monday night at the top of this page to show that the Cowboys averaged 6.6 yards every time they called a run play on Monday.

To put it another way, they ran 32 run plays on Monday, and 31 of them gained at least 1 yard. The one that didn't?

3Q - 3rd and Goal at the 1, "S11" personnel. Draw play to Choice. As someone who track this offense very carefully, I can tell you a few things about the Jason Garrett offense. One, is that he loves to go shotgun inside the 5, with receiving threats on each side of the formation to spread out the bodies and leave huge running lanes for his QB and his RB. The trouble is, the closer they are to the goal-line, the more likely they are to run out of this formation. I wish I could give you numbers to back up my claim, but since I don't have them, I will just assure you that I was screaming draw from my couch, and so were the Panthers at the line. Everybody knew the Cowboys tendency, and it was easily swallowed up. You can not be predictable in the NFL, but the Cowboys obviously are here with this strategy.

4Q - 2/G/1 - "21" personnel. Fade to Williams. Again, this should work, and it is a very winnable match-up. Of the 3 plays where one could accuse Garrett of getting "cute", this is the least offensive. It is your #1 receiver and it is not their #1 CB. He is tall and can leap, and although I don't care for the fade, 2nd down is not the worst time to do it.

4Q - 3/G/1 - "23" personnel. That is right. The most powerful formation you can put on the field, with 3 TEs and a FB! There is nothing more equipped to force the ball down one's throat then this formation. 11 on 11 brute force for 36 inches of real estate. Instead, Garrett pulls a fast one on the Panthers, with Bennett rolling out wide in motion, and then being matched-up with a LB on another attempt at the fade. But, a poor throw (I think) doomed this play.

So, here are 3 plays from the 1. On a night where the running game ran for great success out of nearly every formation, Jason Garrett decides to run once out of a finesse formation - and passed twice out of running looks. Why not run when they think you are going to run and make them stop you at something you are really good at? The Cowboys own the line of scrimmage and yet do not seem to realize it at the goal line.


Target Distribution:

Jason Witten is good. It is disappointing to see Martellus Bennett catching only 3 balls out of the 9 that have come his way. If Witten benefits from higher percentage throws because he is a TE, shouldn't Martellus, too?

Targets - Week 2 vs Car


Table Tutorial

Season Target Distribution To Date:


Table Tutorial

3rd Down Target Distribution:

3RD Down Targets - Week 2 - NYG


Table Tutorial

3rd Down Targets - Season Totals


Table Tutorial


Here, we keep track of sacks all season. So far, pass protection has not been an issue much, but Carolina with LB blitzes certainly caught the Cowboys with their pants down, and ended two drives with these two sacks.

Blame is subjective, and while I try to talk with club officials to assign blame on sacks, often times it depends who you ask. I believe all 3 sacks so far have been of the variety of assignment, rather than a guy being beat 1-on-1.

We will continue to update this chart as the season goes on:

Wk 1TampaBarberRomo awareness
Wk 3CarolinaDavisAdams?
Wk 3CarolinaBeasonFelix/Colombo

Table Tutorial

Past Episodes:

Week 2 - New York Giants
Week 1 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers

No comments: