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 Cowboys have had more successful days on offense than they had on Sunday, but when it came time to make a play, Tony Romo was absolutely up to the task. His new found favorite target, Miles Austin, has seemed to be the target that Romo has been missing for quite a while around here. Now that he has him, the offense does not rely on a running game to carry them.
A big WR who makes plays and demands coverage changes everything for the Cowboys. Hope he is not a mirage.
As well as they ran the ball against Kansas City out of the "22", the Cowboys had no success out of that look against the Falcons (7 carries for 19 yards). Instead, the Cowboys picked there spots and ran the ball out of "13" the best. I don't quite understand the pattern, but there seems to be a reason in certain games when Jason Garrett prefers a 3rd TE to a FB in many of the same running situations. Email me with a theory if you have one, because I am out.
All in all, if your QB can make those plays he did on Sunday, football seems pretty easy, and strategy takes a bit of a backseat. A rare treat in 2009 for the Cowboys, indeed.
Let's look at the Cowboys use of Personnel in their offensive snaps:
Totals by Personnel Groups:
Definition of the Personnel Groups, click here .
41 snaps from under center against the Falcons out of 59 snaps is quite remarkable. First, it says the Cowboys, despite not running the ball very well stayed out of 3rd downs and situations where they must pass the ball. Of those 41 snaps, only 5 times did they not have 2 Tight Ends on the field. In fact, I counted about 5 times where they had 2 TEs and it was Witten and John Phillips instead of Witten and Martellus Bennett. I think they like all 3 TEs when it comes to run blocking.
Despite the big day in Kansas City for the FB, Deon Anderson, there was not much work for him on Sunday as they used the fullback just 13 times out of 59 snaps (22%). They only used "21" personnel 3 times, which is a season low for that look.
What worked best? Why the "12" package again. For some reason, people call sports radio with sarcasm mocking the "12" package for the Cowboys this season as if it has been some big failure. I wonder if they actually understand what is going on with it? Because, the fact is that once again they had great success with it. 12 snaps for 135 yards (11.25 yards per snap)! I think that is pretty good, right? The "12" gave us 4 pass plays of over 20 yards - 4 to Austin - which suggests that the "12" brings the safeties in to the center of the field, leaving the 2 WRs out wide in single coverage. And that is where Austin makes you miss and dashes for the goal-line.
Shawn, my expert statistician during this project, sent me some observations I wanted to share with you here:
I need to watch the game again, but a few notes from the Playbook.
22 Run: 7-19 yards 2.71
13 Run: 9-44 yards 4.89
Most 12 Passes, since the Bucs game.
Falcons Game: 12 Pass: 8-116 yards 14.50
2009 Season: 12 Pass: 35-336 yards 9.60
S11 Pass: 10-41 yards 4.10
S12 Pass: 6-56 yards 9.33
Falcons game combined 12 and S12 Pass: 14-172 yards 12.29
2009 Season combined 12 and S12 Pass: 70-712 yards 10.17
2009 Season S11 Pass: 73-473 yards 6.48 and 3 interceptions
His findings are further proof that the best passing/shotgun package has moved from "S11" to "S12". It is just playing to your strength. "S12" is Bennett versus "S11" being a 3rd WR. I think the difference is more based on the defensive coverage rather than something Martellus is doing. He just attracts different coverage and it is making the whole group more effective.
Thanks, Brian at DC Fanatic.com who provides the videos (and the biting commentary) for this exercise. Despite the fact that I keep asking more and more out of him, he keeps saying yes!
The Play: Austin TD 2Q - 1/10/41 5:59 left
What Happened: This play is not only important for why it happened, but let's also remember when it happened. This is offensive snap #15 for Dallas, and the first 14 have been pretty forgettable. 4 Drives: 2 3-and-outs, 1 red zone failure, and 1 fumble. So, to start Drive #5, the Cowboys go to "21" personnel, a look they only had 3 times on Sunday. 2 RB, 1 TE, and 2 WR. Witten is off LT, and Williams Wide Right with Austin in the slot right.
The Falcons show 8 in the Box off this power run look from Dallas, and Dallas throws on 1st down out of "21" which is against their tendencies. At the snap, the Falcons rush 6, and drop the LDE, and a LB into coverage on Barber when he rolls into a safe route. I cannot get a clean look at the Falcons personnel, but they certainly have to be disappointed that the Cowboys only have 2 WRs in route and Austin is running that wide open. Also, pay attention to the perfect protection, with Deon Anderson doing a nice job with the LB blitz off Left Tackle. Romo makes a perfect throw, and Austin does the rest. A 1 play drive that shows the explosiveness of the offense as they have plenty of big pass plays this season.
The Play: Crayton TD 2Q 2/G/9 - 0:15 left
What Happened: This is not how the play was drawn up. "S11". Without any timeouts, remember that a sack likely ends the half. Now, the Falcons are going to throw a somewhat exotic pass rush at the Cowboys and see if the Cowboys can handle it. They obviously cannot. The Falcons run a twist, with the LDT and RDE diving Left, and the LDE and RDT twisting around to the Right. Honestly, in the NFL, offensive lines see this a million times, and it would be nice if someone got their man blocked. Flozell is the first to bust, as Jonathan Babineaux #95 runs right past him and has Romo dead. After that, it is just a full out fire drill as all protection breaks. How Romo escapes is unlikely and amazing. Meanwhile, Roy Williams runs the fade to the right corner of the end zone. Barber slips out to into the middle flat. On the left, Witten and Austin run routes off eachother, and Crayton in pre-snap motion heads to the left sideline, to work the back of the end zone. The Falcons just rush 4, remember, so 7 Falcons covering 5 is still a tough find for Romo under normal circumstances. But, under this rush for him to eventually find a man is all Romo. Crayton eventually shakes loose from Chris Houston #23, and despite a total failure from the OL, this play is a success.
The Play: Big pass to Austin 3Q 5:26 1/10/20 unbalanced line!
What Happened: "12" Personnel, and look at what we have here. Colombo #75 breaks huddle andlines up at TE outside Adams. Witten, meanwhile, lines up next to Davis #70 at Right Tackle. This will freak out a defense a bit as it shows heavy run left. Then, in presnap, Bennett #80 motions to that same strong side, and now every LB is fighting that urge to dive right and get ready for a collision with a Barber carry to LT. Play Action now leaves Romo with a fine pocket to throw, with Austin on the left, and Williams on the right. Both are running deep patterns, and I think this shows Romo's confidence level right now. Even though Austin is attracting the safety, and Williams appears to be in a 1-on-1 situation against press coverage, Romo still tries to fit it in to Austin rather than look Roy's way. A perfect demonstration of how making plays gives you more opportunities to make more plays. Romo makes a perfect throw and it is a big gain, but I wonder if they asked him why he didn't take the 1-on-1 in the film room.
The Play:2/10/48 4:52 3Q - Felix for 9
What Happened:Now let's look at 2 consecutive plays in the 3rd Quarter. This first one is on 2nd and 10. Last week, we showed you the Cowboys pass 68% of the time on 2nd and 8+ , but here they show "13" personnel, with all 3 Tight Ends on the field. Bennett is lined up next to Colombo, Witten outside on the right, and Phillips, the rookie TE from Virginia, is in motion to the right to put a huge overload on the right. This is a true power run, and like last week in Kansas City, the question is asked if you can stop it. There is no mystery in what the Cowboys want to do here. Crayton is lined up as the only WR, and he tries to pull a CB and safety out of the box in case of play action. From there, the hand off to Felix gets 9 yards. Watch Kosier #63 continue his wonderful year in the running game as he gets a huge block on poor Eric Coleman #26. Witten is right in the middle of it as well, and Leonard Davis ends up on the 2nd level almost 10 yards downfield. This team can run the football at the most important time - when the opponent knows that what you want to do. This is a very good sign that we have seen almost every week so far.
The Play: 3/1/39 4:14 3Q - Felix pitch left -
What Happened: This is the very next play. 3rd and 1. Cowboys take off a TE and put on a FB to go "22" in short yardage. The success of this pitch to Jones, I believe, is totally based on getting the RDE (#92, Davis) to take his read off the FB. They don't block him, so if he takes one step toward the lead blocker, then the pitch works and Felix gets the outside lane and is gone. If he stays honest, this play could be doomed. The entire OL blocks toward the center of the line as if the play is a run up the gut, and once the pitch happens, watch #82 Witten help the play get 10 more yards by making sure #28 DeCoud cannot even consider getting to Felix. Another interesting idea in the running game that works best with Felix's skill set.
The Play: 2/3/20 0:14 3Q - MB 3 for 13 yards with unbalanced line again.
What Happened: This is that unbalanced line again with Colombo lined up next to Adams. I only saw this twice on Sunday, and remember the 1st time they ran it was play action over the top to Austin, so the Falcons are wondering what Garrett is up to again. This time, in "12" again, they show that they can run strong-side. Phillips is the 2nd TE and he comes in motion to the left. This play has to happen quickly, because the play calls for Leonard Davis to pull to the left. With Colombo, Adams, Kosier, and Phillips already left of center, and Davis pulling left, this means you have plenty of weight on that side, but only Witten watching the right flank. You can see at snap that Witten has no chance, so if the handoff is delayed even a second, those players will destroy the run. But, it is timed perfectly, and as they run upfield, Barber is already through the hole. Again, watch Davis on the 2nd level destroying a poor DB. You can see Colombo celebrating as Barber runs by him. There is nothing the OL enjoys more than gashing you with the run.
Target Distribution and Sack studies will be in another entry today. Stay tuned for that.
Week 5 - Kansas City
Week 4 - Denver
Week 3 – Carolina
Week 2 - New York Giants
Week 1 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers