Thursday, October 01, 2009

Football Musings on a Short Week

Short week, but as I break down the Broncos, check out some pretty good stuff including TC making another appearance with a solid breakdown of more Cowboys football:

First, let's check in with our "winning correlation" numbers for the week. If you are familiar with what I am doing here, it is to check what people say about winning. Is it important to win the turnover battle to win a game? Absolutely, Positively! What about 100 yard rushers? Or 300 yard passers? Not as much. But there is still interesting stories to tell in each category. Here are the latest results:

Week 2 Turnover results:

Totals for Week13-0
Totals for Season33-4, 89%

Table Tutorial

Comments from TC the intern that are spot on:
Undefeated week from the winners of the turnover battle. First time that's happened since I've been paying attention.

Also, I don't have time right now to check, but I'd love to know the last time the Cowboys were +3 in turnovers. There was a lot of talk on the postgame show that last night's effort wouldn't beat the elite teams. I think +3 beats just about any team most of the time.

Funny he should mention that, because I just so happen to have a copy of last year's chart right here from my old blog . And as you can see, +3 never happened last season. Stunning:

GameFumbles (Lost)INTSFumbles (Lost)INTS+/-
W @ Cle1 (0)12 (0)0-1
W vs Phil2 (1)13 (1)0-1
W @ GB3 (1)12 (1)0-1
L vs Wash1 (0)100-1
W vs. Cin2 (1)11 (1)10
L @ Arz4 (1)02 (2)1+2
L @ St Lou2 (1)300-4
W vs TB001 (1)0+1
L @ NYG1 (1)33 (2)1-1
W @ Wash1 (0)201-1
W vs SF1 (1)02 (1)1+1
W vs Sea012 (1)1+1
L @ Pitt3 (2)32 (2)0-3
W vs NYG2 (0)02 (0)2+2
L vs Balt2 (0)25 (1)0-1
L @ Phil4 (4)11 (1)0-4
Totals29 (13)2028 (14)8-11

Table Tutorial

Back to 2009, Here is the sliding scale for the season to date. You can see that -4 is not a good number if you are a Dallas fan.

TotalRecordWin %

Table Tutorial

And our other projects to track showed no correlation to winning for the week, but both 100 yard rushers and 300 yard passers still have nice win percentages for the season:

100+ Yard Rushers in Week 3 went 6-1:

Pierre ThomasNoBuf126W
Maurice Jones-DrewJacHou119W
Steven JacksonSTLGB117L
Correll BuckhalterDenOak108W
Fred TaylorNEAtl105W
Ahmad BradshawNYGTB104W
Kevin SmithDetWsh101W
Totals for Week 6-1
Totals for Season 15-4, 79%

Table Tutorial

300 Yard Passers in Week 3 had a 5-3 record:

Peyton ManningIndArz379W
Joe FlaccoBalCle342W
Jason CampbellWasDet340L
Kurt WarnerArzInd332L
Kevin KolbPhilKC327W
Phillip RiversSDMia303W
Brett FavreMinSF301W
Matt SchaubHouJac300L
Totals for Week 5-3
Totals for Season 15-6, 71%

Table Tutorial

Peyton Manning is the only 300 yard passer on this list all 3 weeks. Drew Brees fell short in week 3. And only 1 100 yard rusher has done it twice so far: Steven Jackson. And trust me, that is all the Rams are doing offensively. It will be interesting to see if he can take that beating for 16 weeks.


TC is my intern (I think you know that by now). He is a lot like me, except so far he works for nearly free and is a lot younger - and likes the hated Chicago Bears and Notre Dame. Anyway, his qualifications are similar to mine, in that he has played exactly 0 plays of football, a million games of Madden, and finds football to be his one true love in life (and Pearl Jam).

Anyway, he aspires to write more over here. I like his work. And he likes Football 301 enough to want to offer something a little extra on Wednesdays that you might treat as a supplement to Football 301 or something like that. So Here is TC:

He wants to break down a drive of each Cowboys game in great depth. His choice today is the only TD Drive from Monday's game:




The drive’s first play, a pass to Roy Williams, is its longest gain and the second-longest catch he had in the game (24 yards). It comes with Williams as the only receiver on the field as the Cowboys are in their 22 package. Williams is lined up on the same side as Martellus Bennett, to Romo’s right. Witten is on the line on the other side, while Deon Anderson and Tashard Choice are in the I. The Panthers react by bringing the strong safety into the box, leaving just one man over the top, presumably either straight up or shaded to the left (he is not in the picture on the TV). Both Williams and Bennett challenge the defense deep, running 10 yards downfield at the snap. Bennett keeps going, and the corner on Williams starts cheating towards Bennett. When he does, Williams breaks to the sideline and sits down in the opening. In the meantime, the strong safety comes up underneath Williams, but Williams is so open Romo only has to worry about lofting the ball over the safety. If he does only that, Williams has the room to make the catch and then some. Romo makes precisely the throw that is called for, and Wiliams has room to run before the corner and safety catch up and push him out of bounds. Even without play-action, the threat of the run created this play by forcing the strong safety into the box, leaving too much responsibility on the defenders covering Bennett and Williams. It was also interesting how much the defense respected Bennett. If the cornerback had stuck with Williams rather than shading to Bennett, Williams would not have been open.

The second play of the drive features the Wildcat package. This was the last play where Felix Jones was on the field, and he was only their to fake the ball to. It was standard Wildcat: there was an unbalanced line with Witten at right tackle and Felix motioning across the formation to fake the sweep to. Leonard Davis pulled around Andre Guraode, and Choice went through that lane for 10 yards. The line didn’t get much push on this play—it was more of a crease than a hole—but they didn’t allow penetration and held their blocks. Witten held his for awhile, but his man eventually peeled off and made the tackle after 10 yards.


The ensuing first down shows the advantages of having two players in sync like Romo and Witten are. The Cowboys are in 12 with Witten to Romo’s left and Deon Anderson motioning into the backfield to Romo’s left. The Panthers run a zone blitz where the middle linebacker and safety to Witten’s side blitz, and the defensive end to Anderson’s side drops back into coverage. Kozier picks up the linebacker as he blitzes. The safety’s blitz is a little more delayed, and he is coming unimpeded to Romo. Witten and Romo both diagnose this quickly, and Witten sits down in the very sizeable area that the blitzers just vacated. There is a linebacker to that side, but he is following Choice into the flat, so he is not near the area Witten’s in. This strikes me as a pretty poor defense. It leaves a large hole for the 6-7 yards in front of the offense’s best receiver. Romo and Witten would connect on this play ten out of ten times.

On 2nd and 4, the Cowboys run an end-around to Crayton after a fake to Choice. Kozier pulls to the right to sell the run to choice, and the linebackers all move to attack that hole, leaving them out of position for the end-around. No one is more fooled, however, than Julius Peppers who is the defensive end on the side Crayton is running towards. They leave him totally unblocked, so they’re betting that he’ll over-pursue Choice and be out of position when Crayton runs by him. They win that bet. Much of the offensive line doesn’t so much block as chip the defenders in front of them long enough for the play to develop before getting out and setting blocks for Crayton along the edge. The play picks up 14 yards.


The Cowboys score on the next play, a draw to Tashard Choice. The Cowboys are in their 21 package with two wide receivers to the right and Witten on the line to the left. Romo takes the snap and pump fakes towards the receivers before handing off to Choice. Choice is running outside of Flozell Adams and inside of Witten. Witten acts for his first few steps as if he is going out on a pattern to the left before blocking the defender covering him. Witten’s block is key, and by getting his defender moving back and not expecting a block, it makes his job much easier. The linebackers don’t bite too much on the pass action, they pretty much just hover where they are. They do not, however, immediately attack the hole, which is a benefit. In contrast, the safety to that side (who is Charles Godfrey, a corner pressed into playing safety due to injuries) bites hard on the pass and drops back into coverage of Witten, so far back that he is totally out of the play without anyone blocking him. Deon Anderson does a nice job of lead blocking, taking out the only defender in position to make a tackle. It’s an easy touchdown.

Without using more than two wide receivers at any point, the Cowboys led an explosive and balanced scoring drive. When you watch a drive like this, with the defense clearly having trouble covering so many threats coming from so many positions put in a spot to succeed by creative play-calling, it makes you wonder why the Cobwoys only scored one touchdown on offense this game

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