For a 2nd straight Sunday, if yardage is our guide, then we would congratulate the Dallas Cowboys offense on rolling up over 410 yards. In fact, we might have to pat them on the back for ranking 4th in the entire NFL in Total Offense behind only Houston, Indianapolis, and San Diego. That's right. Your Cowboys offense is #1 in the NFC in Total Offense.
What a positively useless stat.
25th in the NFL in scoring offense is the only statistic that truly matters for an offense. And 20 points is surely better than 7 the week before, but nowhere near the points that this team seems capable of scoring when they amass 400 yards. The Houston Texans are scoring a point for every 13.7 yards they gain, as they average a league-best 32 points per game. The Cowboys? That would be one point for every 29.2 yards. Something is going horribly wrong in the bang-for-your-buck department.
6 times in 2009, the Dallas Cowboys ran the ball in what would be categorized as truly dominant fashion with 150 yards. Over 200 yards twice, and a 3rd time they ran for 199. This team has demonstrated with this personnel (10 starters return) that they can run the ball - even when you know they are going to run it. 20 carries for 36 yards is not going to cut it.
On one hand, I want to blame Jason Garrett for a crazy run/pass ratio. But then I see 20 for 36 (1.8 per) and I feel like if he would have extended that to 30 carries for 54 yards we would have screamed at him for not getting the obvious point that this team is not running the ball at all.
And, I think the big blame here, as I will attempt to demonstrate below, is this offensive line. It seems to be a normal year around here when 3 of the 5 Cowboys OL members head off to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. But, running the football depends on everyone getting and winning their block. It just isn't happening right now. And, until it does, this team will not run the ball.
So, why is that important? Being able to run the ball can be debated as it pertains to its importance to running a sound offense. For instance, do you know the 2 worst running teams in the NFL last year? San Diego and Indianapolis. They both won their divisions and seemed to have rather reasonable seasons.
But, I don't believe the Cowboys have ever demonstrated a Colts-type proficiency when passing the ball. I think they have needed (under Romo/Garrett) the threat of the run to soften up the middle of the field for their pass catchers. Don't need safety support to stop the run? Then you can sit back in your zones and close the targets of Romo down considerably and require perfection from the QB.
Running the Ball also keeps the pass rushers honest. They can not "pin their ears back" and go. They must respect the possibility of the ball being run right at them. This helps your offensive line in many ways.
Here in Dallas, they must run so that they can pass. It is how they are built.
The first 9 snaps had 7 running plays. The next 62 snaps had 13 running plays - with 1 of those 13 being the knee to end the half.
I am playing around with some new metrics and whether or not we can learn anything from them. Since I don't know what a normal "average yards to go on 2nd down" should be, I don't know how bad 8.24 to go really is. I assume it is bad, but maybe we need a few weeks of research to determine this. But, if it is always 2nd and more than 8, and 3rd and more than 7, then you can understand the issues with proper run/pass balance. There simply aren't many run plays on 3rd and 8 (aside from the "give up" draw.
|1st Down Run-Pass||11-22|
|2nd Down Avg Distance to Go||8.24|
|2nd Down Run-Pass||6-19|
|3rd Down Avg Distance to Go||7.07|
|3rd Down Run-Pass||3-10|
|3rd Down Conversions||6-13, 46%|
I'll tell you what jumps out at me when we break this thing down by personnel grouping: The Shotgun offense is trying to figure out how to utilize Martellus Bennett more at the expense of a 3rd WR. I think the evidence tells us that Martellus might be a threat someday, but for now, he is a nice blocking TE. Problem is, in Shotgun, there is virtually no threat of a run play, so you are trying to sell him to the defense as a legit downfield threat. And right now, they don't buy it. If you are longtime reader of this project, you will be amazed to hear me suggest I would much rather have S11 than S12, but S11 gives me Dez Bryant as the 3rd WR (for now, although we are only a game or two away from him being the 2nd WR) instead of Martellus as a 2nd TE. If Garrett has plans to show us Marty B is Jermichael Finley, then I will reserve judgement, but for now, his damaging receptions can be counted on 1 hand in 34 regular season games. Give me Dez who may already have that many large catches in 2 games.
Here is the breakdown by groupings:
Totals by Personnel Groups:
Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:
For a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groups, click here.
Thanks, Brian at DC Fanatic.com .
The Play:Play #4 - 1Q 1/10/36 Felix -4 - Felix Jones has no chance
What Happened:The 4th play of the game, the Cowboys are in "12 personnel", but with an inverted wishbone. The Cowboys have been throwing this formation out occasionally since 2008, and many times, it is a play action pass play. It is an interesting formation, because with 3 guys coming out of the backfield with their versatile skill sets, it should really stress the Linebackers on what to be ready for. But, this goes back to everyone winning their block. One thought here about the 12 - I love the ability to play much of your 1st and 2nd down offense out of 12, because it should be the perfect 50/50 formation. If the defense sits deep, you run the ball with 7 OL-types. If they get too tight, your athletic TEs should be able to get behind a LB for a pass. But the downside is that you will face a lot of 7 and 8 man fronts. The defense might assume it is a power run and move everyone to the line like the Bears did right here. Watch the deep safety sneak up in presnap. The Bears have no plans on this being a pass, even though it is 1st and 10. Very confident defending here - perhaps another example of teams not believing Martellus is a vertical threat. Anyway, this will go down as Felix losing 4 yards, but as you can see, Leonard Davis is so badly beaten by Lance Briggs through the "A-gap" (the gap between the center and guard) that Felix cannot even grab the ball before the play is blown up. The Tight Ends are not to worry about Briggs, they are to protect the edges to make sure nobody sneaks in and destroys the play before it happens - but this play is a disaster from the snap because your RG was handled so easily by a Pro Bowl LB.
The Play:Play #10: 1Q - 1/10/44 - Felix -3, Pen on Kosier accepted.
What Happened: Here, a few plays later is another run play that demonstrates the issues with the ground game. This play never actually happened, because the penalty on Kosier nullified the play, but it did kill a drive and it shows what is wrong right now, so I want to show it to you anyway. I wish they would have offered us a replay here, but they were doing something else at the time, so you have to try to catch it the 1st time. This is a simple edge play for Felix (which many of you want to know why they don't do this more often). It requires both guards to get in space, win a block on a LB, and get Felix to the outside against a DB. This play has worked for a home run in 2009. But on this day, it shows how much faster the Chicago LBs are than the Dallas OL. This is pure guess work on my part (which this entire project actually is), but it sure looks like Leonard Davis again is the culprit. Davis overruns Briggs, and this destroys the play. If I see it correctly, Davis should get Briggs #55, and then Kosier comes around to meet Urlacher #54 at the edge. Once that happens, then Felix is off. But, since Davis blocks nobody, then Kosier is trying to save the play by grabbing Briggs (not his man) with no leverage. This is your hold, and then Urlacher is unblocked and again the viewer at home is frustrated with Felix Jones. And again, it had nothing to do with Felix. This OL is getting its rear beat.
The Play:Play #17 - 2Q 3/10/40 Comp to Roy +19
What Happened: This play shows us quite a few things. 1st, with S11, it shows a 1x3 formation, with 1 player to the left (Bryant) and 3 to the right (Witten, Austin, Williams). The Bears are doing a ton of "sugaring" here which is the simple act of trying to show Romo in the presnap that you are planning on blitzing, but you know full well that you are actually dropping into coverage. The Bears are great at this, and later in this project you will see it really pay off because a few times Romo felt blitzes that were not coming. Anyway, the Bears are only rushing 4, and the Cowboys get it blocked up pretty well. Witten runs a shallow route 5 yards down field, but the two outside guys both run post patterns at slightly different depth. It is actually quite puzzling why Austin and Williams are pretty much right on top of eachother and it makes you wonder 1) who ran the wrong route? and 2) who was Romo throwing it to? Regardless, Roy catches a big pass into Chicago territory, and it moves the chains on a drive that eventually ended with the Gronkowski TD. The downside here is that because Austin and Williams were at the same spot, so was the entire Chicago secondary, and the big hit on Williams was a sign of a beating to come. The Bears surely laid plenty of lumber to Cowboys receivers on Sunday.
The Play:Play #32 - 2Q 3/10/46 INT (Witten)
What Happened: Here is what I wrote yesterday: Romo has the team driving with 1:49 left in the half, down 17-14. On 2nd down, Miles Austin had a rare drop so it is still 3rd and long. Cowboys are in S12 (Shotgun, 1RB, 2TE, 2WR), and the Bears counter with press coverage on Austin and Roy Williams out wide. This leaves Martellus Bennett and Jason Witten in routes to the middle of the field. Bennett is not open as a safety is shading him high on his vertical, so Romo makes the right read to Witten at the 1st Down marker. But, as Witten makes his break, Romo throws the ball behind him and Witten tries to reach back and make a play. This causes the ball to tip into the arms of DJ Moore for an easy interception. It was a poor throw, and despite it being a tight space to fit, Romo has made that throw accurately a thousand times. Just not yesterday. Again, another 3rd and Long and another spot where the Bears only rush 4 and drop 7. That requires your QB to not miss.
The Play:Play #33 - 3Q 1/10/34 Comp to Dez +24
What Happened:"21" personnel, with Barber and Gronkowski both in position should the Bears bring a blitz. Yet again, they do not, and with only 4 rushing, the Cowboys have Bryant running a deep square-in route, but I just wanted you to see this again for one simple reason: Look at Dez Bryant's explosion when he catches the ball. He is electric running across the field and offers another gear I just don't see from anyone besides Miles Austin on this offense. Roy Williams always looks like he is bracing for a hit when he catches the ball and is almost ready to go to the ground. Dez, through only 2 games, looks like he is trying to break one for a TD when he catches the ball. I don't want us to lose sight of the big picture - Dez Bryant looks like he is the real deal and should be utilized more and more as the season goes on. I would imagine they want to get to the bye week and make sure he is dependable on blitz recognition so that Romo can look to him, but he is already far more dangerous a receiver than Williams has ever been as a Cowboy.
The Play:Play #60 - 4Q 3/5/26 Inc to Choice on Wheel Route
What Happened: Here is the play of the game. I have never been in a NFL Monday film room, but I am told there is a lot of cussing when they see how perfect a situation presented itself and they did not take full advantage of it. As you will remember, Jason Witten was not available at this point, so the Cowboys had to get 5 yards and extend the drive with a 3rd and 5 from the Cowboys 26. Trips left and Dez on the right by himself. He clears the right with a slant and the Cowboys get the coverage they were hoping for. It is Tashard Choice isolated on Lance Briggs. Briggs has to diagnose at the snap whether Choice is staying in to block or going on a route. That is asking plenty of #55, but he is a very fast LB. He starts over Gurode, but the moment Choice heads out on his route, Briggs is in full gallop. Choice is faster and has geometry on his side and this is a play Tony Romo has to see in his sleep. And it surely didn't help that Alex Smith threw this exact pass for a TD last night to Frank Gore in the 2nd Quarter. This is an offensive coordinator's dream to get that coverage, but the scheme is only half the job - execution is the more important half, and this time, Romo didn't make the throw. Did Romo feel a blitz that didn't exist? Because it looks like he hurried the throw. Regardless, I am not sure I need Tashard showing up my QB after the route, but I cannot argue with his emotion. Those are the single plays that decide victory or defeat. The FG on the next play missed, and defeat was there.