Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Decoding Garrett '10 - Week 1


For those of you new to this - and that would be most of the DMN readers - this is a project to attempt to understand what the Cowboys offensive brain-trust designed and attempted to perform against the opponent on a week-to-week basis. We look at the data, piece by piece until we can figure out what they were trying to do - and more importantly, how well it worked.

At first glance, the Cowboys had what would be termed a normal offensive game. 377 yards in the game is a slightly below-average production number for Dallas (399 per game in '09), but it would put the team on pace for another 6,000 yard season. 6 teams in the NFL had 6,000 yards in 2009: New Orleans, Dallas, New England, Houston, Minnesota, and Green Bay. The Average NFL team had 335 yards per game in 2009, and the average playoff team rolled out 363 yards per game.

However, yards per play was way down (6.26 in '09) with only 5.31 yards per play. 1 yard under a team's average on every play is significant.

And then the biggest number of all that jumps off the page is 7 points. Bill Parcells would tell the media in his occasionally informative press conference mode that a team needs to score 7 points for every 100 yards of offense for it to feel it had an efficient day. This assumes normal average starting field position and normal "hidden yardage" production from special teams, but when you are close to 400 yards, you cannot be sitting on 7 points. Nowhere near enough bang for your buck.

Against the Redskins, the Cowboys were without 2 starting offensive linemen. It was clear that all week, Jason Garrett planned to protect them, because he knew with a normal Cowboys game-plan, it might be difficult to protect them from being exposed to a few very capable pass rushers.

Every week, coaches sit in a film room and evaluate what they have and what their opponent has. This game plan often dictates just about everything you see in the first half of a game. So, from a play-calling stand point, you can see that the Cowboys did not have a whole lot of early faith in anything but the extremely quick, short passing game. Like we expected, Tony Romo was going to have to get the ball and get it out to the perimeter quickly. If it worked, then the Redskins would have to respect the flanks - which, of course, would diminish the amount of players that they could send on blitzes.

Here is what they did on 1st Down throughout the game: 34 1st Down Plays: 24 Pass/10 Run

1st Down Run-Pass10-24
2nd Down Avg Distance to Go7.26
2nd Down Run-Pass8-15
3rd Down Avg Distance to Go9.23
3rd Down Run-Pass4-9
3rd Down Conversions5-13, 38%

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I find those totals a bit misleading, because this was not a traditional "sling it around" game plan, but rather, a commitment to quick 3-step drop passing plays that would not ask his line to hold up for more than a few quick seconds. Of course, once the game develops, and you must roll the dice because of the scoreboard and the situation, then you must put Romo back in his normal spot and ask him to hang in there under pressure and allow his men to get down field. This is why you don't see Alex Barron, in particular, exposed until nearly half-time. But, in the 2nd half, the Cowboys had to forget the game-plan and get points, because they were down 10. And that played right into the Redskins defensive schemes. Now, you understand the full impact of that play right before the half.

Here is the breakdown by groupings:

Totals by Personnel Groups:
PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

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Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:
PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

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For a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groups, click here.

I think we see from the above totals that the 2010 Cowboys will be doing plenty of things that utilize the 3WR and 4WR sets that Dez Bryant should allow. 11 personnel is dangerous for any opponent to defend, with Austin, Bryant, Williams, Witten, and a RB, and it forces the opponent to generally go with a nickel defense which should make running more effective. We shall see about that when Kosier and Colombo get back, but for now, we can see that S11 was not nearly productive enough in the passing game with only 4.63 yards per pass. When you are spreading out your defense and throwing out of shotgun, a team must roll up 6 or 7 yards per throw, and the Cowboys just couldn't get on the same page. Again, a lot of this is because they did not have time. But, we already know that.

Now, my favorite part of Decoding Garrett; Looking at particular plays on video and talking through them. We pick 5-6 plays from each week (some good, some bad) and see what we can see:

Video Breakdowns:

Thanks, Brian at DC Fanatic.com .

The Play:3Q - Play #40 - S12 - 2/5/22 - Romo beats blitz to Austin for 29

What Happened:This one is beautiful and demonstrates the skill level of the QB. S12, with Bennett lined up on the left sideline, opposite 3 weapons on the right. Witten in tight, Austin in the slot, and Dez up top. At the snap, 30 - Landry blitzes off RT, and Drew Bledsoe would have been toast. But, Romo steps up in the pocket and stays alive to find Austin running across. The Redskins gamble that the blitz will get there, but if it doesn't Austin will be running with Line Backers. 22 - Rogers leaves Bennett and chases Austin down on the play. This is one of two plays where we wonder if a slightly better throw would have resulted in a 78 yard Touchdown rather than a 29 yard gain. I hate to ask the world of Tony, but on this play and the next one, Miles must stop and catch the pass behind him and this allows the defenders to catch him. Another thing to point out is that the Cowboys line Witten up next to Barron - which should give a presnap read of pass protection to the defense, but that is a cat-and-mouse game where if they guess right (and they did) then Romo has a guy who is unaccounted for, because Barron can't worry about Landry when he is trying to block the linebacker.


The Play:4Q - Play #69 - S11 - 4/10/43 - Romo to Austin for big +31

What Happened: This may be an example of the Redskins trying to learn a new scheme. They have a very exotic blitz package here on a play that can win the game for them if they can hold up one more time. They want the Cowboys to think they are rushing 3 and dropping 8, but in reality they are rushing 5. But the extra 2, #52 McIntosh and #23 Hall are coming on a delay blitz. Then, everyone behind those 5 must find their man quickly, but confusion allows Miles Austin of all people to run free as #22 Rogers and #31 Buchanon both seem to think they are on Roy Williams on the left flank. The key here is the great recognition of Romo to find the man running free on a play they must convert or the game is over. It takes a busted coverage of the Redskins to make this happen, but there is nothing wrong with that. But, this is a poor throw by Romo (behind him) or it is a likely Touchdown. Romo would want this throw again for sure.


The Play:2Q - Play #19 - 11 3/1/42 - Barber left for 3

What Happened: I wanted to look at these next 2 plays for a reason. First, 11 personnel, but short yardage running is interesting. Usually, on 3rd and short, the Cowboys run out multiple TEs and get the ground and pound. THe problem with that is that is the Redskins would counter with 8-man fronts on 3rd and short. So, Garrett tries to spread you out with a formation that you better respect for the pass. A triple bunch to the right, but all coverage concerns in "11". Witten comes in motion to balance things out to the left. Then, Barber runs out of this posture. This first time, it works well as Doug Free seems to block the entire left flank on his own, once Witten seals off his man (Orakpo) with a down block in front of Free. 68 - Free looks very capable in space, and it is a nice conversion by the Cowboys.


The Play: 4Q - Play #60 - 11 - 3/2/41 - Choice left blown up badly

What Happened: The play above worked well, so later they called it again. It certainly did not work here. People always wonder why the Cowboys don't keep running stuff until the opponent stops it. Well, here we give the Redskins credit for recognizing the exact same idea and blowing it up with sheer numbers. Orakpo sees Witten looking for the seal and decides that Witten is not blocking him. This knocks Free way back in the backfield, and Free cannot do what he did last time. When you look at the same play with 2 different outcomes, you see why coaching football must be so intoxicating. It really is a chess game and each team keeps figuring out what the other is trying to do and they take it away. A pass back to the right here would have caught the Redskins with their pants down as both safeties were sitting a run like Barber had in the 2Q. Witten is a fine blocker, but Orakpo has proven to us he is no joke. So very strong.

The Play: 3Q - Play #47 - 22 - 2/4/16 - Barber power right +12

What Happened: This is another play that they ran several times on Sunday Night. "22" personnel, with Bennett and Witten to the right, and a FB in front of the TB. This "22" personnel is something the Cowboys do very, very well. The reason is simple - Witten and Bennett scare teams over the top. I find the fact that Bennett is still a seam concern somewhat confusing, given that he has played 33 games in the NFL and has yet to really make anyone pay for not treating him as a simple blocking TE with the occasional 8 yard curl reception, but it is clear they still fear him for some reason. Anyway, this play has been run dozens of times in the last year. Bennett in motion from the sideline to the LDE. He crashes down here, and then Witten and Anderson grab the LB help to that side. This leaves a 1-on-1 situation between Barber and the DB. 12 easy yards on one of the Cowboys favorite plays. Anytime a team sees "22" personnel come on the field, they are looking for this play. Funny thing about it? They still do not stop it very well. And because of that, the easy extension of this is to find Austin on the weakside with man-to-man after the safeties cheat to it.

The Play:3Q - Play #46 - 1/10/O22 - 31 - 3RB Option Right

What Happened: A very rare "31" personnel package, with all 3 RBs out on the field at the same time. The more I watch this replay, the more I am convinced that if Choice pitches it to Felix there is a Touchdown here. MB3 looks like he will get the last man on the flank on the block. Choice keeps it and picks up a nice gain on 1st down (6 yards), but in film study, I think they will see something bigger here. This would also seem to be an imposing idea out of the Wildcat, so we will keep an eye on that. At the start of the play, Austin and Felix are lined up wide giving the Redskins a normal formation read. Then when Felix goes in motion to the backfield, I would imagine the Redskins are all a bit concerned about what was just sprung on them. If nothing else, this is the kind of play that will keep the Chicago Bears coaching staff busy for an hour this week about they can keep enough numbers on the flank to deal with 3 RB running lanes, without leaving the weak-side wide open for a pass to Miles.

The Play: 4Q - Play #72 - S11 - 3/10/13 - last play of game

What Happened:And now, the play that made us all crazy. Here is what I wrote yesterday, so let's see if it makes sense with the video: It is the last chance to save this game. The Cowboys just called their final timeout to consider what their best option could be. This throw must go into the end-zone, which, of course, means that the protection scheme must provide Romo and the receivers (Miles Austin, Roy Williams, Jason Witten, and Dez Bryant) a chance to get through their routes and complete the pass. The Redskins, who have been blitzing quite constantly in this final drive, decide to drop 8 into coverage and only rush 3. Free seems to have Carter driven past the pocket. Gurode and Holland double team Vonnie Holiday and have him blocked. Leonard Davis is left with nobody in front of him when Alexander drops into coverage. And, that leaves Orakpo vs Barron yet again. Earlier in the Quarter, on the Cowboys 8th drive, Barron nullified a 12 yard pass to Witten on 3rd and 11 with his holding penalty on Orakpo. It is clear that Orakpo's move to the outside shoulder of Barron is something the Cowboys back-up tackle has no answer to. This has been obvious to those of us at home, so I would like to think that Garrett and his crew are on top of the situation. And yet, at the snap, despite having Barber lined up right behind Barron as if he is going to chip Orakpo at the snap, Barber cuts to the opposite side of Barron (his inside shoulder) and pops out on a useless pass pattern. I say "useless" because Romo is not going to pass it to Barber at the 10 yard line with time expired. Did Barber not chip when he was supposed to? Did Garrett not instruct him to do so with this protection scheme? Both seem unthinkable, but one must be true. Because even though the Redskins just rushed 3 men, Barron had no chance against Orakpo's move to the outside, and Barron puts him in a illegal clothes-line move almost immediately. After watch the replay several dozen times, I am convinced a simple chip from Barber and the Cowboys win this game. But, what I think doesn't matter. What actually happened is that Romo ran for his life and found an opening enough to hit a wide-open Roy Williams in the endzone after he ran a long crossing route on the play. For a split second it appeared to be a magical Dallas moment, until we saw the referee made the call that he had no choice but to make.

I would just add this: After further review, it appears that Barber carried out his assignment. He saw no need to help because RT and RG should be able to handle 1 LB. The problem is that Barron must set up to not be beaten to the outside. If he cheats to the outside and Orakpo shoots inside, then Davis is there to help (and so is Barber). But, Barron was beaten to the outside. I think this must be a scheme issue where they depended on Barron and now spend all week wondering why they were silly enough to depend on Barron. Lesson learned.

We will look at Targets and Sacks in a post coming very soon.


CraigHM said...

Bob, of all the post-game recaps on all the blogs out there, this is far and away my favorite. Love the video highlights with breakdowns of exactly what happened. Keep up the great work.

Shawn said...

Barber going out in a pass route is what allowed Roy to get open.

When Barber comes out into the flat the linebacker comes up to cover him, vacating the exact part of the endzone that Roy runs into.

If Barber stays in to block, Roy isn't open.

Steven said...


Tony threw behind Witten in the end zone on what appeared to be sure early td. It looked like there was some confusion in the routes run by both Witten and Miles. Can you provide some insight? Was it a bad pass or did someone run the wrong route?