I try to read the comments on each of the posts as a matter of routine, because I find I can always learn plenty about this stuff along with you on a game by game basis. I am by no means an expert on this - just someone who really loves learning more about how a game plan can lead to victory or defeat.
But, I still miss plenty. So, On Tuesday's Decoding Garrett piece where we broke down several plays, Ed in California commented that I missed a key situation from the 4th Quarter in Houston:
I would have liked for you to have shown the 63-yard touchdown to Roy W. and contrast that play with the very first play of that same scoring drive so that everyone can appreciate what the defense was trying to react to on the TD play. First play of that drive is a draw play to Barber for a decent gain. Same personnel, same formation, same TE motion. It's interesting to note because Garrett does have a tendency to run the same play multiple times within a single drive. This time the Cowboys use that tendency to their advantage by throwing out of a formation that they had run from just a few plays prior.
Then, when I was listening to Texans' Coach Gary Kubiak on Monday, he peeled back another layer of the onion that fascinated me even further. So, Ed, let's do it - let's go back to Sunday one more time. I think what you are about to see is that the Cowboys have plenty of brains in their offensive brain trust:
Play #1 - 1/10/26 - "12" personnel - Cowboys run a pretty standard Pass/Run Delay Draw option that we see from them as they start a drive with an 11 point 4th Quarter lead. Both teams are thinking the Cowboys are going to try to kill off the clock here and move the chains through power running. Roy Williams is split to the right, Miles Austin to the left. Martellus Bennett is flexed to the left, and Jason Witten motions from the backfield to the left, too. The Texans see all of this as an intent to run left of course. Notice the Texans in presnap. The have 7 in the box, but look at their Strong Safety 31-Pollard as he does not sneak up to stop the run. He actually sits on a slant to Roy Williams before he breaks off and heads for Barber at the handoff. The other safety 26-Wilson is so deep that he is not on the TV screen. Also watch 65-Gurode as he is getting down the field to take on Linebackers at the 2nd level. This is a very standard Cowboys play that you will see every week.
Play #2 - 2/10/43 - "12" personnel - 4 snaps later, the Cowboys have set the bait. And now we see the Texans take the bait. Compare plays #1 and #2. If you are Benny Pollard or Eugene Wilson (the safeties) you just saw this exact formation and motion. You know that the ball is going to Barber again. But here is why this play is extra interesting to me - all of the Cowboys blockers think Barber is going to get the ball, too. Watch Austin, Witten, and Gurode again. They are all run blocking. Gurode is so sure this is a run play that he is way downfield (risking a penalty that could have fairly been given).
This demonstrates how Garrett and Romo design the offense. It is based on Romo's read. He reads the safeties on this play and again we see that the design is based on taking what the Texans concede. After seeing the first play, look how Pollard lines up on the 2nd play. There is an 8th man in the box. The Texans will not allow the draw play to work again. And that is why Romo saw 31 sneak up. He will not be able to jump the slant this time, so Romo and Roy know what they are supposed to do based on film study and practice. To make matters worse for Houston, the corner slips to the ground and the free safety (26-Wilson) looks like he is limping down the field.
It doesn't always work this easily, but this shows how one play sets up another in the NFL.
Watch Play #2 all the way through because I have edited the audio of Kubiak on to the replay about :40 in. He walks you through the entire play from the opposition perspective. Deconstructing NFL games is like treasure hunting sometimes. There is so much to sift through but there are fascinating chess games being played all over the field.