I think last week I might have said something about Jason Garrett's nightmares. I then went on to describe the Minnesota game in rather extensive detail about trying to call a game when your offensive line scares you, you cannot run the ball, and you are terrified that your line cannot pass protect.
But, scratch that idea of nightmares.
This is his nightmare. His QB is down. And, he is not coming back anytime before Santa Claus does. One bust in pass protection from a FB who was not on the radar in July, and your QB breaks his collarbone. All it takes is one busted protection and it your sights must lower from the ultimate goal to just try to scratch out a win by any means necessary in one play.
So, put yourself in his shoes. Now what are you going to try to figure out?
When we look at the data from the Giants game, one must admit that although the data is not completely useless, it might be close. The score got out of control in the 3rd Quarter. You lost your starting QB in the 2nd Quarter. And your running game once again showed no signs of getting on track and without the real threat of a pro bowl QB, we can expect that will actually only get worse. My.
When Romo was hurt in the middle of the 2nd Quarter, I believe Jason Garrett was looking to continue his game plan with Jon Kitna that was put in place for the Cowboys under Romo.
But, the Cowboys then ran 22 plays that resulted in only 1 1st Down (a 17 yard run for Felix Jones that symbolically ended in him being body slammed to the ground by Terrell Thomas. In the first 6 possessions for the Cowboys with Kitna, they went punt-fumble-punt-punt-punt-punt. Nothing was working and the stadium was beyond restless.
The offense was so hopeless that the defense looked like it had given up the fight.
So, Garrett, starting with Kitna's 5th possession switched exclusively to "Shotgun 11" personnel the rest of the game. From snap #28-#56, the Cowboys ran 29 consecutive plays in their default hurry up offense.
There were some circumstances that all came together at the same time that might have made this happen: a) the Cowboys were down 38-20 when the move was made permanent. b) Frank Costa had just become the 3rd Left Guard in the last 2 games. c) nothing the Cowboys were doing with regular personnel was even coming close to getting a 1st down. and d) it is possible that this is what makes Kitna most comfortable.
When you have a full week to prepare a back-up QB for a game, you might actually be able to work on some things and get him ready. By most accounts, the reps for a back-up QB in practice are extremely low on a week to week basis. For those who want to see Stephen McGee, I will tell you that the reps for a 3rd string QB are even lower. Like almost non-existent.
And from that point, for the final 20 minutes of the game, the Cowboys were in S11 every snap. Spread the defense, get Witten and the 3 WRs in routes and try to make throws and move the team.
Bottom line: Kitna looked like he could move the offense a bit in this setting - but I will say that so far the jury is out on his ability to make all of the throws at 38 years old. Most of his completions were between the numbers on the field or shallow throws to the edge. At no point did you see the throws to the sideline that Tony Romo makes with such ease, but that also requires a big-time NFL arm. This throwing between the numbers on the field means that more balls go to Jason Witten, but keep in mind that Jack Del Rio and Jacksonville have this film, too, and are a lot smarter than I am.
So, can they run the ball? We don't think so. How did Costa look at LG (since it seems he will be there Sunday)? We never saw him once in a base formation. Can Kitna make all of the throws? Still don't know because his most complicated throws that he connected on appeared to be slants and ins.
But, this is what Garrett has right now to work with. Time to make lemonade.
Let's look at the Data from the loss to the Giants:
Never was the offense more out of balance than it is now. They ran only 13 running plays and with the exception of the Jones 17 yarder never accomplished a thing. Also, 0-10 on 3rd Down brings us back to Ryan Leaf and Clint Stoerner.
|1st Down Run-Pass||6-19|
|2nd Down Avg Distance to Go||8.63|
|2nd Down Run-Pass||7-12|
|3rd Down Avg Distance to Go||7.80|
|3rd Down Run-Pass||1-9|
|3rd Down Conversions||0-10, 0%|
How about Drive Starting plays?
Wk 1-At Washington: 10 Drives - 6 Run/4Pass
Wk 2-Chicago: 10 Drives - 7 Pass/3 Run
Wk 3-At Houston: 8 Drives - 8 Run/0 Pass
Wk 4-Tennessee: 12 Drives - 7 Pass/5 Run
Wk 5-At Minnesota: 11 Drives - 7 run/4 Pass
Wk 6-New York: 14 Drives - 3 Run/11 Pass
Here is the breakdown by groupings:
Totals by Personnel Groups:
As you can see, this is about as simple a game plan as you can imagine. It is clear that they had to keep stripping it down to just try to get a 1st Down by any means. The data here is badly skewed. And the numbers are very un-Cowboy like.
Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:
The Cowboys never converted a 3rd Down all night. The distance needed on 3rd Down against the Giants was pretty bad and they were playing right into the Giants pass rush as they were sacked in this situation a few times. They converted a 4th down to Dez Bryant for 15 yards and a touchdown on the final offensive snap of the game, which provided what little production you see on the chart above.
Needless to say, there is a ton of work to do this week to get the Cowboys offense to resemble anything like what we are used to.
For a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groups, click here.
Make sure you check use these numbers when you look at the video breakdowns that will be posted later today.
Bob Sturm is host of BaD Radio on The Ticket 1310 AM Mondays through Fridays at 12-3 p.m. He also hosts The Ticket's Cowboys pregame show. Follow Bob on Twitter at
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