The knock on Jason Garrett's offense for the last few years is that they do not score enough points with all of those yards they would accumulate. This week, the exact opposite came down. They scored lots of points while having a rather ugly offensive day. Try this on for size: The Cowboys won a game with only 266 yards. The only 2 times they had worse production this season was At Green Bay (202 yards) and home against New York (261). But, to get 35 points on 266 yards is somewhere between efficient and lucky. And once you look at the game and find out how they scored what they scored (Bryan McCann, anyone) you see why they call this a results oriented business. Get the Result - the "W" - and everything else can be examined with a bit of a positive tone.
The Cowboys ran the ball on the final 9 plays of the game on Sunday to kill off a lead of a game that was in doubt for most of the afternoon. Otherwise, they appeared to try many things to get the offense to look competent again after a first drive that was perfect.
Check out the yardage by Quarters:
1Q - 88 yards
2Q - 8 yards
3Q - 11 yards
4Q - 158 yards
This much is clear - the offensive line is what we thought it was. I don't know what they did to look so impressive against New York where nobody seemed to miss blocks and pass protection was near perfect. Against Detroit, we saw the Cowboys return as an offensive line unit to a mediocre group with blown blocks, sacks allowed, and penalties often enough to be annoying.
And this is where Jason Garrett will be tested for the rest of the year. He wants to be balanced and he wants to establish a physical tone, but it sure seems when the Cowboys play a defensive front with any amount of quickness in the interior, they are in a real bad spot with Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, and Kyle Kosier trying to hold off the opponent. Davis has slipped so far that now it is very obvious that defensive coordinators are trying to get Marc Colombo to slide wide against an edge rush just to isolate Davis in space. His pass protection this year has been amazingly poor given his reputation. I remember this summer some people suggesting that he could slide out to left tackle and replace Flozell. He wasn't mobile enough to do that 6 years ago, and now he isn't mobile enough to play right guard it would appear. Meanwhile, the other guard spot has had problems because Kosier's body seems to be wearing down and on Sunday when Gurode had to double team with Davis on Suh, we saw that Kosier had a real difficult time with Corey Williams isolated on 1-on-1 battles. The reality of coordinating an offense is that you have real battles going on all over the field. If your guys up front cannot win them with any level of consistency, then being balanced or productive is a dream.
The real issue there continues to be that we don't think the Cowboys have any of their future on the roster right now (which leads me back to questions about why the personnel department is not placing Lissemore and Romo on the IR to go get some developmental OL players) besides Sam Young, Phil Costa and Jeremy Parnell - 3 mainstays of the inactive list each Sunday. If players are playing too poorly to allow you to run your offense most weeks, it would sure be nice to have some candidates to replace them. But, as we have documented plenty, the replacement candidates appear to be playing mostly in Miami these days.
Shotgun versus Under Center - The true test of balance to my eyes is not run/pass but being under center way more than shotgun. Shotgun should only be a tool for 3rd Down and 2-minute drill offense. In those situations, we don't mind being 1-dimensional, but otherwise, it makes your offense too easy to defend. Oddly, this appears to be one of the first things Jason Garrett has adjusted to his offense. For the 2nd week in a row, the Cowboys were well below their season average (33 snaps per game, weeks 1-8) in this important department:
Wk 1: 33
Wk 2: 33
Wk 3: 22
Wk 4: 37
Wk 5: 18
Wk 6: 37
Wk 7: 51
Wk 8: 36
Wk 9: 12
Wk 10: 14
Yes, this number is partly score-dependent, but not entirely. 12 and 14 shotgun snaps show a real insistence to establish physical play - the only question is will they be able to keep it up if the OL shows they are still mediocre most weeks.
Let's look at the Data from the first home win of the year:
|1st Down Run-Pass||16-9|
|2nd Down Avg Distance to Go||7.5|
|2nd Down Run-Pass||8-10|
|3rd Down Avg Distance to Go||8.36|
|3rd Down Run-Pass||4-7|
|3rd Down Conversions||6-11, 55%|
Drive Starters: I list these because many offensive NFL minds will tell you that you can see a lot from what the intent is of the OC by listing his first play of each drive. When the score is still in control, you have a chance to run the ball. Dallas was in a close game on Sunday against the Lions, and it seems rather clear that they are trying to keep the offense as balanced as possible as they move along.
Wk 1-At Washington: 10 Drives - 6 Run/4Pass
Wk 2-Chicago: 10 Drives - 3 Run/7 Pass
Wk 3-At Houston: 8 Drives - 8 Run/0 Pass
Wk 4-Tennessee: 12 Drives - 5 Run/7 Pass
Wk 5-At Minnesota: 11 Drives - 7 Run/4 Pass
Wk 6-New York: 14 Drives - 3 Run/11 Pass
Wk 7-Jacksonville: 11 Drives - 3 Run/8 Pass
Wk 8-At Green Bay: 10 Drives - 3 Run/7 Pass
Wk 9-At New York: 12 Drives - 8 Run/4 Pass
Wk 10-Detroit: 11 Drives - 6 Run/5 Pass
52 Run/57 Pass
Here is the breakdown by groupings:
Totals by Personnel Groups:
And why do they call 3rd Down the "money down"? Because, you can save your entire game plan if you simply convert a few times here. The Cowboys scored 3 of their 4 Touchdowns on 3rd or 4th Down. The Bryant Fade pattern, one of Miles Austin's TDs, and of course, the naked boot to Kitna on 4th Down were basically the difference between a fabulous day and a mediocre day. Give the Cowboys and Kitna credit for seizing the opportunities, because the evidence tells us the day could have been much worse.
Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:
Again, no eye-popping yardage or production. Just 3 drives of consequence, but they cashed all 3 in for Touchdowns, and then were given a Special Teams score and a very short field. Winning Ugly against the Lions, but that beats the alternative.
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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