This is one of those weeks where we should consider renaming this feature. "Decoding Garrett" has meant one thing from 2007 until earlier this month - the idea of breaking down the performance of the Offensive Coordinator of the Cowboys. Now, if someone reads the headline, they might read into it a larger meaning of breaking down the performance of the Head Coach. Please understand that I did that here on Friday, but this particular entry is all about the Cowboys' offense.
With that in mind, there is a lot to like about how the Cowboys offense moved the football. The 445 yards in total offense that they accumulated on Thanksgiving Day would long be exceeded this season by their Week 4 performance of 508 yards against Tennessee. Ironically, they have lost their 2 most productive performances this season - both at home. I would imagine that the win-loss record of Cowboys teams that get 445 yards is quite impressive, but this has been one of those years where you throw out normal results.
445 yards, 6.1 yards per play, and 34:41 in Time of Possession tell us that the Cowboys - even with Jon Kitna - have an offense that is promising in some regards. What has always separated them from the truly poor offenses in this league is their impressive explosiveness that can unleash at any moment. Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Roy Williams all have "big play" ability, and that is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing because on any play they can take it all the way. A curse because when they don't get wins, people want to know why you "waste" all of this talent.
The fact is, the Cowboys are not as good as they should be, and this is a result of not having the offensive line that most (if not all) offensive schemes require.
Another component to consider as we look at all of this data is that the Cowboys knew they were in a situation that is quite the opposite of playing Detroit. When playing New Orleans, an offensive coordinator has to know that it will take a rather impressive offensive display to keep your team in the game. Balance is nice, but when you need your team to get into the 30's on the scoreboard, you are going to have to have a more aggressive posture in the huddle.
And of course, another reason why the Cowboys were passing the ball early and often is that they fell behind 17-0 early. A devastating 1st Quarter was a difficult hole to climb out of, but the Cowboys did a fine job of doing just that. The margin for error in the NFL is often very slim, and for the Cowboys offense, 75 plays can be boiled down to that Roy Williams/Malcolm Jenkins meeting late in the 4th Quarter. If Roy secures the ball, we are celebrating a fabulous offensive performance. But Jenkins strips Roy of the ball and suddenly we look at all of this data and still say "not good enough".
It is both a true and false conclusion.
Below, you will see that after a few weeks of balancing up the formations, the Cowboys went back to the "heavy shotgun" posture - again, easily explained by being down 17 points pretty early. Sometimes you stick with your game plan, other times, you are trying not to get embarrassed on Thanksgiving Day in front of every eyeball in the nation that follows the NFL. I, frankly, understand the Cowboys deciding to go down fighting on Thursday:
Wk 1: 33
Wk 2: 33
Wk 3: 22
Wk 4: 37
Wk 5: 18
Wk 6: 37
Wk 7: 51
Wk 8: 36
----------------Wade Phillips Fired---------------
Wk 9: 12
Wk 10: 14
Wk 11: 33
Let's look at the data from another home loss - Cowboys now 1-5 at home:
|1st Down Run-Pass||12-20|
|2nd Down Avg Distance to Go||6.04|
|2nd Down Run-Pass||14-11|
|3rd Down Avg Distance to Go||5.53|
|3rd Down Run-Pass||3-12|
|3rd Down Conversions||7-15, 47%|
All of the above numbers are off the charts positive. Great 2nd down and 3rd down "To Go" averages. That means the Cowboys are productive in the early downs in this game and setting themselves up with manageable situations on the later downs to try and accomplish their objectives. In theory, you can't be too excited about just 12 runs in 32 1st Down plays, but it seemed to be working so "you play to win the game" not to have balanced ratios.
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
Wk 11-New Orleans: 12 Drives - 5 Run/7 Pass
57 Run/64 Pass
Here is the breakdown by groupings:
Totals by Personnel Groups:
Sometimes you must go inside the numbers to see what these charts mean. "12" personnel looks extra impressive when the Cowboys ran the ball, but that would be mostly a result of Miles Austin breaking an end-around for 60 yards and a Touchdown. "23" personnel only had 2 carries for 2 yards, but they were both 1 yard Touchdown runs. And "S11" looks poor on the ground (6 carries for 2 yards) but it is affected by Andre Gurode's ridiculous shotgun snap that lost 17 yards in the 1st half.
Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:
All success or failure comes down to one fumble and one scenario where the defense cannot keep the Saints out of the end zone. Or maybe it is the the few feet to the left that David Buehler's FG sailed. Regardless, either you win or you lose, and that is the only real stat that matters for these guys.
But as an offensive coordinator, you must be careful in a win or a loss throwing the baby out with the bath water. You have to be able to evaluate every player and every play independently of the final score if you want to stay in the league. Plenty of good happened for the offense, and they need to continue to build on that heading into Sunday at Indianapolis.
Check out the video supplement that will be posted a bit later today.
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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