There was plenty of curiosity about the Cowboys game plan on Sunday to attack the Eagles defense. With Asante Samuel inactive, we knew that the Eagles were playing 2 corners in Hansen and Patterson who would suggest attacking. There is no fear across the league for that duo, so let's go right at them and make them miserable by trying to chase Roy Williams and Miles Austin around the field, right?
60 minutes of football later, Austin and Williams combined for 45 yards on 4 catches and the Cowboys had fallen to 1-6 at home this season.
Looking back at the game plan - another week of shallow, quick throws - we are tempted to claim that this exposes the fact that you are playing with a QB who has proven over his long career that he has many limitations to his game that over time get exposed by defenses. It would be easy to say this is all about the arm and accuracy of Tony Romo versus the arm and accuracy of Jon Kitna.
It would be, unless you saw all of the games this season. In particular, the game at Minnesota where Tony Romo was also trying to QB against a stingy, aggressive defense without the aid of a running game or an offensive line that can be trusted.
This has been a trend all season. And as opposed to exposing them to challenges he doesn't think they can win, Jason Garrett constructs a game plan that attempts to minimize the impact of his offensive line on the success of the offense. Talk about tough challenges.
When he took the job, he spoke about challenging the offensive line to physically take the game to the opposing team. It is easy to say, but can it be done on a consistent basis? The truth hurts. Let's examine.
In 2009, the Cowboys ran 412 running plays from under center. I separate the plays into 2 categories in the Cowboys offense: Under center and shotgun. The reason I do it is to get a fair characterization of how well the Cowboys run the ball when the opponent is expecting the possibility of the run. This is the NFL where defenses have so much talent that they can usually key on run or pass and take it away from most offenses (unlike the Cowboys inability to stop LeSean McCoy late in the game).
So, when the Cowboys would "declare run" in the huddle by their personnel, and the defense was looking for the run, in 2009, the Cowboys were as physical and dominant a rushing offense as you can imagine.
Look at these numbers from the 2009 season:
The top numbers are all runs from the 2009 season from under center. This is the performance with all shotgun runs eliminated to show you what a "physical team" can look like. Think about those numbers - the defense is preparing for you to run it right at them, and you are still blowing them off the ball for 5 yards a carry.
But wait, it gets better; The 2nd group of numbers is for "Power" groups under center. This means any grouping with just 1 Wide Receiver in the game (or in the case of "23" - 0 WRs). Now, the defense is stacking the box with 8 and 9 men, because you just have the lone WR on the field. These groups include: "13", "22", "WC22", and even "23". This is true power football in the NFL. Very few teams can do this - declare run and then run it down your throat until you beg for their mercy. And yet, here we see the 2009 Dallas Cowboys could do the ground and pound as well as anyone - 5.64 yards per carry on 225 attempts! Amazing stuff. And much of it with Marion Barber carrying the mail.
And now, let's show you why this offensive line needs an overhaul - same chart, but for this season:
Those numbers almost make you think that we cannot be talking about the same team. With only Doug Free replacing Flozell Adams on an otherwise intact group, we see the painful difference and why the Cowboys' game plan sometimes seems preventative rather than aggressive. They don't scare anyone up front. They now run for over a full run less per attempt on ALL under center snaps, and when they declare "Power" groups, the running game that was crushing opponents for 5.64 yards per attempt now only get 58% of the yardage they did last season with 3.29 yards per attempt.
They simply cannot run block anymore. Is it age? Is it health? Is it poor healthy because of age? It simply doesn't matter why. What matters is the fact that Jason Garrett, or any OC of this group, is trying to call an offense with the benefit of a reasonable line up front.
There is no question what this team must address as a top priority in the offseason.
The number that must be repeated from Sunday is this: After the 1st Drive of the game, the Cowboys attempted 9 run plays from under center during the rest of the game. Total yardage gained: 9 yards. 1 yard per attempt. No wonder they don't even bother some times.
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
Wk 12: 20
Wk 13: 29
Here is the Data from another loss at home:
|1st Down Run-Pass||13-16|
|2nd Down Avg Distance to Go||7.89|
|2nd Down Run-Pass||9-10|
|3rd Down Avg Distance to Go||7.0|
|3rd Down Run-Pass||1-10|
|3rd Down Conversions||3-11, 27%|
Again, without accomplishing anything on the ground Sunday, it is tough to stay balanced - and you can make the case it makes no sense to "stay balanced" when a run play is just a wasted snap.
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
Wk 12-Indianapolis: 11 Drives - 10 Run/1 Pass
Wk 13-Philadelphia: 12 Drives - 5 Run/7 Pass
72 Run/72 Pass
Here is the breakdown by groupings:
Totals by Personnel Groups:
The run totals don't look too shabby until you consider that much of the run yards came on a Miles Austin reverse and Jon Kitna scrambles.
Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:
Make sure you 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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