These three possibilities are called "drive killers" or "drive stoppers" in many coaching circles. Drive killers can make a decent drive into a punt. It can make a TD into a FG. It can take a win and turn it into a loss. Drive killers come in many forms, but here are the numbers in the 2010 season for what drive killers can do to an offense.
In 2010, teams scored touchdowns on only 18% of drives that had offensive penalties. Drives that included negative rushes only resulted in TDs on 14% of the time. Sacks? If a drive had a sack, only 7% would then end up in the endzone with 7 points. And, it goes without saying that 0% of drives with turnovers get touchdowns. I don't have the numbers league-wide for 2011, but I believe that most who follow the Cowboys would confirm that sometimes the best defense is an offense that insists on getting in it's on way.
So, on days like Thanksgiving Day, you understand why coaches go on and on about "not beating ourselves" and getting execution clean and precise. It is really difficult to beat your opponent when you are beating yourself.
Let's take a quick look at the 11 drives:
#1 - Drive ends with a Romo interception intended for Bennett.
#2 - Penalty to Free, Penalty to Ogletree, Punt.
#3 - Drive ends with a Romo interception intended for Robinson.
#4 - Cameron Wake Sack, Punt.
#5 - Clean drive stalls for Field Goal.
#6 - Clean drive goes 3 and out.
#7 - 1 play drive for Touchdown.
#8 - Clean drive 3 and out.
#9 - Penalty to Free, Long drive for Touchdown.
#10 - Penalty to Free, Penalty to Smith, Punt.
#11 - Clean drive for game winning Field Goal.
11 drives, 5 were clean (although 1 of those was a 1 play drive from the 5-yard line). If we operate under the theory that any drive that has a blemish has about a 80-90% chance of failure (according to the league stats), we can then see how much pressure you put on those few drives where nothing goes wrong.
The connections between "negatives" (Sacks, penalties, minus rush plays) all mean that you are setting up a 3rd and long. As we discussed last week, 3rd and 10 or more in the NFL is a play that fails 80%+ of the time. So, minus plays set up low-percentage 3rd downs. And the numbers below confirm that 3rd Downs on Thanksgiving Day were near the worst of the season. The season average for 3rd Down distance to go is 7.48 before the Miami game which is near the league average. But, partly due to the Dolphins D and partly due to self-inflicted wounds with false starts and things of that nature, the Cowboys faced 9.55 yards to go on 3rd Down. That is 2nd worse, only the Jets season opener saw a longer distance all season (9.91).
And what are the great effects of this? Well, the Cowboys went 2-9 (22%) on 3rd Down against the Dolphins - their lowest 3rd Down production of 2011. All of these items are related. Self-inflicted wounds don't just hurt that play, they often kill the entire drive. Even a little false start penalty.
Data from Week 11 vs. Miami
|1st Down Run-Pass||14-14|
|2nd Down Avg Distance to Go||7.52|
|2nd Down Run-Pass||8-13|
|3rd Down Avg Distance to Go||9.55|
|3rd Down Run-Pass||1-8|
|3rd Down Conversions||2-9, 22%|
Drive Starters - 1st play of each drive can often reveal the intent of a coach to establish his game plan.
5 Runs on Drives 2-6. Then, all passes the rest of the game. It is clear that Garrett wished to pound the ball quite a bit on Thursday. But, it was a bad combination that forced him back to the air to get the win late. The ground game was impressive in their resolve, but the results were not great. The lurking issues of the lack of a Fullback reared its head again.
Wk 1-At New York Jets: 13 Drives - 5 Run/8 Pass
Wk 2-At San Francisco: 10 Drives - 4 Run/6 Pass
Wk 3-Washington: 11 Drives - 5 Run/6 Pass
Wk 4-Detroit: 14 Drives - 7 Run/7 Pass
Wk 5-At New England: 11 Drives - 4 Run/7 Pass
Wk 6-St Louis: 11 Drives - 8 Run/3 Pass
Wk 7-At Philadelphia - 9 Drives - 2 Run/7 Pass
Wk 8-Seattle - 11 Drives - 4 Run/7 Pass
Wk 9-Buffalo - 10 Drives - 7 Run/3 Pass
Wk 10-At Washington - 14 Drives - 4 Run/10 Pass
Wk 11-Miami - 11 Drives - 5 Run/6 Pass
Total: 125 Drives - 55 Run/70 Pass 44% Run
Here is the breakdown by groupings:
Before you study the data below, I would recommend that if the numbers for the groupings are unfamiliar, that you spend some time reading a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groupings here.
No Tony Fiammetta again means that there is no "21" or "22" personnel available, which then means that the offense will be in some form of "12" or "13" for all plays from under center. "12" personnel ran the ball a bit better and but still averages a mediocre 3.54 yards per carry this season (71 carries for 251 yards). However, "13" personnel - where John Phillips is generally the lead blocker with a shift to FB - the Cowboys remain worse than mediocre and cannot get out of their own way, averaging 2.42 yards per carry (64 carries for 155 yards).
You can see now why Fiammetta or the signing of another FB seem to be on the minds of the people that follow this team. With December and hopefully January looming, 2.42 a carry is not going to get you very far - even with DeMarco Murray.
Totals by Personnel Groups:
Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:
Shotgun snaps are fine on 3rd Down and in the 2 minute drill. But, we track this stat from week to week to make sure the Cowboys aren't getting too lazy in using it. They are not efficient enough to run it as their base, and with a 15%/85% run/pass split across the league, there is no way the defense respects your running game.
Dallas has been in shotgun 275 occasions this season, and has run the ball out of that 31 times (11%). Most of those runs are on 3rd and long where they just want a handful of yards to allow the punter some room, so there is really no reason for the opponent to scout the Cowboys shotgun running schemes until they show that they will use them. I only remember a few times in the last few years when the Cowboys ran the ball for purpose out of the shotgun.
Wk 1 - NYJ: 24/66
Wk 2 - SF: 32/66
Wk 3 - Wash: 27/62
Wk 4 - Det: 29/75
Wk 5 - NE 31/67
Wk 6 - StL 10/60
Wk 7 - Phi 39/49
Wk 8 - Sea 19/59
Wk 9 - Buf 15/61
Wk 10-Was 24/73
Wk 11-Mia 25/58
Total - 275/695 42.7%
Overall, it was clear to anyone who was watching the game that Dallas has won the last two contests without the offense playing particularly well. This is a nice problem to have, but it also shows there are problems to be fixed. Moving forward, there will be days where the Cowboys will need 31 points and a sharp performance to find a victory and I assume that is the focus in this extended week off.
They won on Thanksgiving due to 2 drives that were almost completely on the shoulders of their QB in the 4th Quarter. Tomorrow, we will examine maybe one of the finest drives of his career; the drive that resulted in the TD to Robinson in the deep corner of the endzone. A true thing of beauty.
And please email me at Sturm1310@aol.com if you have questions that I may clarify in an upcoming email blog.