Friday, December 09, 2011

A First For Garrett

Let's cover three different Cowboys issues this morning:

The Cowboys are preparing for a massive showdown with the New York Giants on Sunday night, and even though the implications of the result speak for themselves, the details of this series are worth visiting.

In the first meeting between these two teams in 2006, Tony Romo was substituted into the game at halftime of a Monday Night affair. Thus started the "Romo Era" and ended the career of Drew Bledsoe starting in the NFL.

Since that night, the teams have met 10 times in the regular season (there was also that 1 playoff meeting in 2007) and the series is locked at 5-5. Points in those 10 meetings are also as tight as can be, with the Giants holding a 279-278 advantage. Only once in those 10 games has each offense scored less than 20 points. The Giants were held to 8 in their last visit to Texas Stadium in December of 2008, and the Cowboys scored just 14 when Brooks Bollinger subbed in for Brad Johnson in a forgettable day in November 2008 - a day best remembered for Mike Jenkins bailing out on a tackle against Derrick Ward.

Beyond that, it has been well documented that the offenses control this series. In his only two visits to Cowboys Stadium, Eli Manning has carved up the Cowboys with great ease, throwing for 6 TDs, 636 yards, and 2 wins. Orlando Scandrick, in particular, has been victimized over and over again by Eli and the slot receivers for the Giants in these two meetings. In 2009, they threw at Scandrick 13 times, completing 10 passes for 144 yards. Then, in 2010, Eli went after the outside corners of Dallas in their trip here (which cost the Cowboys Romo for the rest of the season) throwing at Newman 11 times (7 completions for 106 yards) and Jenkins 9 times (7 completions for 92 yards) according to our friends at

There are countless objectives to beating the Giants on Sunday, but the emphasis to beating the Giants needs to be on slowing down the Giants passing attack which seems tailor-made for attacking Wade Phillips' defense. Now, Rob Ryan is on the main stage and we will see what he tries to do with timely blitzing. One great item to note is that Steve Smith is no longer on the Giants roster. In 3 starts against the Cowboys in the last 2 seasons, Smith has been targeted 37 times by Eli Manning for 25 catches. 345 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 15 1st Downs demonstrates what a handful he has been running the slot for the Giants. But, that now is left to others, and I am guessing that starting with Scandrick, the Cowboys are quite fine with that.


There could be a "first" accomplished on Sunday for Jason Garrett and his offense. This could be the first time that he has a full compliment of his weapons on the field for an entire game (assuming that everyone can make it through without injury).

Think about that. We aren't talking about losing a LB or a guard. We are talking about having all of your skill players available for 1 complete game. Other teams deal with injuries, too, but it sure seems that the Cowboys have had a heck of a time just getting to explore what a fully operational arsenal could present to opponents. 20 games as head coach of the Cowboys, and he has enjoyed exactly 0 with his starting QB, RB, TE, and top 3 WRs at the same time. Here is the list of those 20 games and details about who was present:


Wk 9 - NYG - No Romo
Wk 10 - Det - No Romo
Wk 11 - NO - No Romo, Lost Barber
Wk 12 - IND - No Romo, No Barber, Lost Dez
Wk 13 - Phil - No Romo, No Dez, No Barber, Lost Roy Williams
Wk 14 - Wash - No Romo, No Dez, No Barber, No Williams
Wk 15 - Arz - No Romo, No Dez
Wk 16 - Phil - No Romo, No Dez


Wk 1 - NYJ - All Present (Dez injured early), No Robinson (DNP)
Wk 2 - SF - No Dez, Romo left game, Austin hurt, No Robinson (DNP)
Wk 3 - Wash - No Austin
Wk 4 - Det - No Austin
Wk 5 - NE - All Present (Felix leaves game with injury)
Wk 6 - STL - No Felix
Wk 7 - Phil - No Felix
Wk 8 - Sea - No Felix, Austin hurt
Wk 9 - Buf - No Felix, No Austin
Wk 10 - Was - No Austin
Wk 11 - Mia - No Austin
Wk 12 - Arz - No Austin

It goes without saying that during the "No Felix" period, the Cowboys discovered they actually had a better RB behind him in DeMarco Murray, but that doesn't mean that they couldn't use the dynamic play making ability of Felix. Now, with 3 competent WRs, 2 explosive RBs, Witten and Romo all present together, the onus will be on the offense to make this opportunity count.

It sounds like excuses to blame the lack of production on a few selected injuries, but at some point, you have to recognize that Jon Kitna, Jesse Holley, and Kevin Ogletree are not capable of things that Romo, Dez, and Miles are. Simple facts of pro football.

Maybe, just maybe, one of the reasons the offense has not been as explosive as it appears it should be on paper is that they just can't ever run the offense that they thought they were going to be able to run all offseason long.


Finally, here is last week's Romo passing chart. Blue is for completions, Red is for incompletions, Yellow is the TD to Dez.

I think it demonstrates again that there was not much explosiveness down the field at all. Patrick Peterson did a nice job on Dez Bryant down the field and broke up a few deep shots. Otherwise, we see yet again that when the Cowboys "go conservative", it is usually with quick passes to the edge and a hope that the receiver can break a play. When that play never really materializes, the Cowboys must string together plenty of long drives that can easily be derailed by a penalty, sack, or other negative play. And there were plenty of sacks to stop drives on Sunday.

1 comment:

scottmaui said...

Bob, I love you passing charts. This is a simple idea that conveys so much information in an easy to understand way, I am kind of surprised no one thought of it before.

the one comment/suggestion I have is that it might be useful to convey a different sort of information to somehow show not just the origin point of the pass in relation to the field, but also in relation to the spot of the snap. In other words, a pass from the left hash could be in the pocket, or it could be one of his spin outs to the left from a play that was snapped on the right hash. I don't know how to do this in the same diagram, maybe it would require a completely separate diagram with the register of all the passes shifted to align the spot of the snap. this would just convey some different information that would also be useful in understanding the patterns of the passing game.

re the Cowboys injuries, they have been plagued by losing important players for stretches throughout the season, but on the other hand they have been extremely fortunate to avoid season ending injuries. Radway, Nagy, Buehler and now Tanner are their only players on IR, all relatively marginal/backup players. They head into the stretch run now with all of their core starters and most of their key role players relatively healthy for this stage in the season.