Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Decoding Garrett - Week 7 - New York Giants

Today, let's start with our concluding point:  Tony Romo is playing some of the worst football of his career.

After a 4 interception performance against the Giants, not only does he take over the league lead in interceptions, but he does it by a healthy margin with 13.  3 others have 10 picks, the likes of Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden, and Andy Dalton.

Interceptions are not the be-all, end-all of Quarterbacking, but to have elite QB rating numbers and efficiency, you are going to have to have 2 to 3 times as many touchdowns as interceptions.  Drew Brees has thrown plenty of picks in the last 5 seasons (72), but when you have 167 touchdowns during that same stretch (+95), odds are pretty good that you are having success.

Heck, the all-time interception king is Brett Favre, with a likely untouchable total of 336, but given his equally all-time leading touchdown totals of 508, was seen as much more good than bad (+172).

Romo is +73 for his career, but a painful -4 for his season.  And his 13 picks is already the 3rd most of his 7-year career.  After always being amongst the league leaders in QB rating with numbers in the mid to high 90s, he finds himself below Jay Cutler and right next to Michael Vick in 2012, with a 78 QB rating (very close to Quincy Carter's 71-type numbers).

Even worse, Romo-apologists like me are so perplexed by his performance that a slam-dunk decision about getting his contract extension done now looks like a confusing dilemma moving forward after the last few duds in front of the home audience.

What is happening to one of the more efficient QBs of this era?  In almost all metrics, since he has come into the league, he is no worst than 5th when it comes to QB rating behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning.  That is the entire list.  Anyone else?  And Romo has them on statistical metrics of the individual variety.

It is tough to narrow down specifically what is happening, and honestly, to blame one aspect of the offense is to let others off the hook.  But, the following items are true.

*  Romo has turned the ball over more than anyone in the sport this year
*  Romo has 0 TDs and 5 interceptions on 3rd and 4th downs
*  Romo has the 33rd worst QB rating on 3rd Down of 34 qualifying QBs (Skelton, Arz)

Those are the 3 most disconcerting numbers to this point.  On 1st and 2nd down, he hasn't been great, but he hasn't been horrible, either.

But, 3rd Down.  And what, pray tell, do the Cowboys do almost exclusively on 3rd Down?  They run their shotgun-spread-them-out offense.

This year, Romo from shotgun is hitting 2 Touchdowns and 8 interceptions.  Add to this 12 sacks from this alignment, and you see that many, many bad things are happening with 20 negative plays and just 2 Touchdowns to compensate.

From under center, we see 7 Touchdowns and 5 interceptions, with only 1 sack against.  This number is far from great, but again, at least it qualifies for acceptable.

Now, how do those numbers jive with Sunday?  Actually, all of the sacks came out of shotgun.  But, on Sunday, 3 of the 4 interceptions came from under center.  Which means, that Romo's ratio was far more impressive (7 TDs, 2  INTs) before the issues were completely different on Sunday.

On Sunday, believe it or not, the Cowboys ideas were sound.  They tried to run their offense from under center.  They took smart shots down the field from a play-calling department (1st and 10) and they were sabotaged by the execution of their quarterback throwing into coverage and their receivers perhaps not bailing out their QB with sound routes or challenging the ball a little better (in the case of the Corey Webster pick).

They even tried to stay with the run for a reasonable amount of time - of course, later in the game, they would concede that 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 were no place for running plays.  But, when the Jason Pierre Paul interception hit - resulting off a simple screen play - the game plan had to be disassembled because they were down 23-0.

Romo does not have very good pass protection, and the Giants were making sure to demonstrate that almost at will on Sunday.  On Thursday, I want to break that down and find out which pass protectors are having the most trouble (that might be a real challenge).  But, given that very few teams give up fewer sacks than the Cowboys, we cannot say that this is the exclusive issue, can we?  When Rodgers has taken 28 sacks and yet has a 21 TD/4 INT ratio, is it fair to blame this mess all on the offensive line for 13 Romo sacks?  On the other hand, maybe Rodgers is the exception, because the other list of QBs who are sacked a lot are also a list of losing QBs and high INT QBs.

Over the course of his career, Romo is better under the center with a 101.5 rating, versus a 91.5 rating from shotgun.  But, there is nothing wrong with 91, so either way he has been quite proficient no matter  how they align their offense.

But, in 2012, everything has gone south.  Surely, it is mostly based on 2 games (Chicago and New York) and we shouldn't over-react to a small sample size when we have 7 seasons to look at.  He is one of the most efficient QBs in this entire generation, but something is desperately wrong.

Getting DeMarco Murray back would really help.  Better pass protection would help.  Romo fighting the urge to do too much would help.

But, I wonder how the play-calling will react to this.  Will they now go in an offensive shell and try to win a game 17-14?  Or will they trust the philosophy and simply try to clean up the poor decisions and execution?

Data from Week 7 vs New York Giants

Starting Field PositionD 26
1st Down Run-Pass8-30
2nd Down Avg Distance to Go5.96
2nd Down Run-Pass7-21
3rd Down Avg Distance to Go6.43
3rd Down Run-Pass1-15
3rd Down Conversions7-14, 50%

We are going to look at a lot of data, but I am not sure how much of it is useful in a game where a team falls behind so early.  You do wonder about how a team can look so poorly within their first 15 plays.  But, for the life of me, it seems that the play calls were generally sound, the execution was what was horrid.


Here are the passing charts to see what was being accomplished on Sunday.

Blue is a completion. Red is incomplete. Yellow is a touchdown, and Black is an interception. The passes are lines from where Romo released the pass to where the pass was caught. This shows you his release point and where he likes to throw when he slides in the pocket.

Clearly, there was almost nothing over the top to be found by the Giants.

1st Half

2nd Half -

Here is a chart dedicated to the huge day for Jason Witten, below:  

Drive Starters - The 1st play of each drive can often reveal the intent of a coach to establish his game plan. How committed is he to the run or pass when the team comes off the sideline? We track it each week here -

Wk 1-At New York: 9 Drives - 5 Run/4 Pass
Wk 2-At Seattle: 9 Drives - 3 Run/6 Pass
Wk 3-Tampa Bay: 13 Drives - 7 Run/6 Pass
Wk 4-Chicago: 11 Drives - 3 Run/8 Pass
Wk 5-At Baltimore: 10 Drives - 8 Run/2 Pass
Wk 6-At Carolina 10 Drives - 6 Run/4 Pass
Wk 7-New York: 14 Drives - 4 Run/10 Pass
Season: 76 Drives 36 Run/40 Pass - 47% Run

2011 Total: 181 Drives - 79 Run/102 Pass 44% Run


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. When shotgun totals are high, the Cowboys are generally behind, scared of their offensive line, or frustrated. High Shotgun numbers are not this team's calling card for success.

There is no question that in this particular game, it was going to be a situation where the game-plan was scrapped, and the shotgun was primarily used.  Honestly, I expected more than 48 when predicting the final numbers on Sunday.

Wk 1 - NYG: 15/54 27.7%
Wk 2 - Sea: 29/56 52%
Wk 3 - TB: 34/63 54%
Wk 4 - Chi: 50/68 74%
Wk 5 - Balt: 19/79 24%
Wk 6 - Car: 22/64 34%
Wk 7 - NYG: 48/83 58%

2012 Season Total: 227/467 49%

2011 Total - 445/1012 43.9%

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.

Totals by Personnel Groups:

PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

* - Knee Plays are not counted in play calls.

23 personnel got plenty of work down at the goal-line twice for 6 snaps, and seemed to demonstrate that do not have the ability to get a yard.  This might be the best explanation why they did not attempt the run on 3rd and 1 or 4th and 1 later in the game.  This is not a physical offense and won't be until it is emphasized more by the organization.

Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:


Overall, the offense found a lot of yards out there, but when 6 different drives end in turnovers, you really should have no chance. The fact that they did have a chance in the end and nearly pulled it off speaks more to the internal fight and the job of the defense.

But, from a standpoint of preparing all week and then going out and executing your plan, this has to be defined as a complete and total failure from the entire offensive unit.

In the last decade, there have been 61 occasions when one team has turned the ball over 6 times. The team doing the deed is 3-58. The exceptions were the Cowboys miracle in Buffalo (2007), the Bears winning in Arizona in the "They were who we thought they were" game, and a Jacksonville win in Cleveland in 2010.

It seems rather needless to say that this is the only statistic worth discussing from Sunday. Everything else were just numbers on a page.

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