Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Decoding Garrett - Week 11 - Washington

Another game comes and goes with the Cowboys maintaining their 2012 profile perfectly.  For instance:

* - They continued to score next to nothing before halftime, as they found just 3 points on Thanksgiving Day.  To date, the Cowboys have scored just 73 points in the 1st Half through 11 games, or 6.6 points per game.  That ranks 30th in the NFL (Yes, they are actually ahead of two other teams! Kansas City and Philadelphia) and a real mystery given that they have scored 169 in the 2nd Half (3rd in the NFL).

* - They continued to draw all sorts of penalty flags (7 more), and while the number is actually down by their season standards that show them the most penalized team in the league in penalties called and 2nd most in penalties accepted, the 7 they had on Thursday were particularly costly as they halted 2 drives early when the game was still very much in doubt.

* - They continued to have a comical time in a normal offensive formation, running just 12 plays from under center for a demoralizing 31 yards.  This is a trend that seems to have gone further and further down hill, even when we thought it to be impossible.  The game before, against the Browns, we accused them of being painfully out of balance.  But, in that game, they snapped 24 plays from under center.  This time, they showed us something even more out of balance: 12.

When you run just 12 plays from under center, you simply have given up on traditional offensive concepts.  And with it, your personnel becomes predictable, as do your intentions.  Your 2nd tight end played 9 snaps.  Your 3rd tight end played 2 snaps.  Your full back played 17 snaps, partly because he is the only guy on your roster you trust in blitz pickup.

But, here is the biggest reason that playing from exclusively shotgun is a horrible idea (if there is any other choice).  The opponent knows exactly what you want to do.  And, they, being critical thinkers, make you do things you don't want to do.  They saw against Cleveland that you were willing to take shots down the field and test your protection and your QB's ability to deal with 7 man coverages.  So, Jim Haslett countered by firing up multiple blitzes and coverages.  He mixed them up and showed 7 men at the line of scrimmage over and over.  Then, he either brings them all or drops them all, making your QB do mental gymnastics.

Meanwhile, across the field, the rookie QB for the Redskins can show a play-action fake and get all of your linebackers and safeties to step forward to stop the run.  Then, he drops a pass over the top against a corner who has no safety support anymore.  Griffin, for all of his greatness, will throw largely against 4 man coverages.  Romo must deal with 7 and sometimes 8, with Dez Bryant and a host of young receivers.

There is no mystery.  There is no deception.  You have become a team that must receive snickers when you try play action.  What is the threat?  Why would a safety care that you faked a handoff to Lance Dunbar or Felix Jones?  Where is the fear?

There is none.  And that is why this offense is as broken as I can ever remember.  And now, they don't even believe they can fix it anymore.  They are simply just trying to win, while knowing that they are trying defy all football logic.  Trying to pass when the opponent knows you want to pass is very difficult in the NFL.  It gets even harder if you aren't one of those rare offenses that have match-up issues everywhere.  The Cowboys have Dez Bryant who consistently can hurt you, but that is quieted with a safety placed over the top.  Other than that, it is either a number of 7 yard receptions to Witten or it is time to force the ball into Cole Beasley or Dwayne Harris.


Here are the numbers for the last 5 seasons for the Cowboys running game from under center.  Under center numbers are important because that is the very foundation of your balanced up offense.  Are you running or passing?  The linebackers and safeties must respect both.  If they cheat one way, you punish them the other way.  This is fundamentally sound offense.

Look at the numbers and see where we are with this:

YearAttempts-YardsYards Per Carry

I had to do a double-take when I saw 2011's numbers of 4.63 yards per carry.  It was way better than I recalled, because I left 2011 feeling like the offensive line was a major weakness (because it was).  But still, in that very good year by Dallas standards, the Cowboys still rated 18th in the league in rushing yards.  That's right, a good year for the Cowboys running game under Jason Garrett is still in the bottom half of the league.

Since 2007, the Cowboys have run the 28th most running plays in the NFL with 25.7 running plays per game.  That ranks them higher than 2 teams that are passing kings: the Colts and the Saints and 2 teams that cannot run and have stopped trying: the Cardinals and the Lions.

Also, there have been 13 games under Garrett (since 2007) when the offense has gained fewer than 50 yards rushing.  It happened once in 2007.  Once in 2008.  Once in 2009.  Three times in 2010.  And 2 more times in 2011.  The other 5 times have all been this season, and this is a year where the Cowboys have only played 11 games!  And for those arguing that it can be traced back to DeMarco Murray's health, well, actually, he was your running back in 3 of the 5 games in which the Cowboys have been under 50 yards.

Now, they have stopped trying altogether.  It is not a priority and it is not emphasized.  But, 2012 has taken it to an all-new low, where they try just 18.4 runs from under center a game, easily the lowest ever.

And now, they have a battered receiver group and the pass protection is a mess.  At 5-6, they are still alive mathematically, but it seems to be but a pipe dream.

Data from Week 11 vs Washington

Starting Field PositionD 27
1st Down Run-Pass5-25
2nd Down Avg Distance to Go8.27
2nd Down Run-Pass5-21
3rd Down Avg Distance to Go7.6
3rd Down Run-Pass0-18
3rd Down Conversions8-17, 47%

Again, I have no idea how much of this data is worthwhile if the Cowboys are going to run offense like this, but it wasn't the score that put the Cowboys out of balance on this day.  In fact, it might be the other way around.  It might be the ineffectiveness when they are trying to find balance that is leading them to fall so far behind in the 1st half of every game.  Then, when the scoreboard and/or the frustration level gets high enough, they switch to Shotgun-11 personnel and try to sling it around the rest of the day and accumulate huge (and hollow) numbers.


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.

Notice that the downfield throws of Cleveland were not as available with Washington planning for them and countering with either deep coverage or hurried blitzes.  This offense that the Cowboys are relying on is not easy to defend if you are playing with a lead - Especially a 25 point halftime lead.

1st Half -

2nd Half -

It might be easy to examine these charts most weeks, but the sheer volume of his throws make this quite a maze of lines - with the blue for completions being a number of underneath throws against what amounted to a very conservative prevent.

Dez Bryant - 

Another very productive day for Bryant, but this time his 145 yards were largely found on his 85 yard touchdown on the yellow line down the right edge of this sheet.  He is on a roll, and yet defenses are making him work hard for his catch.  If there is a redeeming value of 2012, it might be that he is learning how hard it is to be a #1 receiver, and yet he is still working hard to achieve it.

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
Wk 8-At Atlanta: 9 Drives - 4 Run/5 Pass
Wk 9-At Philadelphia: 10 Drives - 6 Run/4 Pass
Wk 10-Cleveland: 13 Drives - 5 Run/8 Pass
Wk 11-Washington: 12 Drives - 3 Run/9 Pass
Season: 120 Drives* 54 Run/66 Pass - 45% Run

* This statistic doesn't count the 1-play kneel down drives (there are 4 so far this year).

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.

As you see below, somehow the Cowboys have reversed traditional thinking (for the worse).  Usually, playing on the road has not been efficient for the offense.  But, for unknown reasons, the offense is operating out of shotgun at 36% on the road and 67% at home.  This must easily be the largest contrast in the sport.

If anyone has any theories why they can balance up their offense away from the stadium, but are routinely unable to call and plays at home, leave your theories below.

Wk 1 - at NYG: 15/54 27.7%
Wk 2 - at Sea: 29/56 52%
Wk 3 - TB: 34/63 54%
Wk 4 - Chi: 50/68 74%
Wk 5 - at Balt: 19/79 24%
Wk 6 - at Car: 22/64 34%
Wk 7 - NYG: 48/83 58%
Wk 8 - at Atl:  29/54  54%
Wk 9 - at Phil: 17/54 31%
Wk 10 - Cle: 52/76 68%
Wk 11 - Wash: 62/75 83%

2012 Season Total: 387/726 53.3%

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:

And here, we see how yardage numbers and most statistics can be taken out of context if we don't watch the game.  Just by looking at the box-score, you would think the Cowboys offensive was ultra productive.  If you watched the game, you know that most of these yards and points were a result of the Redskins playing far more conservative defense later in the game because they had a gigantic lead.

PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

* - Knee Plays are not counted in play calls.

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


This is getting a bit repetitious, but I think it still needs to be the focus of our study until things change.  And when, exactly, will things change for this offense?

Well, it might not change in 2012.  You would think if the brains of this operation had any better ideas than what we have seen in the last few games, we would have seen them by now.  And with attrition taking its hold of the roster, this is hardly the time to expect creativity.

They are in full survival mode now, just trying to scratch out wins any way they can.

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