Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Kiffin Report - Week 7 - At Philadelphia

When you play a team after listening to the media for the entire week tell you they are reinventing the way offense is played in the modern NFL and then hold them to an embarrassing low levels of points and yards on Sunday, you cannot have too much to complain about when considering the performance of the defense.

In fact, if you enter the game after announcing the reality that Jay Ratliff is no longer employed here, Anthony Spencer is done for the year (and likely his run in Dallas), DeMarcus Ware will join you in Philadelphia - but only in street clothes - and the Cowboys will play with at least 2 defensive linemen who 7 days earlier were not even on the roster, you really should consider presenting the team with a victory Monday bonus day off.

The Cowboys did a fantastic job of defense on Sunday, although the post-narrative has surely surrounded the inept play of Nick Foles.  Foles was lousy, but he entered the game in pretty strong form and therefore one should not be too reluctant to present the Cowboys with just a little bit of credit for making him play as badly as he did.  This is not golf, where all mistakes go to the player who made them.  This is a sport where the defense finds out what you are uncomfortable doing, and then forces you do prove that you can get out of that mess or your humiliation will continue all day.

And for Foles, it did.  Until he left the game after a sack from George Selvie and Jarius Wynn.  Then, Matt Barkley entered the game and distributed footballs to 3 members of the Cowboys defense (and a 4th that was called back) in just 1 quarter of football.

Again, don't be afraid to give this defense its credit, even if you are having a hard time explaining it or planning on it continuing.  I fight that all of the time, because in following the Dallas Cowboys over the last stretch of time, we have been conditioned to two things 1) the reserves cannot be counted on accomplishing much and 2) too many reserves playing as attrition continues will ultimately lead to the demise of the team's playoff hopes.

But, past performance is not indicative of future results, so let's try to ignore that looming feeling that these injuries will ultimately lead to a crash with the defensive line and try to enjoy the present results that tell us this defensive line's performance is maybe the story of the season through 7 weeks.

Which leads me to Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin and the difference that they make - not just with their rhetoric and resumes, but rather the film.  The Marinelli claims are that his defensive line is relentless, tireless, and determined to play through the whistle.  That is all well and good in July, but can he take that message and apply it to replacement level NFL players and make it appear on film?

I am sure it starts with selecting players that match the profile of player he is looking for.  I am sure the players he brings in are either "high motor" players to begin with or they are put on notice bright and early that "this is how we do it here, and if you want to be here, then this is how you will do it."  Then, peer pressure takes over and the entire group hold each-other accountable on the practice field, film room, and ultimately they bring it to the stadium on Sunday.  We will not take a snap off.  We will fly to the ball.  We will not assume someone else is going to make this play.  We will Finish Everything.

And how do we know this is the message in the room?  Well, easy.  It is in the defensive linemen manual from the 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - a team coached by Kiffin and Marinelli.  One of them likely put this on paper and here it is:

Looks good on paper.  Looks better on film.

Let's give you a few fantastic examples from Sunday:

And before we dive into both plays, I want to offer 2 things - 1) it looks like all 4 players are busting their tails the entire snap - but George Selvie is flat-out absurd in his relentless pursuit and 2) Jason Hatcher is not on the field in either case.  He is a fantastic player and the idea that they don't rely on him to carry them through this, but rather continue to rotate is really something to get excited about.

Play #1 - 1Q - 1:00 - 2/12/26

Here is a screen right to McCoy.  When LeSean catches the ball, he isn't thrilled about his options right, so he decides to cut back and ends up losing more yardage because he is corralled by Selvie and Brandon Carr.  But, on the gif below, just enjoy all 4 guys deciding that this guy isn't going anywhere.  They are relentless and tireless against one of the more difficult guys in the league to track down.  Doesn't mean they can't go 100% until he is down.  Watch how 92-Wynn falls in his pursuit but then pops right up.  This looks like 4 guys determined to impress their bosses by playing at their maximum effort levels.  Do not conserve energy because we will rotate you out when you need a rest.

Play #2 - 3Q - :03 - 3rd/Goal/8

This play is the same 4 linemen, considerably later in the game.  In fact, this is right after the interception that Romo threw, so the game can change dramatically if the Eagles can cut it to 10-7.  Again, note the tireless efforts from 92-Wynn and 99-Selvie in particular.  There is no question Foles has too much time on this play and should get rid of the ball.  But, when you rush just 4, your coverage with 7 behind you is much more sound and there should be fewer preferable options for the QB to find.

Clearly, Foles can't find anything and he knows he doesn't want to take points off the board with a silly throw (see Barkley, Matt) and ends up eating it and getting knocked out of the game in the process.  Jarius Wynn in particular looks like a guy who knows this could be his last chance to be in the NFL and is going to play as hard as he can to take advantage of this golden opportunity.

Finish Everything.  Finish every pass rush - Never give in.

You have to love how it is moving from the page the film.

WEEK 7 at Philadelphia

First, a reminder of what a splash play is: 

What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it. 
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well. 
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.  
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.

Here are the final results for 2011 and here are the final results for 2012.

I am really impressed with the splash plays from the secondary in the last 2 weeks, too.  In particular, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick are looking better and better.  And the safety play is evident each week, as well.

1-13:533/10/O29CarterBig 3D Pressure
1-3:542/10/O22ScandrickPass Defended
1-3:503/10/O22WilberBig QB Pressure
1-1:321/10/O28ScandrickTackle For Loss
1-1:002/11/O27Selvie/CarrTackle For Loss
2-12:321/10/O42HatcherRun Stuff
2-8:111/10/O26LeeTackle For Loss
2-0:222/1/D42ClaibornePass Defended
3-8:562/6/O24HatcherHolding Drawn
3-2:461/10/D30WilcoxPass Defended
3-0:061/10/D30CarrTackle For Loss
4-4:542/8/O5ScandrickPass Defended
4-1:511/10/D36CarrPass Defended


These season totals are very interesting.  Lee is likely to lead the team, but George Selvie is continuing his pace and is getting to the point where it might be time to talk with his agent about securing his services past this season.  And although I need to elaborate on this soon, let me just say it here: it is sure nice to have 2 safeties who can make a play.

Selvie       15.5
Wilber  5
Hayden     3.5
E. Jones3
Durant 1.5
Team Totals 119          


Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT

This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB.  We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity.  If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB.  If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don't accomplish much.

Here, we look at the big plays for (Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week (Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by the defensive coordinator.

I don't want to say this portion of our study is becoming outdated, but the Cowboys almost never blitz and all of these plays were with the standard 4-man rush that they are employing 81% of the time.


4-2:522/10/O12Barkley to Cooper, +264
4-2:003/5/O43Barkley to Ertz, +214


1-14:361/10/O29Selvie Sack 4
2-0:55  1/10/O38Hatcher Sack4
3-0:033/9/D9    Wynn/Selvie Sack     4           
4-7:14  3/6/D37Lee Interception4
4-4:13  3/10/O29Church Interception   4
4-1:04  1/10/D12Carr Interception       4           


Red (Incomplete), Black (Interception), Blue (Complete), and Yellow (Touchdown)

Tim made a chart for each QB Foles and Barkley so you could see just how poor Foles really was - but, of course, Barkley had 3 picks in 1 Quarter, so let's not think he had it all figured out, either.

Pass Rushers Against Philadelphia Eagles - 51 pass rush/blitz situations:

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0100
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)01740
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0000

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0100
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0720
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0300

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go)0420
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go)0720
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go)0100

And, here are the full season numbers to date:

Pass Rushers3 Rush4 Rush5 Rush6 Rush7
1st Down5 - 3%118 - 83%16 - 11%3 - 2%0
2nd Down1 - 1%87 - 90%8 - 8%00
3rd Down3 - 3%55 - 67%14 - 17%8 - 9%2 - 2%
4th Down1 - 16% 5 - 83%00
Totals10 - 3%265 - 81%38 - 11%11 - 3%
2 -

The game by game pressure numbers sent by the Cowboys:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%
Wk 2 - KC:   10/43 - 23%
Wk 3 - STL: 11/57 - 19%
Wk 4 - SD:  4/43 - 9%
Wk 5 - DEN: 6/42 - 14%
Wk 6 - WAS: 8/45 - 18%
Wk 7 - PHI:  10/51 - 19%

2013 Totals:  56/330 - 16.9%
2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%

SUMMARY:  There is no way to color this performance other than fantastic.  They shut down an offensive machine and as we said on Monday, it was enjoyable to see Kiffin/Marinelli get their revenge against Chip Kelly.  I am sure it is not the last laugh in this match-up, but it is one day where they can demonstrate again that past performance means nothing in this sport.

The pass defense was sound (mostly) and the run defense was magnificent.  After Peyton Manning completed his clinic, it was going to be interesting to see how the mentality of the Cowboys defense was going to be affected.  2 weeks later, after making the Redskins and Eagles attacks look rather pedestrian, they can feel good about going to Detroit with a chance at 5-3 at the halfway point.

But, make no mistake, Detroit is a better offense than those last two and have a QB who doesn't lack confidence, nor weapons.  That will be another great test, but for now, this defense should feel good about itself.  Tactically, there is a lot to discuss about this defense, but it is a very simple sport sometimes that we complicate.  And if you can get your team to maximize its effort at all times, that can be the small difference in success or failure at this level.

No comments: