Thursday, November 14, 2013

Xs And Os: A Moment of Rob Ryan Brilliance

I think we are all ready to put the New Orleans game in our collective rear-view mirrors, but let's cover a few things from the game that I felt were noteworthy by a Xs and Os standpoints.  Both are from the mind of Rob Ryan and both seemed successful on Sunday.  I am quite sure that Ryan had a full bag of tricks waiting to be sprung on the Cowboys, and I am guessing he didn't get to use most of them because the score was out of hand.  Pity.  

The first idea that we should examine is the cover photo of the magazine that is getting everyone agitated around these parts, the "Why Isn't Dez Getting the Ball?" weekly.  

There isn't a ton to discuss about the details of the play, because it was on the play by play sheet as a simple incomplete pass to Terrance Williams, but as you can see, this was Rob Ryan seeing what the Cowboys tendencies when they get inside the 10 yard line of the opponent and simply taking it away.

The Cowboys love to run the back shoulder fade to Dez and the counter move is simply a regular fade with a jump ball scenario.  It is impossible to cover both with one man, so, Ryan had a laugh here and treated Dez on this 1st and Goal as if he was the gunner on a punt team.  We are not even going to let him get off the line.

I don't understand why more teams don't do this - and maybe they are starting to do this more often league wide since QBs and WRs have gotten so proficient at this move.  It basically takes Dez out of the play and then - although the defense is now out-numbered everywhere else on the field - it forces Romo and the Cowboys to prove that they have a counter move, which seems debatable even though they had their man to man look out right to Williams.  Why that route Williams is running did not convert to a slant or a dig or something easier and more aggressive with no safety over the top is a mystery to me, but clearly the Cowboys let a real opportunity get by here.

If a team is going to pull this nonsense, you either make them pay or you face it again next week.  I assume that will be an objective in the bye week to figure out a proper counter move to this defensive plan.

I was asked this week if I had ever seen anything like that before, and the only thing that came to mind was the safety alignment that Jim Haslett threw at the Cowboys last Thanksgiving on a few occasional
opportunities to mess with Romo and company.

As you can see above, it isn't the same look, but rather a safety immediately over the top of Bryant so that the corner can press right in his face with no real concerns about getting beat vertically because the safety is right there.  These are rather exotic looks that you don't want to show too often, because your coverage elsewhere is unsound, but if you are Rob Ryan and Jim Haslett, you don't mind rolling the dice once in a while to mess with Romo.  

The point is that sometimes the "just throw it to Dez" offense is not a solution, in fact, it is an idiotic suggestion in these particular cases.  The defense is going to extremes to take Dez away.  Like I said, they don't do it often, but they respect him so much that they are not going to lose to him.  Therefore, the idea is not to force the ball directly to him, but rather to figure out how to use your numbers advantage properly elsewhere.

And, of course, the practical application might be to ask why the Cowboys defense didn't consider this idea when Megatron was lighting them up for 329.  It seems if there was ever a time to roll out a silly coverage plan like this, October 27th was the time.


This, right here, is one of my favorite things I have seen this season.

And, in a game that was already a blowout loss, this if it happened 5 times would have been a pick-6 at least twice.  It, in my estimation, is what film study and preparation are all about.

So, we asked last week who has the technical advantage when Rob Ryan faces the Cowboys offense.  Do they know him or does he know them?  Well, I said before the game that this is easy, because we never saw Rob Ryan's true defense once Jerry freaked out and wanted him to strip down the "complications" that he became convinced were holding his team back.  By the way, it is this type of feedback he gets from the voices he trusts that assure him it isn't the players who he acquired who are holding the team back, but rather the coaches decisions, that keep this team in the mediocre state that they hover in presently.

Regardless, Rob Ryan had been at 32 consecutive Cowboys games during his tenure and knows what Romo/Garrett/Friends do not like dealing with.  And he also knows tendencies and habits and preyed on one here with a stroke of genius.

It is 3rd and 5, and the Cowboys have been using plenty of these situations to go at the Dez/Beasley side, but now want to use that to come back to the left and find an open Witten.  We have seen this a million times, and against 2-deep safeties it is too easy as the Saints are clearly in 2 Deep/Man-under or "2-Man" for short.

But, the coverage is not what it seems to Romo and to anyone who looks at this, because Ryan has planted a huge trap because he knows what the Cowboys are doing.  In fact, he even puts more bait in the trap by having a corner who is covering Witten (31-Carr) play with extreme inside leverage, asking Witten to break to the sidelines for the most basic read of an option route and what surely is an easy pitch and catch 3rd Down conversion, right?

Romo looks to the right to give Witten a chance to get open, and Witten certainly loves 31 playing so inside.  This will be an easy conversion, surely.  But, here comes the ambush.  Jabari Greer is lined up over Terrance Williams, but he is not covering the WR.  Instead, he is about to pounce on the throw that is 100% safe against man coverage because Williams would take his man deep.  Unless that man isn't really covering him and is instead waiting on this Romo/Witten tendency and is going to get to the ball before Witten can.

Now, because Romo has identified "2-Man", he can just pivot and throw as he sees Witten's man in a trail position and unable to get to this ball.  But, to those of us who can see the whole field, we see that Rob Ryan has done something that you seldom see.  He has nobody covering Williams out wide - except for an extremely deep safety who will try to get there if Romo can see the blur before the ball is gone.  But, he doesn't and Greer is right on top of the throw.

Look at how close this is to a pick-6.  Greer has his full body in front of the ball as it arrives.  I imagine the entire Saints defensive staff was screaming at this play being so close to exactly how they hoped it would go.  You do all of your film study and planning and most times, these situations never present themselves.  But, for the Saints and Ryan, they did their work, put the cheese in the trap, and although they forced another punt, they likely know how close they were to the big knockout by trying a coverage that Romo won't see for months.

The video below shows how he doesn't have the time or ability to see Williams or his man.  The throw has to be on time and it starts with looking off the coverage by selling a play to his right and then trusting the play to his left by letting the throw go to a place that should work.

But, sometimes, your experience betrays you.  And anyone on either side knew that Rob Ryan had pulled a fast one here.

Pretty brilliant idea and concept that nearly worked for the former Cowboys Defensive Coordinator.  I will tell you that we never saw his crazy ideas and unsound concepts here because they were labeled "too complex" and "too difficult" here.  I think that means his personnel was not capable of pulling it off here, but obviously, these are the risky plans that have made the Ryan family so good at what they do over the years.  If you have no plans to let them take risks, then you have no reason to employ them.

It appears the Saints are willing to live with the high risk/high reward concepts that come with the long-haired, loud-mouthed Ryan.

One team's trash is another team's treasure.

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