This is the type of post I absolutely love creating. I will be honest, as a writer, you want to be in the print edition of The Dallas Morning News. The blog does not get tossed onto everyone's porch in the morning and, although I realize times are changing, there is some intrigue to being a piece of the print world.
But, it is days like today where you see this could never be in a newspaper. This type of post is all about the pictures, not the words. Sure, I will provide some commentary here, but you need to see the videos to fully appreciate how the Cowboys outschemed the Bengals on Sunday. They used tactics to increase any sort of physical advantage and they did so by putting a lot of tape out there for the league to consume. This is the "seven days to Sunday" beauty of football. All week, teams study every detail and every frame of film to figure out what is going to happen at 3:25 p.m. on Sunday.
The Bengals did their homework and the Cowboys used it against them. That is why you can have great faith in Scott Linehan and his offense. They are now winning before the game even starts with the way this offense is being coordinated. The players have to carry out the plan, but make no mistake -- the plan is beautiful.
Let's start with those two early touchdowns.
The first is just your basic zone-read give to Ezekiel Elliott:
You should watch that play once for each player on the offense. They are all doing a great job. It is a zone read, so look at Witten on Elliott's side. He will not block No. 96, Carlos Dunlap, by design. He will actually run a pass route (remember that). Dunlap will be unblocked and Dak will read him at the mesh point. If Dunlap takes the running back, the quarterback keeps. If he takes the quarterback, he gives to Zeke. Then Zeke follows the O-line that dominates again. Look at Martin, Frederick and Leary. I would say both guards get A-plus grades for their work here. This is so good. They both get their guy at the line and the linebacker behind him. Again, on most plays, Elliott must thank his lucky stars for the team drafted him.
OK, this is the next drive in nearly the same spot. The formation is flipped, but Witten is still on Elliott's side:
Did you see that? Witten left Dunlap (No. 96) again for a route to draw a safety with him. Dunlap reads the running back and crashes down on Zeke. Dak keeps and literally scores untouched.
Too easy, right? Block the front side, but the backside defensive end in a bind. And then he cannot be right. He can't get both. In fact, on these two plays, he can hardly make up his mind. And make no mistake, Carlos Dunlap is a great player. He finished fourth in sacks last year.
Now, let's move on to something else I think was pretty awesome from Sunday: the quarterback waggle play-action play they have been using all year. Since Dak was in diapers, this is a play they have shown every week -- often the very first play he runs.
It is my theory that this was one of the best ways to make Prescott comfortable under center. He was almost all shotgun in college, but they want to do more from under center in the NFL, where you can unleash a much more potent play-action game. But, to do so, you have to install some things that make his reads easy and his feet comfortable. That is why one of the first ideas was this play-action play that almost always goes right, but we have seen him go to the left a few times, too.
Let's show you:
Rams, preseason -- August 13.
Dolphins game, the following week in preseason -- August 19.
Week 1 against the Giants.
They keep running it over and over again. Well, Mr. Dunlap had enough on Sunday. He watched his film and he was about to end this nonsense the next time the Cowboys tried it:
He tries to end Prescott on this one. He was not falling for no banana in the tailpipe.
So, Mr. Linehan, what next?
Well, not only am I lucky enough to be your blogger, but I also get to talk with Jason Witten each Monday on the radio. I think these few minutes are worth your time:
He started by talking about those "dirty runs" out of this 12-personnel set against the Giants. I believe one of those is here:
Look at all the traffic. Too many bodies. Swaim can't clear a hole.
So, the next idea is to use the tight ends in 12 personnel to create a diversion. Link the passing threat to the running game. Then, almost like the zone read, you can make the defense pick their poison. And then you make them pick wrong.
So now here, once again as a "drive starter," is the play-action QB waggle. Except they don't pass it. They run off the pass look. Watch everyone sit on the tight ends. Witten even talks about drawing two players out to the flat. Now look at Zeke's path. Right where they were supposed to be.
End-zone view proves it even more:
That is so beautiful, it almost brings a tear to your eyes. And you are not going to catch Zeke from behind. Look at that nitro.
Bravo to Scott Linehan and his boys. This is a masterpiece of setting things up weeks in advance. We also talked about the setup of a Prescott keeper on the zone read. We also have been waiting for the deep shot off play-action. I assume Green Bay should prepare, because that is likely sitting in the bin, too.
WEEK 5 DATA
I just can't get over how good their "average yards to go" on second and third downs are this year. Many people continue to wonder what Prescott would be like on third-and-long and we almost never get to see it because this Cowboys offense is constantly "ahead of the chains," and that means third-and-long is almost never happening. It is third-and-3 most of the time.
Truly remarkable stuff.
DAK PRESCOTT THROW CHART
Efficient and accurate. He stays out of trouble and he makes proper decisions. I really am impressed at how this has worked without Dez Bryant. Also, lots of yards after the catch this week as they hit receivers in stride who racked up yardage on their own.
Early in the season, they were having trouble with 12 personnel, and now with a couple ideas thrown in, it has turned into a really productive grouping.
Meanwhile, 11 personnel has three different sub-categories -- 11 personnel under center, 11 personnel in shotgun and 11 personnel in shotgun with an empty backfield. Add them all up, and it totaled 31 snaps for 274 yards. That is almost nine yards per snap!
This is with your rookie backup quarterback, which is why I go back to the question of Romo over Dak. What exactly could you improve by changing quarterbacks right now? I realize Tony Romo is a far more accomplished quarterback and has put together a career Prescott could only hope to have, but seriously, what could this offense do better than they are doing right now without Dez Bryant by changing quarterbacks? This is a serious case of something not being broken.
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The greatest hope at the bye week was likely a 4-2 record. Now they can go for 5-1. This offense is dynamic and devastating and they knocked out the Bengals within an hour Sunday. Green Bay will be another new challenge, but either way, they have already put themselves in a position where you now can start to see the math become favorable for postseason play. An absolutely remarkable start to the season from this offense.