Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The 1999 Wk 1 Cowboys at Redskins Game Winner

The 1999 season opener featured the game winner to Rocket Ismail in Overtime.  You may remember that.  But, I was just watching it for the radio show and noticed they ran the exact same play out of 22 personnel in the 1st Quarter and just missed it.  In fact, Rocket dropped it after Aikman dropped it right in his hands.  

 But, as you will, they came back to it in Overtime and got it right.  Same personnel package, same play-action fake, and a better result.

That may only interest me, but I wanted to post it for you to check out the Xs and Os things I get a kick out of.  

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Marinelli Report - Week 12 - Chargers

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23:  Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2017 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images
ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 23: Philip Rivers #17 of the Los Angeles Chargers reacts against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on November 23, 2017 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
We have not seen a Rod Marinelli defense in Dallas look so defeated.  It is bad enough to get 0 sacks and 0 takeaways for the second time in five days with the season apparently on the line.  The pass rush that was discovered earlier this season has vanished once again into thin air.  

But, what makes it all the worse was that it was combined with allowing Philip Rivers and his band of receivers to go for 434 yards receiving and 515 yards of total offense for an absurd 7.8 yards per play.  This is the 15th time in Cowboys history they have allowed 7.8 yards per play and the first time since 2013 when they allowed it 3 different times!  (thx,
As you can see, it is the most efficient of any of those with Rivers pocketing a 149.1 passer rating.  So, you could argue that despite the Chargers only getting to 28 points, this was the most efficient destruction of a Cowboys defense we have ever seen.  
What makes it a little crazier is that the Chargers had 5 players with over 50 yards receiving.  Keenan Allen was great, but he was joined by all his friends.  The Cowboys were served up on a platter and devoured by a veteran QB who made them look really silly in front of a national audience.
The big number was the amount of explosive plays allowed.  Eight! Eight different plays of over 20 yards were conceded, which was the most the Cowboys have given up in a single game since the Matthew Stafford/Megatron game in 2013 that let us know the Monte Kiffin era wasn't going to last very long. And that performance was sandwiched between Denver scoring 51 and a Saints game.
But, let's focus on 2017 - where the Cowboys had done a pretty nice job for the first half of the season against the big play.  But, that wall has come crashing down as Rivers has once again left a game against the Cowboys wondering if he can play them more often.  He is now 3-0 in his career against Dallas and has passed for 1,107 yards and 7 touchdowns in those 3 games for a passer rating of 123.9.  That should work.  
Where do you start? 500 yards? Eight explosives? Zero sacks? Zero takeaways? Nine 3rd-down conversions? The real mystery here is how did the Chargers only score 28 points? A few things go slightly differently and they might have had 45.  
Just an utter disaster from the defense. Their version of Zeke - Sean Lee - is the fallback, cover-all excuse for this mess, but there shouldn't be excuses. This was a total destruction and having a LB might have made a difference, but as you can see, Rivers attacked everyone without mercy.
The Cowboys gave up eight different 20+-yard plays - we will look at each of them below - and all of them were through the air. And, many of them were against the Cowboys' wrinkle for this game. They decided this was a good time to start blitzing over and over to try to get pressure.
As you can see, they picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue. A team that refuses to blitz all season anywhere close to league numbers throws everything it can at Phil Rivers - perhaps the most experienced QB on the entire schedule - and he chops it up without getting touched all day long. Remarkable, and from a Cowboys standpoint, confusing.  
That, above, is called anywhere you want to go with the ball there are yards waiting for you. Rivers beat all the coverages and all the looks and all the defenders multiple times in the game. It was quite the masterpiece, to be honest.
If there was any good news, it might be that Jaylon Smith played his best game as a Cowboy. Other than that, it was pretty slim pickings to find a standout defender for the team. They were all quite poor, and it will be difficult to put positive grades on any of them.
First drive and the Chargers show they mean business. Cowboys have two safeties deep and Travis Benjamin splits them down the field as Xavier Woods finds out they can throw the ball over your head in the NFL. It is always interesting to see safeties from college learn that lesson on the fly because they did not think that throw was possible in college. He will learn.  
On this play, Cowboys fans wanted a hold on David Irving. You aren't going to get that call. Rivers steps to his right and makes an easy throw into the open field for the biggest play of the day. Obviously, your safeties have to be deeper than the deepest threat.
This one is the Cowboys' zone defense (Cover 3?) against a concept where the corner takes the deeper threat with Jeff Heath taking the flat and Jourdan Lewis hesitates here for a moment. That allows his man, Allen, to deal with a throw where Lewis has his back to Rivers. Not difficult to complete passes like that as Allen adjusts on the ball and grabs an easy 32 yards before the single-high safety Byron Jones can arrive.  
You can see Rivers doing the computation in his head and then he has time to pick his matchup - looking for rookie DBs, they are everywhere - and makes his throw.
Next, the Cowboys are caught on a blitz. Where does a veteran go with a throw against a blitz?   You probably start with seeing if the LBs can run with the TE dragging across the middle.  Hunter Henry grabs it and is able to run for 27 (plus 15 more after Jones hits him late).
You can see Justin Durant is scrambling here - so is Hitchens to get to the RB. Teams that don't blitz much aren't good at dealing with "blitz beaters" from QBs that know what they are doing. Which is why blitzing Rivers more than any QB you blitzed all season seems very odd to me.
Let's keep blitzing! Third and 11, send six! Let's see what happens.
It is tough to see who is the bust here. Is it 30-Brown who is 15 yards from Henry when he catches this or is it 57-Wilson who is 8 yards away? Either way, this is where Rivers is now laughing at you for being so silly with your plan.  
Third Quarter. Cowboys clearly in Cover 1 on third down (because they always are) and Rivers sends Ekeler the RB out wide to isolate Justin Durant against him in the open field. This is death. You might want to call a timeout here and get out of this because Durant has no chance. Or you can save all your timeouts for when the game is 28-6 and Garrett wants to demonstrate how we play for 60 minutes. Your call.  
That didn't work very well. Anyone in the stadium could tell you what was about to happen. No pass rush, Rivers is smiling. This is taking candy from a baby.
Third and 11. Here is another chance to blitz the farm and see what happens. A very easy scene where you send the TE up to get in the safety's way and drag his man across the middle. Williams runs for 31 yards before Woods can track him down. Third down? Single-high, man-under. We know this, so of course, Rivers knows this.  
You know who can make this throw? Every QB in the NFL. Every QB.  
Here is the seventh explosive. Now, Rivers is just showing off. This is not a throw any QB can make. But, some can, and he is on that list.  
Anthony Brown has been torched quite a bit recently, but I am not sure there is anyone on the roster that is stopping this throw and catch from Williams. Woods is the high man and can't get there because the throw is to the pylon. Wow.  
And the last one that emptied the stadium against 2-Man. Empty backfield and a simple throw to Allen turns into the keystone cops as Heath and Scandrick run into each other and it is over.  
Probably a missed hold here on the inside on 96. Some want a hold on 90, but that looks like a LT using his leverage against him.  
Either way, that is eight explosive plays and as bad as the Cowboys defense has looked in years.  Where do they go from here?
Nowhere to go but up.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Decoding Linehan - Week 12 - Chargers

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, quarterback Dak Prescott (4), and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wait for a replay review of fourth-and-one play a during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won the game 35-31. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
Smiley N. Pool/Staff Photographer
Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, quarterback Dak Prescott (4), and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wait for a replay review of fourth-and-one play a during the second half of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Arlington, Texas. The Packers won the game 35-31. (Smiley N. Pool/The Dallas Morning News)
Amazingly, they have arrived at this unlikely point.  

After the "good will" that was deposited in the "good will bank" during the unlikely 2016 season as well as the bright future promised by what would wait ahead in 2017, the Cowboys offensive coaching staff has seemingly overdrafted the account already with a November that was so poor in so many ways that their futures must be in complete jeopardy.  
Yes, they can still save their jobs, but the time is running out quickly.  Yes, they are missing a vital piece, but they are not necessarily being asked to be dominant without Ezekiel Elliott.  They are just being asked to be average without a guy they knew since late July they would likely lose for 6 games.  They haven't been close to either.  It would be one thing if this was the result of losing a franchise QB as his mental capacity is difficult to replace on short notice.
But, this has been the loss of a running back.  There is a reason that running backs are often started immediately as rookies.  Not to say that they are not valuable, but they are often thought of as independent contractors.  They work with the offense, but often, if they understand the scheme a bit, they can jump right in and join the battle.  
So, they had months and months to prepare for the loss of a running back.  A very good one, mind you, but still, a RB.  And we expected the Cowboys' production should reasonably drop 10-20 percent.  If that was the case, they would slide in around NFL average or slightly below it.  Instead, as you can see below, they have fallen past the NFL average and down to the worst in football.
"Dallas with Zeke" is a measurement from the start of 2016 until the Kansas City game this year.  Over that stretch of 24 NFL games, the Cowboys were safely in the top 5 in the NFL with 383 a game.  New Orleans, Atlanta, and New England were above 400, but that is it.  Washington and Dallas rounded out the top 5.  The worst in the NFL during that stretch of time was the Los Angeles Rams with 320 yards a game.  That was the worst in the whole league.  
Are we being unrealistic to expect the Cowboys - without Ezekiel Elliott - to at least reach the dizzying heights of the worst team in the industry?  If we are, then we are paying the coaching staff too much money and should give everyone's money to this RB (who in all his wisdom sits and serves his NFL suspension in Cabo).  Maybe just give everyone's money to him if he is this valuable.  Again, the goal is NFL average.  Instead, also with points per game, this is what they get:
We could understand a 10-20 percent drop-off.  We cannot understand a 73 percent drop-off over a 3-game stretch.  This is truly a complete and utter failure that simply cannot be rationalized.  
Like we said, there is still time to write the ending in a more pleasing fashion and save this season and perhaps this coaching staff.  Their next three games are against Washington at home, at New York (a team with 2 wins all year), and at Oakland (a team with 3 wins since Week 2).   But, as it stands, they are treading in territory where you would suggest that nobody can survive this.  
As you look at some of these wretched numbers, you can actually take solace in the fact that many of them are improved from the other two games in this stretch (at Atlanta and vs Philadelphia).  5 yards per play is a massive improvement from those two games when they sat below 4 yards per play.    Again, the NFL yards per play this season is at 5.3, so all of these numbers are quite poor.  It is just a matter of which poor numbers we want to fixate upon.
Let's look at the weekly use of the RPOs and Play Action.  Just for definition sake, a RPO can also be a play-action play, so just keep that in mind.  RPOs can be included in play-action passes, if they end up throwing out of it.  Making sure everyone follows that.  
Something that really bothered me during this stretch is that the Cowboys seem to have been chased off their own bread and butter.  Teams know the Cowboys' plays - we have discussed the rather small playbook - and now sit on the play-action rollouts and bootlegs.  Because they sit on those tendencies to the point where opponents aren't falling for the fakes, the Cowboys have stopped running them.  They literally tried one play-action play on Thursday.   One.  No wrinkle that would burn the hands of the defensive ends crashing on Dak.  No determination to make them pay.  Instead, they just didn't run them anymore after Derek Barnett's sack last Sunday night.  
I have pretty big issues with this because it is your offensive identity.  I understand that the defense is now adjusting to you.  Fine, now counter their adjustments.  Don't tear the section out of your playbook.
Here is Dak's throw chart - which looks like we have a few more yellow dots - interceptions - to figure out again.  The QB is really struggling.  You can see it in his posture.  You can see it in his decision making.  And you can see it in his production.
Also - not clearly noted here but more as an aside - most QBs struggle to throw to the opposite sideline.  Right handed QBs throwing to the left sideline is an issue as you see below.  Also, with that, you generally see the top cornerback locking up on the right side so that he must deal with that obstruction if he chooses to go to his strong side.
Unfortunately, this chart above demonstrates that the Cowboys did not accomplish much in their base offense.  S11 is the 2-minute drill/3rd down offense and when you call behind by 20 points, they do most of the lifting in what we refer to as "garbage time".  
To pass well from under center - all the groupings without the "S" next to it - you need a play-action game and the Cowboys have decided to stop using it.  I don't know what they are trying to do right now beyond counting down the days on their calendar to the return of Elliott, to be honest. 
You know how I love to break down videos and particular plays, but the NFL has not put up the All-22's at this point and the show must go on.  Also, if you were ever going to not look at videos of issues with this offense, maybe Thanksgiving week would be the one to miss, anyway.
This offense is historically bad right now.  Historically.   We use 2006 as the start of this era as it was the start of Tony Romo.  The next year, Jason Garrett returned and the seeds were planted for this group.  Since that time, there have been 17 games where the Cowboys were this bad offensively (13 points or fewer and 275 yards of offense or fewer), according to  The Cowboys are 1-16 in those games.  How they weren't 0-17 is a Brad Johnson miracle in one of the most unwatchable games in NFL history, to be honest.  
Three of them were mop-up games at the end of seasons where the Cowboys sat their QB1 because there was no reason to play him. Of the other 14, six were played by backup QBs because the QB1 was injured. That leaves 8 games where the Cowboys' starting QB was present and accounted for and still couldn't past those two low thresholds of points and yards. Four for Tony Romo and four for Dak Prescott. The four for Romo were ALL against the Philadelphia Eagles (2006, 2007, 2011, and 2014).  
That leaves Prescott. The Giants game last season and then the last three weeks. This should tell you all you need to know. We aren't talking about winning and losing.  We aren't even talking about being close (they have lost the last 3 games by 70 points). We are talking about simply reaching the threshold of the worst defenses in the NFL.
Until they can do it - with or without a RB - no coaching job should be beyond examining. This is brutal and there is no way to spin it any other way.    
Unfortunately, asking them to fix it immediately is pointless. They pretty clearly have no idea how to do so.