Saturday, October 31, 2009

Various Cowboys Emails

Two quick links that will further make you crazy before we get to some Saturday morning emails. Due to time constraints, I do want you to know I read every email, but when I get 30 emails that say basically the same thing, I think it is far more prudent as a guy with a family to "mass answer" some of those and save a bit of time. Therefore, the occasional email bag as opposed to personally answering each of the 800 emails I have backed up on my laptop.

Anyway, here are the two links:

Sportatorium talks to Jerry :

I asked a rudimentary question of Jones: If a player needs to be demoted it's ultimately the head coach's decision, right?

"Let's just say this, the decision is made a lot of times ... the agreements call for the GM ultimately to make decisions. If not, the only one that can overrule the GM is the owner. Period. And that's always been the way it's been for 20 years."

Ross Tucker at :

I vividly recall a Cowboys game in which one of Jerry Jones' aides walked over to our head coach Dave Campo and said something. Campo then went up to our offensive line coach, who in turn told our high draft pick that he was back in the game, this after he had been pulled a series or two earlier for poor play. It was like an adult game of whisper down the alley, only the message didn't get lost in translation. It was time for Jerry's pick to get back on the field. That always made me wonder what other mandates were coming down from on high.

Like I have said, fire Wade if you want, but what does that actually accomplish?

And now, some emails. Yep. Emails.


In the Game Plan Friday for the Seahawks, you mentioned the Cowboys 3rd down defense as a plus - 25 out of 75 for 33% and 6th in the league, but an interesting comment from Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders caught my attention today in his Week 8 feature

“The Cowboys have the worst third-down defense in the NFL this season.”

I’ve been looking around and can’t find any good stats other than straight-up 3rd down conversion rate. What could be making that big of a difference in their evaluation of the Cowboys 3rd down numbers? All I can think of is if they gave up a lot of long-yardage touchdowns on those 25 conversions, but even then, I still don’t see how you get from number 6 to 32. Any thoughts?

-Joe in Grapevine


I would never doubt the Football Outsiders, as their site and projects are some of my favorite things in the NFL tapestry, however, here is what I know:

Def Opp. 3rd Down Conversion Summary 6
Def Opp. 3rd-and-1 Conversions 24
Def Opp. 3rd-and-10+ Conversions 9
Def Opp. 3rd-and-Long Conversions 5
Def Opp. 3rd-and-Medium Conversions 10T
Def Opp. 3rd-and-Short Conversions 27

The number at the end is the Cowboys rankings. I cited overall 3rd down defense which is 6th in the NFL. I suppose it is possible with their complex metrics that there is a way to show the Cowboys as "worst in the NFL" (especially if they put a ton of stock into strength of oppoenents), but I think many of these numbers - with the exception of 3rd and short scenarios show the Cowboys are top 10across the board.

To me, the name of the game on 3rd and anything is to get your rear ends off the field. The Cowboys do that 67% of the time, and only 5 teams in football can do better. It is tough to see 32nd based on that.



As always I appreciate your posting links to your blogs on The Ranch Report. Your credibility seems to transcend the media hatred by fans in the Metroplex and on the Cowboy boards. Maybe because you are more an X’s and O’s type of guy. Or you don’t use sensationalism to make a point that is contrary to the rank and file fan. They seem to appreciate you, as do I.

Now to my point. I read quite a lot about this team and the HSO’s on Romo. I have read your current comments about him and I have a different opinion from you. You see him as a wildly talented player that needs to have free rein to be Tony. So many in the media are saying that these days. However, I believe your position is different in a lot of ways from mine. I think he is talented, but there may be a ceiling that most fans don’t want to consider.

You cited the Atlanta game as Romo returning to the carefree sandlot player that captured the hearts of the fans. And I believe there are some solid points to be made about that aspect of his game against the Falcons. But where I diverge from your opinion is I believe what we saw is simply Romo using the Kenny Roger’s theory of The Gambler.

Ball security should be job one with Romo. This means he needs to use his brains more than his heart when making decisions. He needs to know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em. What we saw in the Falcon’s game was the very thing a few of us fans who ask the tough question think. He played within himself and only once did we see Romo turn it loose and make a sandlot play. But dissecting that play reveals something beneath that contradicts what so many want to believe. That they allowed Romo to be Romo and that meant the difference between success and failure. And that position has a chink in its armor.

Now the TD before the half was a brilliant play by Romo. He used his spidey-senses and made the defenders miss. Then he put himself in a position for success and found a wide open Crayton. But what we didn’t see in the remainder of the game before or after was Romo playing out of control. He made smart decisions and did not risk the ball. He found the open guy and had his most accurate game of the season.

I do not believe Romo morphed into this player that so many want to attribute his success to. He had the look and body language in that play that if he didn’t see someone wide open, he would either try and run it – which would have been a mistake – or he would have thrown the ball away.

He made one errant pass the entire game throwing into double coverage. Otherwise he did exactly what the coaches wanted him to do. Protect the ball and make smart decisions.

I cannot underwrite this notion that somehow he stopped listening to them and went back to this cavalier player who wins by moxie and sandlot plays. Both can have success together. But I think there is a great leap in the thinking that with Romo you get one or the other. Because at no stop in his career from Pop Warner to the NFL was he not preached to about ball security. The proverb that applies to the passing game – three things can happen when you pass and two of them are bad – was not spared with this guy because he is Farve-esque.

Romo, for the most part, had time to throw. His receivers got separation. He found the open guy and took advantage. Garrett called a solid game. In none of those aspects does Romo don a Superman costume and suddenly become a super hero to defeat Atlanta.

He simply played within himself, made smart decisions, and once, when all Hell was breaking loose he used his natural athletic ability to slip a tackle and then pulled himself back together and made a smart decision by finding the open man. Once he recovered from his heroics, he simply went back to doing what he was doing before and after which was finding the open man and making an accurate pass.

The real question is this. When he faces a tougher defense that does apply pressure along with solid corner play, will he use this style of thinking, or will he revert to Favre-lite and spray the ball all over the yard because there isn’t a scenario that cannot be overcome if you just chunk it long?

Or, and this is my real theory, will he then lose his cool just a bit and make thoughtless plays where he tries to force the ball into places it doesn’t belong and turn it over. Which is what I believe is at the root of this guy’s psyche and why he has trouble with the games that mean the most.

When he faces the Saints, Eagles, Giants, Packers and Chargers, will we see Tony White or Tony Black? And it is this question that causes me to drop anchor and not anoint him and his return from his slump as Mission Accomplished.

I want to believe. But one pass play, one series, one drive, one game or one month early in the season will not convince me that when all the chips are pushed to the center of the table, that Romo will hit the panic button and then his advantage is lost.

He is everything you say when he has protection and within his comfort zone. But the killer instinct that you see with Tom Brady, Troy Aikman, Roger Staubach and a lot of other guys who refuse to be defeated is something I am not convinced Romo possesses.

When the going gets tough, Tony’s ability to control his emotions is where he separates himself from the truly greats of this game. Or that is my greatest fear. Because we both know Jerry Jones will ride this pony until it drops because he doesn’t have the football acumen to recognize if he has tied himself to a guy that is Danny White and not Troy Aikman. Then marry Jones’ ego to this and he will try to repackage and sell raw sewage as cologne.

Hope I’m wrong.
All the best,

Michael Leath


I feel like perhaps from a few sentences that I wrote on Monday that I might have given the impression that the key for Romo's success is just to throw the playbook away, let him turn football into a Wrangler's commercial and let's roll.

I don't think that reflects my true feelings at all. Honestly, nobody could use harsh critique and coaching more than Romo these days, and I cannot swear he always gets it from the leadership blueprint that we have in place. In fact, I am not sure he is coached hard at all, and I think that is partly due to the fact that essentially this team lacks a headcoach with any level of authority, an Offensive Coordinator that does not have a superior ripping him a new one when he screws up, and an owner who fills much of the voids left from not having a head coach who rules with an iron fist.

However, after I say all of that, I do think the Cowboys and many of their fans do not understand that to have success in this league, you must take risks. Now, we can debate the risk taking percentages, but first we must agree that any QB performance levels in the NFL require fitting the ball into a tough spot in the face of a blitz. Checking down on 3rd and 11 is not going to cut it. So, with that in mind, I always ask Cowboys fans if they understand that to get Home Runs, you must accept at least some strikeouts. To get 3-pointers, you must accepts missed 3 pointers. And to get touchdowns, you must accept some poor decisions and poor results. I think, in the face of adversity last season, that the Cowboys have spent the last 9 months preaching the idea that they essentially want to turn Tony Romo into a guy who will always make the safer throw, even if it means hurting the chances of the team to win. Yes, I just said that. Sometimes, safer decisions actually hurt your chance at moving the chains and changing the scoreboard.

So, can they harness Romo? Can they realize that many of his best moments come when the play blows up? I know you cannot hope for plays to blow up, but you also have to realize when your QB can do things that most cannot.

Like I said on the air, if you have Dirk - who is 7-feet tall and can make 3's as well as anyone in the sport, do you try to force him to play like other 7-footers who do not have his skill set but do fit the mold of "what a 7-footer should do"? Or do you break the mold of what you expect, because he is a unique talent?

I think Romo is a unique talent. But, I also think Michael Vick was a unique talent in a totally different way. If the proving ground is whether he ever wins a Super Bowl, then odds are that he won't get it. I just don't want them to try to change him into Brady, Manning, or Aikman. He isn't them. And, they can't do what he did on that play on Sunday.

But as is always the case, there are shades of gray, and degrees of "letting him play". In the end, Favre needed Holmgren to coach him hard, and bring out the best in him. I wish I was confident that the Cowboys had that brain on their staff.



This definitely falls into the nitpick category, but …

The national media seems to think Miles Austin is one of those undersized scat receivers like Ted Ginn, DeSean Jackson or Percy Harvin. Peter King even called him a “mighty mite” in today’s MMQ. The guy is 6’ 3” and 215 lbs., which is far from might mite. He just happens to be very fast and elusive, which may be why they think he’s smaller. But it still seems like sloppy work by guys who get paid a lot to comment and write solely about professional football. Maybe not Emmitt Smith “Travis Henry is best rookie” sloppy, but still pretty lazy.

Dave in Tulsa

Yes, he is shockingly large. And impossible to tackle these days. I agree with your point.

It's my belief that what put Miles Austin above the other receivers is his ability to break tackles. Is it possible that Wade missed this hidden talent because they don't tackle during practice? Sure he seems to be a faster then Williams and Crayton but after Miles makes the catch he gets yards when he breaks tackles. Williams and Crayton my run better routes and have better timing in practice, But we're talking about a game where they do tackle. Is this another argument for tackling during practice?

Just wanted your thoughs.


Wow. That is the best original thought email I have received all week. I am not sure if I totally buy it, but in this world of recycled ideas, this one is a fresh one. Well done!



Couple of things.

1. Wade Phillips same as Bill Parcells same as every coach in the league worth their salt knows you praise players to the media, and you criticize behind closed doors. Parcells never in his career called out individual players to the media. You should not have such a problem with his Monday press conference because every game every player who saw time gets a personal scout/stat sheet highlighting everything they did well and everything they did not in Wade's team meetings and film
sessions. What do you exactly hope it would accomplish for Wade to express disappointment in individual players. Find one good coach in the NFL who takes this approach. The first rule in motivating people or winning respect or commanding any organization is that you never under any circumstance criticize in public.

2. Give some credit where credit is due. No one talks about Kyle Kosier on this team. He is the forgotten lineman. I contend that he is our most complete and most valuable lineman, perhps player except for Demarcus Ware Review the film as you do and pay attention to him if you haven't already. He is outstanding and rarely makes mistakes, or misses blocks. Likewise it was after he went down last year that
the cowboys offense got exposed and that film shows that if anything was exposed it wasn't play calling it was that we had a huge weak spot in the abscence of Kosier. We couldn't run and therefore couldn't set up the pass. Thoughts?

Best Regards,

Your lowly p1

Bill McCullough

Thanks, Bill-

1) - You are high on this one. Parcells never called guys out in the media? Did you ever hear him? Take Romo alone. Romo could have thrown 4 TDs and 300 yards, and the media would ask him to look at how his QB played. Parcells would answer by telling everyone what he did wrong and not to anoint this kid yet. He has a lot to learn. Mike Singletary spent time telling us in this memorable press conference telling us he can't win with Vernon Davis. If you don't think that is calling out a player in public, then I don't know what is. Many coaches use the media and public humiliation as a source of motivation. Wade doesn't. I disagree with how he does it, and you don't. That is fine, but let's not act like he is joined by all of his colleagues.

2) - You are not high on this one. I am stunned at how great Kosier has been this year. If you go back and look at my Football 301 series (runs every Tuesday) you will see that he has been wonderful. Especially in running situations where they love to pull him out in space. Also, in Denver, he ran some great screens with Kosier out front. He is exceptional and exceptionally under-rated. great observation there.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Game Plan Friday: Seattle Seahawks

On Monday, I spent a fair amount of time wondering about how/why Tony Romo has looked like '07 Romo. Many of you have offered your theories and I will answer some of those in a soon-to-be-released mailbag. The most important thing is not why, the most important element of this run that could put the Cowboys in the mix for the 2009NFC Title run would be that he is playing very well right now. He has 1 interception in his last 4 games, and his last 2 games have been nearly perfect.

And when Tony Romo plays well, this team wins. In the last 2 weeks, he has had QB ratings of 113 and 140 and has not looked this good in a long time. Here is a stat for you:

When Tony Romo has a passer rating above 80, the Cowboys are 28-5, for 85%.
When he doesn't, they are 3-9 or 25%.

That is why people make such a big deal about how well he plays. And that is why Miles Austin has injected about as much optimism into the Cowboys offense as we have seen since the Julius Jones era.

Michael Signora is a statistical guru for the NFL, and I follow him on his twitter feed. This week, he had two jaw dropping tweets about Austin that I think you need to soak in:

1) - Miles Austin is 1 of 3 players in NFL history with 400+ receiving yards & 4+ TDs in 2-game span (Ochocinco, '06; Cloyce Box, '50)

2) - With 421 receiving yards in 1st 2 career starts, Miles Austin already has more yards than any player ever in their 1st 3 starts

Nobody is suggesting he can keep up his insane pace of nearly 24 yards a catch. But, if he can continue to demonstrate the ability to be a "go to" target for Romo in needed spots, and to attract coverage his way that indicates defenses will either respect him or pay the consequences, then there is no reason to believe that Romo cannot continue to hit that all important 80 QB rating every game.


Which brings us to this week's opponent, the 2-4 Seattle Seahawks. This is a team that has had some substantial amounts of talent in recent years, but they have likely been a victim of something the Cowboys fell victim of about a decade ago: Believing that their top level players had more of their prime left than they really did. For 5 straight seasons (2003-2007) The Seahawks dominated the NFC West under Mike Holmgren, and were in the playoffs. During that stretch they won 4 playoff games, and felt they were a bad call or two away from winning Super Bowl XL over Pittsburgh.

They were led by RB Shaun Alexander, QB Matt Hasselbeck, and LT Walter Jones. In 2009, the remains of that trio is the reason the Seahawks are where they are. Alexander is out of football as a reminder that the prime of a RB is over quickly as a possible victim of the curse of 370 (Remember his 11 carries with the Redskins last year?) Hasselbeck, now is now 34, and has missed 10 starts in the Seahawks last 20 games, and has only made 16 starts 3 times in his 11 year career. And Walter Jones has not played a down in 2009, and the Seahawks will try their 4th replacement for Jones. Walter Jones became Sean Locklear who turned into Brandon Frye and then Kyle Williams and now Damion McIntosh. All at left tackle in 6 games. Consider that next time you complain about Flozell.

In the preseason, The National Football Post rated the Seahawks talent like this:

BLUE CHIP: OT, W. Jones.

ALMOST BLUE: QB, Hasselbeck; DT, Mebane; ILB, Tatupu; CB, Trufant.

Without Hasselbeck for 3 starts, Jones for the entire season, Trufant has yet to play (will make his debut this week), and Lofa Tatupu is now gone for the year. You can see how the Seahawks are already looking ahead to the draft. If you have 5 players that the experts rank as remarkable, and 4 are not with you, your season is going to be rough.

Beyond that, the Seahawks have another weight on their neck, The issue of travel out of the Pacific:

Seattle has won only one of its past 10 games played outside the Pacific Time Zone. That poses kind of a problem because four of Seattle's next five games will require the Seahawks to adjust their watches.

Football coaches have control over a number of things in the 32 NFL fiefdoms. Geography, however, is not one of them and the travel schedule is simply a reality that comes with being the most isolated NFL franchise.

Six of Seattle's eight road games are to be played in the Eastern or Central time zones, which means those six games will start at 10 a.m. Pacific time, including Sunday's game in Dallas.

Is playing at 10am local time a big deal in the NFL? Or would the Seahawks be 1-9 in their last 10 road games regardless of where they played?

Seattle represents the 4th out of 8 home games for the Cowboys. With tough upcoming road dates with Philadelphia, New York, Green Bay, and New Orleans - 4 games in which the Cowboys will be underdogs, it is important that they win the games they should win at home. With the next 3 home games being a depleted Seattle, Washington, and Oakland (with San Diego and Philadelphia in December) it is important for the Cowboys to eat up these easier meals so that they are still in the mix when the holidays arrive.

In the last 2 weeks, the Redskins have lost twice, the Giants have lost twice, and the Eagles were 1-1. The entire division have done the Cowboys a great favor by going 1-5, with the only win coming when the Eagles beat the Redskins. Rarely, will an entire division offer you an invitation like the NFC East has for the Cowboys.

But, it all depends on taking care of this wounded Seahawks team before hitting the road for 2 difficult dates:


This week, the Cowboys take on a defense that has not had all of its parts available, but things improve somewhat on Sunday. Marcus Trufant will play some on Sunday, with reports out of Seattle indicating that he will likely fill the role of nickel back in Dallas. Meanwhile, Leroy Hill, their solid Outside LB will rejoin the team the same weak that the Middle LB, Tatupu has been lost for the year.

With the Seahawks, there has been some good as some not so good during 2009 on defense. They can get to the QB with a reasonable rate, led by Patrick Kearney grabbing 4 sacks in the last 4 games. They dominated the Rams and the Jaguars in Seattle for their 2 wins which were both blowouts. Otherwise, they are coming off a game where the Cardinals visited Seattle, and the Kurt Warner-Larry Fitzgerald show danced all over the Seahawks home turf.


1) - Run the Ball With Effectiveness - One thing that has dropped off from its incredible start is the Cowboys running of the football. They still average 5.6 yards per carry, but in Denver and then last week, they really had to work for their yardage. As the weather begins to turn, and the Cowboys begin to play on grass surfaces, they need to have their running game completely locked in. Last week, 28 carries for 115 yards was not horrible, but if you do not count Romo's yards, it was basically 22 carries for 84 yards for the RBs. Barber against Atlanta had 14 carries for 47 yards (3.4 avg). Since hurting himself in the Giants game, Barber missed the Carolina game altogether, and then has had the yards per carry of 3.7, 3.5, and 3.4 in his last 3 games. Getting Barber going is essential for November and December success. It seems like the biggest thing for the RBs these days is just making sure Barber and Felix are healthy.

2) - Pick up the Inside Blitzes - Speaking of things on the RBs minds, it seems that we are seeing a steady diet of inside blitzes. Blitzes come from to areas of the field - the edge (off tackles) and up the gut (Through the "A" gaps and "B" gaps). The Blitzes that have hurt the Cowboys have generally been through the Gaps around the centers and guards. I am sure the offense has spent plenty of time discussing it, and last week, they did a pretty good job. The problem is that the defense only has to get it right a few times to do damage to your QB and cause turnovers. I have been disappointed in the blitz recognition from Leonard Davis in particular up front and Tashard Choice at RB. These two were both on the scene for sacks against the Chiefs and Falcons because they did not recognize who was coming and who was not. In presnap, Romo attempts to identify the blitz with help from Andre Gurode, and you have to figure it out correctly. Inside LBs and Safeties have been the Achilles heel so far, and that needs to be sorted out. It will be interesting to see if we see improvement on this front.

3) - Jason Witten down the Seam - If you have been following along with our study of target distribution , you know that Jason Witten has caught an incredible 33 of the 40 passes intended for him this season - and 8 for 8 on 3rd down situations. The numbers have been steady from game to game, but he has sort of seemed to be lost in the game plan for big chunks recently. I think the emergence of Austin will open things up further for him and the mystery TE, Martellus Bennett for some big gainers down the seam. When that happens, this offense should be unstoppable.

4) - Patience, Patience, Patience - Part of beating a team that you should beat is to be patient and methodical in your plan. Don't get antsy (as Garrett will do) and take unnecessary chances early on. That can backfire, and before long you have allowed an inferior opponent to hang around. I think a steady dose of cranking up that diesel running game and mashing the Seahawks into a fine powder is the recipe for success. Lots of "22" and "13" personnel power running. This is what the Cowboys do well, and this is what they need to continue to do against the better teams down the stretch.


Defensively, we finally saw things come together last Sunday against a decent Atlanta offense. The Cowboys allowed only 298 yards of offense and combined that with 3 big takeaways. This is the story of success for the Cowboys - when they get multiple takeaways, they seldom lose.

If there is a problem that we have seen through 6 games for this defense, it is that opposing QBs are averaging a QB rating of 90 against Dallas. The Giants allow their opponents a 78 rating, and the Eagles a 70. That stat will not get it done for Dallas, as they have really only troubled Jake Delhomme and Matt Ryan. Others, like Byron Leftwich and Kyle Orton had very strong passing performances. I think we all know that a pressure is important, and we can only hope that Wade Phillips and his staff is determined to bring the blitz at the proper times to help a defensive line that is slowly but surely coming around.

One thing they have done well is 3rd down defense. Allowing only 25 conversions in 75 attempts for their opponents, we can say the Cowboys have been able to get off the field. Only 5 teams have done better so far this year than the Cowboys (Denver, NYG, Arizona, Phil, and New Orleans). This might be the most important defensive stat in football (after takeaways), so let's keep an eye on that one.


1) - Test those cracked ribs - Matt Hasselbeck is hurting. He doesn't take part in practices much, and he looks like he tries to carry on in pain. He also is playing behind an offensive line that has very little going for it right now. There are huge issues with the Seattle OL due to health, and they are in a position where they often go max-protect (7-8 man protection schemes) to buy him time. This should make the job easier on the secondary as a whole, but it will offer interesting choices for Wade on when to blitz and how many to bring. Seattle starts their offense by protecting and if that fails (as it did against Arizona) they have no chance.

2) - The secondary must be ready for multiple threats - Despite all manner of chaos in the passing game, the Seahawks have 2 WRs with 30+ catches in Nate Burleson (32) and TJ Houshmandzadeh (31). This is actually quite remarkable given that Seneca Wallace started 3 games and could get nothing going. Both Burleson and TJ are capable of big plays, and TJ has stated that he needs to be a bigger part of the offense. There are very few off-weeks for the secondary in this league, and this won't be one of them for Terrence Newman and Mike Jenkins. Jenkins is coming off a week that everyone has called the best of his pro career, so let's see if he can build on it against a very capable passing offense. John Carlson has had 24 catches from the TE position as a young and promising pass-catching TE for the Seahawks. He is not Tony Gonzalez, but he can make you pay if you forget him.

3) - Be Mindful of Forsett - In watching the Seahawks last several games, I am convinced Julius Jones and Edgerrin James is about as weak a RB tandem as you might see all year. Jones still falls at first contact and rarely makes anyone miss. James is just done, and shows very little burst at all. But, Justin Forsett, the former California Golden Bear from the DeSean Jackson era, looks like he offers burst and quickness as a return man and a 3rd down back. He has yet to do much, but since the Seahawks are coming off a bye week, if I were to guess what new wrinkle they might show, it might be to feature Forsett a little more in the 2nd half of their season to find out if he might provide them something from the RB position. But, truth be told, they really need a feature back in the offseason.

4) - Keep the Takeaway Game Going - With 3 takeaways last week, some of us may think the Cowboys are starting to get rolling in that category. Guess again. With 7 for the season, they are still dead last in the NFL (tied with Carolina and Washington). If you want to run with the big dogs, just know that Philadelphia and New Orleans have 18 takeaways a piece. Progress has been made, but there is so much room to go. Must. Get. Turnovers.

SUMMARY: This is a game that is not optional. The Cowboys must prove they can handle success and win the easier games on their slate. Coming off the KC close-call, I would hope that they are not putting this game into the win column prematurely.

This is a wounded Seattle team, but they are coming off a "bye" week. They should be relatively fresh and ready to roll. A win could get the Seahawks back into their divisional mix, and you will get their best effort.

That shouldn't be enough, though, and the Cowboys should be able to dismantle this team in the 2nd half and win by double digits.

Cowboys 27, Seattle 17

Past Issues:

Atlanta Falcons Game Plan

Kansas City Game Plan

Denver Game Plan

Carolina Game Plan

Giants Game Plan

Tampa Bay Game Plan

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wednesday Musings - Tackling

On Wednesday, we go in any number of directions as sort of a "reset" day. It has also grown a life of its own with TC's drive for the final 3,000 words or so at the bottom of the page. And, as someone who has previewed his work, allow me to say that he is debuting the "Easter Egg" strategy that some DVDs do these days. I will try not to spoil it.

But, before we get to all of that, here are a few other things before we check our weekly numbers:

1) Occasionally, while watching a Cowboys game, I will see something that I have no place for in one of my entries, but I just wanted to share it with you anyway. Here is one of those cases. I can't explain why, but for some reason, nothing makes me crazier when watching a football game than the Defensive Backs who refuse to tackle altogether or refuse to tackle properly. It seemed like once upon a time there was the idea that DBs could tackle and would do so utilizing proper technique with arms wrapping up and driving. Somehow, over the years, DBs have found that it is easier (albeit lower percentage) to simply launch a shoulder and hope you knock the player silly.

Football 301: Targets and Sacks - Week 7

Another week, and another chance for us to see where Tony Romo wants to go with the football. Also, who do we blame for the sacks? Let's examine closely:

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Football 301: Decoding Garrett - Week 7

DISCLAIMER: This is not for everyone. It may not be for you. This is a statistical study of the Cowboys offense with lots of numbers that may make your head tired if you are not up to it. Read it only if it is something that is of interest to you.

The Cowboys have had more successful days on offense than they had on Sunday, but when it came time to make a play, Tony Romo was absolutely up to the task. His new found favorite target, Miles Austin, has seemed to be the target that Romo has been missing for quite a while around here. Now that he has him, the offense does not rely on a running game to carry them.

A big WR who makes plays and demands coverage changes everything for the Cowboys. Hope he is not a mirage.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Morning After: Cowboys 37, Falcons 21

Falcons Cowboys FootballI have never seen, nor do I plan on seeing, the 1998 movie, "How Stella Got Her Groove Back". I assume Stella had a groove - lost it somehow - and then spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to re-acquire this groove again. I will also assume that she found this groove by the end of the movie or the title would have been rather mis-leading.

I take you down this unlikely road to bring the conversation to Tony Romo. I think we can all agree he also once had a groove. In his first 25 or so games in the NFL, he was somewhere between amazing and unbelievable. Then, something happened where he hit adversity and we began to see the weaknesses in his game. And for the last 20 or so starts, he just has not been the same guy who seemed like he played the game with everything happening around him in slow motion. Was something wrong with him? Was something wrong with his coaching? What happened to a guy who seemed to have the NFL figured out?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Game Plan Friday: Atlanta Falcons


When the schedule came out in April, a few non-NFC East games jumped off the page at me. The Back-to-Back in December of my preseason Super Bowl teams San Diego and New Orleans looked incredibly formidable.

And then there was this one; the first ever Sunday Afternoon game played at the Brand New Death Star against last year's Cinderella playoff story, the Atlanta Falcons.

I wrote about their franchise in pretty elaborate detail yesterday , so check that out if you want to see more about the impressive building of this team. But, today, let us visit about what this all means and how the Cowboys can seize a big opportunity to make a move in the NFC Playoff picture.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Analyze the Enemy - Atlanta Falcons

falconsTHURSDAYS: We catch you up on this week’s opponent with an overall portrait of their team. This is not breaking down this week’s match-up, because that happens on Friday. This is just to set the table in preparation for laying out the gameplan.

Some teams are not as good as you think they should be based on their level of talent. And other teams are actually better than you think they should be because they play well as a team. They are coached well. They seldom beat themselves, and they just play football the way it was meant to be played. I suggest to you that one of those teams could very well be the 2009 Atlanta Falcons.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Musings - Tendencies

Tomorrow, we dive back into our Cowboys routine (Analyze the Falcons), as the bye week is over. Until then, here are 5,000 Words of Football Dorkdom:

I want to show you the results of a study or two we did during the bye week about the Cowboys offense. Hopefully, by now, you have some interest in our findings every Tuesday during the Season with our various "Football 301" studies. Well, this week, and then the week after Thanksgiving will allow us a day or two to catch our breath and look at the bigger picture.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pitching Profile - Final Edition

Just like we did at the end of May, at the end of June , and at the end of August - Here is the Final edition of our look at the Rangers starting rotation. The point of this exercise is to dig a bit deeper than the basic stats for each starting pitcher to see what they are good at - or what they are not good at.

In the final analysis, 10 pitchers started games for the Rangers this season. Kevin Millwood (31), Scott Feldman (31), Derek Holland (21), Tommy Hunter (19), Vicente Padilla (18), Brandon McCarthy (17), Matt Harrison (11), Dustin Nippert (10), Kris Benson (2), and Doug Mathis (2). This study will focus on the eight pitchers who have made at least 10 starts.

There is plenty of good news to report as they worked a significantly higher amount of innings while doing a great job at dropping the rotation's ERA.

Both Kevin Millwood and Scott Feldman made over 30 starts with 18 Quality Starts each. That number may not blow your socks off, but those two seasons can rival pretty much any season we have seen around here by a starting pitcher in an awfully long time.

There were other signs of optimism as well, as the first year of the Nolan Ryan/Mike Maddux program seems like a perfect diving board to 2010.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Morning After: Texas 16, Oklahoma 13

Oklahoma Texas FootballThe great thing about a top-notch college rivalry is that regardless of which players are there, and what kind of year the teams may be having, it still gives you some football that will stick in your memory banks for a while.

Was the game crisp? Far from it. Was it well-played? Depends if you like your offense or your defense. But, clearly, this was a game that was both chippy and tense. Frustrating and Electric. I think that I would not want to see it every Saturday, but if the last year's Texas win was a masterpiece from both QBs, then this year's Texas win was just the opposite. In both cases, a worthy 4 hours of your time.

In many ways, the game went from a "Dream Match-up" to an eventuality in one big play early, as an Aaron Williams blitz knocked Sam Bradford on his throwing shoulder again and out of the game. The common details of the play with the same scenario 6 weeks ago are hard to avoid, and regardless of who you root for, I hope you see how college sports in general loses when a kid gambles on himself and his school rather than the fruits of the pros and loses big. I cannot guarantee how much money Sam Bradford lost yesterday, but know that being injured once is not a big deal, but to be injured twice in 3 starts has NFL executives wondering if that shoulder will hold up at the next level for 12 years. A quick glance at the pay rate for the 1st round picks demonstrate that Matt Stafford was guaranteed $41m for #1, Mark Sanchez got $28m for #5, and Josh Freeman, the next QB off the board at #17 was promised $10.25m.He will still be a very rich man, but this weekend might have cost him at least half of his enormous pile of money.

And in many ways, that means all college fans lose. If Tim Duncan, Sam Bradford, Peyton Manning, and friends hang around in college and it works out, more will do it. If it doesn't work out, then future studs will see the error in their ways. Sam Bradford may or may not be a future cautionary tale - time will tell, but Matthew Stafford and Bob Stoops are very, very rich men this morning. Sam Bradford is not. Yet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wednesday Musings - Power Runing

This morning, I wanted to show you a few numbers about this question about the 2-TE results. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the receiving portion of Martellus Bennett has been shockingly disappointing. You can ask a dozen people as to why, and you will get different responses about why Marty B has 4 catches in 5 weeks (not quite the 50 or so that I had thought possible!) for 40 yards. Surely, Tony Curtis could have done that.

But, does that mean the "12" and the "22" personnel packages are failing? Not even close.

Is the object of the game to get Martellus Bennett stats, or for this offense to prove it can be elite? Originally, I thought one would lead to another, but now we see something different so far.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Football 301: Targets and Sacks - Week 5

Where is Tony Romo going with the ball? Who is catching those passes? Who is not? The answers are revealed below, as well as playing the "blame game" on pass rush.

Check it out:

Football 301: Decoding Garrett - Week 5

DISCLAIMER: This is not for everyone. It may not be for you. This is a statistical study of the Cowboys offense with lots of numbers that may make your head tired if you are not up to it. Read it only if it is something that is of interest to you.

There are many issues with the Dallas Cowboys 2009 season. Many improvements that need to be made in this bye week. Many concerns about different departments doing their job better than they have been.

I am here to tell you that moving the football is not one of them. For the first 5 weeks, the Cowboys offense has gained an astounding 6.57 yards per snap. The Cowboys are #1 in the NFL in yards per game with 429.2 (New Orleans #2, New York Giants #3, Indianapolis #4, and Pittsburgh #5). The Cowboys are also #1 in yards from scrimmage, and yards per play. When it comes to moving the ball, the Dallas Cowboys - with all of their perceived warts, are moving the ball better than any team in the NFL.

The reason this doesn't translate into points every week is 2 fold:

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Morning After: Cowboys 26, Chiefs 20 (OT)

Cowboys Chiefs FootballWell, it would have been nice if that game would have given us something to talk about, right?

As you may recall, I am a big believer in the idea that wins are darn difficult to come by in this league, and when you get one, it is bad form to be picky about how you went about getting that win.

But, even I have my limitations. That was stinking ugly in so many ways that I seem to be ignoring my own advice.

The Chiefs gave the Cowboys all they could handle yesterday. Or, closer to the truth, the Dallas Cowboys made every attempt at giving the Chiefs the game yesterday. Sloppy perhaps doesn't properly capture the way that this game was played. Penalties, turnovers, drops, more penalties, and various other elements conspired to keep the Chiefs in a game almost completely against their will.

We thought going into the game that the Chiefs were a very bad NFL team. They spent most of Sunday proving it, and yet, they remained in the lead for 57+ minutes because the Cowboys were compelled to repeatedly sabotage their own efforts. And then, just as the offense finally got its act together, the defense caved in. Similar to the Giants and Broncos games, the defense who had been solid all day long, picked just the wrong time to give up the crucial drive right down the field.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Game Plan Friday: Kansas City Chiefs

2844999BB015_Colts_ChiefsA few things we must consider about this week's Cowboys opponent, their former Cotton Bowl co-habitants, the Kansas City Chiefs.

1) - This is the worst team they will play all year. I know it is popular to assume that Oakland is the worst team they will play all year, but Oakland won a game at Arrowhead Stadium already this season. With that in mind, I think we should be able to say for now that while Oakland is really, really bad - at least they can beat the Chiefs. Seriously, after trying to absorb as much knowledge as I can from watching the last 3 Chiefs games (vs Oakland, At Philadelphia, and vs New York Giants), there is very little to be impressed with regarding this former powerhouse.

2) - The Cowboys do not have the luxury to assume that they can beat the worst team on their schedule after losing last year (BADLY) in the 16th toughest game on the 2008 schedule when they were blown out by the St Louis Rams. A team that on October 19, 2008 beat the Cowboys like a rented mule so handily that even the absence of Tony Romo doesn't explain why you trailed that team by 4 touchdowns for most of the 2nd half. That Rams team was so bad, that they haven't won a game since that day. That's right. The Rams have lost 14 straight since they drilled the Cowboys about a year ago. So, any team with that on their ledger, is not allowed to assume they can waltz into Kansas City and leave with an easy win.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Analyze The Enemy - Kansas City Chiefs

broncosTHURSDAYS: We catch you up on this week’s opponent with an overall portrait of their team. This is not breaking down this week’s match-up, because that happens on Friday. This is just to set the table in preparation for laying out the gameplan.

Seven teams are undefeated in the National Football League through 3 games. Most of the 7 have major expectations this year for the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl. The Saints, Giants, Vikings, Ravens, and Colts are thought to be amongst the best teams in the league. The final two teams are quite a surprise to the football world. The New York Jets - who offer a new coach and a rookie QB, and the unlikely story of this week's opponent, the Denver Broncos.

Having watched the last two Denver games (at home vs. Cleveland; Away at Oakland) you certainly are impressed with a few aspects of this Broncos team. But overall, you are left wondering if their 3-0 start is more just a product of how their schedule is stacked.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Wednesday Musings - Romo vs Blitz

As you know, Wednesday is my "day of rest" in the football week. So, this blog entry, while lengthy, will be mostly because my intern, TC, contributes 3,000 words (and some eye-catching photos) to this blog as he takes apart the Cowboys "Drive of the Week" with precision and detail.

Before we get to that, and an update on our weekly projects, let me cover two quick items:

Yesterday on the radio, Todd Archer of the DMN and now the Ticket, joined our show and we started talking about the Cowboys "blitz allergy". When opponents blitz in the last few seasons, it is my premise that Romo and Garrett are actually worse now, than when Romo was a rookie.

Is it true?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Football 301: Decoding Garrett - Week 4

DISCLAIMER: This is not for everyone. It may not be for you. This is a statistical study of the Cowboys offense with lots of numbers that may make your head tired if you are not up to it. Read it only if it is something that is of interest to you.

Before Denver put the brakes on this juggernaut of an offense, the results were difficult to comprehend. In the first 3 weeks of football, the Cowboys offense had the ball for 175 offensive snaps, and rolled up 1280 yards. That is an astounding 7.31 yards per snap. High School powers brag about 7.31 yards per snap. This doesn't happen in the National Football League. Despite the feeling that the offense was failing, the reality is the yardage they rolled up was a fabulous sign.

But, when the Cowboys offense dropped to 4.37 a snap on Sunday, was it more of just a market correction or a down week?

Monday, October 05, 2009

The Morning After: Broncos 17, Cowboys 10

Cowboys Broncos FootballOn December 7, 2008, The Cowboys lost a 7 point game in Pittsburgh in which their defense played as well as they possibly could. They made a key 4th Quarter stand on 4th down, and tried to give the offense all they could to get the win.

But, the offense betrayed them.

It happened again yesterday in Denver. Despite the defense giving the team a game where you can really complain about one snap - they got beat in Denver. And, again, the offense betrayed them.

Winning on the road in the NFL is never easy. It requires a firm handle on ball security, and the ability to have a QB who can take a beating and still stick a throw in a tight spot under immense pressure. And in his last 4 road tests, Tony Romo has failed 3 - by a rather healthy margin.

Romo will get the headlines for yesterday's loss in Denver, and in my estimation, much of it will be deserved. He missed too much, too often in Denver. Even in the most chaotic of situations, there will be plays to be made down the field. And when those situations appear, a QB is judged on his ability to put the ball where it has to be - no matter how badly he has been battered all game.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Game Plan Friday: Denver Broncos

barrelThere are a lot of reasons why this game in Denver is one of the trendy upset picks across the league; Altitude. Noise. "Cowboys are over-rated". "Broncos are under-rated".

Whatever the reason, this is a game that most don't want to miss. A true chance for both teams to prove what they are made of.

So, how do the Cowboys get to 3-1? By following a recipe that seems to be the best way for them to win games this year - Staking claim to that line of scrimmage.

I think we should all consider the way the Cowboys have played at the point of attack as the biggest source of optimism (and the most under-reported story) for this season to be the year the Cowboys break that dreaded 4,660 day drought since their last playoff win. With the exception of the defensive front seven in Tampa - a game which they admit they got "too cute" on their run blitzes and needed to just play "straight up" defense until proven otherwise - the Cowboys have been nearly impossible to run on. Two of the very best running offenses in the NFL have had no success against the Cowboys in the last few weeks. So much so that Carolina pretty much abandoned the run in the 2nd half altogether. That says quite a bit given how Carolina does business.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Analyze The Enemy - Denver Broncos

broncosTHURSDAYS: We catch you up on this week’s opponent with an overall portrait of their team. This is not breaking down this week’s match-up, because that happens on Friday. This is just to set the table in preparation for laying out the gameplan.

Seven teams are undefeated in the National Football League through 3 games. Most of the 7 have major expectations this year for the playoffs and possibly the Super Bowl. The Saints, Giants, Vikings, Ravens, and Colts are thought to be amongst the best teams in the league. The final two teams are quite a surprise to the football world. The New York Jets - who offer a new coach and a rookie QB, and the unlikely story of this week's opponent, the Denver Broncos.

Having watched the last two Denver games (at home vs. Cleveland; Away at Oakland) you certainly are impressed with a few aspects of this Broncos team. But overall, you are left wondering if their 3-0 start is more just a product of how their schedule is stacked.

Football Musings on a Short Week

Short week, but as I break down the Broncos, check out some pretty good stuff including TC making another appearance with a solid breakdown of more Cowboys football:

First, let's check in with our "winning correlation" numbers for the week. If you are familiar with what I am doing here, it is to check what people say about winning. Is it important to win the turnover battle to win a game? Absolutely, Positively! What about 100 yard rushers? Or 300 yard passers? Not as much. But there is still interesting stories to tell in each category. Here are the latest results: