The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Play-calling Following Big Gains: Time to Strike?

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By Jonathan Bales

I’ve always believed one of the best times to strike on offense is immediately following a big play.  The defense is already reeling and the opposing defensive coordinator is more likely to call a blitz to “make up” for the prior play.  What better time to call a play-action pass, for example?

There is another school of thought on the matter, however, which emphasizes a safer approach.  This could allow a running back or wide receiver to catch his breath, assuming he is still in the game.  Running the ball is also a more effective way to allow an offense to utilize its strength against a tired defense.

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett certainly falls in the latter group.  I took a look at the Cowboys “big plays” in 2009–those of 20+ yards.  On the following play, Garrett called a run 43 out of 63 opportunities (68.3 %). 

However, to my surprise, the Cowboys actually were far more successful on these runs than the 20 passes, averaging 5.77 yards-per-rush compared to just 4.70 yards-per-attempt.  It is also worth noting that Garrett dialed up a play-action pass on five of these pass attempts, although none went for big yardage.

In any event, kudos to Garrett for apparently making the right decision on plays following big gains.  While the sample size of 63 plays isn’t completely significant and I still believe there are opportunities to strike down-field in these situations, Garrett obviously made intelligent decisions on these first down plays–many of which led to another first down or a very manageable second and short.

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4 Responses to Cowboys Play-calling Following Big Gains: Time to Strike?

  1. john coleman says:

    You know we sit back and complain about our offense and they have been pretty good. It just seems to me that for whatever reason, we are predictable. I don’t know if JG is managing the game or if he just doesn’t have the feel. Maybe it comes down to players and execution. Maybe he sees things in practice, that influences what he does. Maybe from opponent film study, he is focusing on weaknesses. BTW, we can scrap reverses, forever. I HATE GADGET PLAYS. I’m with you though, hit em again after a big gainer. Dez and K.O. could really help our explosion. Also if Ryan has any polish, he can stretch the field. I’m predicting one incumbent goes this year.

  2. Which one are you predicting is gone? Hurd?

    And the offense has been good, but all of the tools are there to be great. Are the Saints’ offensive players really that much better than the Cowboys? I don’t think so.

  3. john coleman says:

    I agree completely. We should be unstoppable. I still think we need to keep em guessing. To me that is the whole deal with the Saints. They have one guy in Bush who creates matchup problems. The rest are just solid guys. But you never know where the ball is going. The odd man out is Hurd, IMO. Barring injury or unless he lights up preseason his time has come. Someone like Hamlin, Wall, or Ansah replaces him on ST.

  4. I agree Hurd would be the odd man out if the Cowboys don’t keep six receivers. One thing on his side, though, is that his special teams play will be even more valuable if the team cuts Watkins

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