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Why ‘Gun Tight End Spread’ Is Cowboys’ Most Productive Formation

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Yesterday, we published a breakdown of every formation the Cowboys ran in 2009, including run/pass ratios, yards-per-play, and more.  In the coming days, we will be taking a more in-depth look at these statistics, attempting to explain why the numbers came out as they did.

Today, we will analyze “Gun TE (Tight End) Spread” (shown in Gallery).

The formation was a favorite of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, as the offense lined up in it an incredible 168 times–by far the most of any single formation.  The run/pass balance was rather skewed, as the team attempted 141 passes (83.9 percent) to just 27 runs (16.1 percent).
Nonetheless, the Cowboys found success on both types of plays, averaging 8.84 yards-per-pass and 6.15 yards-per-rush. The sample size (particularly for passes) is large enough that we can conclude there is something about the formation itself which leads to success for Dallas.
It is possible the Cowboys’ yards-per-play was inflated due to the times at which they lined up in the formation. Calling plays out of ‘Gun TE Spread’ on 3rd and long or when the defense is in a prevent, for example, might make the formation seem more successful than it should.
The stats do seem to support this theory, but not to the degree you might expect. 51 (30.4 percent) of the Cowboys’ plays out of the formation came on 3rd down, while just 20.4 percent of the all Cowboys’ 2009 plays came on 3rd down. That difference is not as large as we might expect from a Shotgun formation (offenses are more likely to pass out of Shotgun, and thus use the formation on 3rd down).
The Cowboys also ran 63 (37.5 percent) of the “Gun TE Spread” plays in in the 4th quarter–a time when defenses are more likely to be in a prevent (and thus allow some intermediate completions).
However, teams employ a prevent defense to limit big plays. The Cowboys acquired a ton of big plays out of “Gun TE Spread.” In fact, 45 (31.9 percent) of the team’s passes from the formation went for 10+ yards, while 16 (11.4 percent) of them went for 20+ yards (including passes of 30, 32, 32, 34, 37, 42, 42, 49, 59, 60, and 64 yards).
Further, over one-in-five runs from the formation went for 10+ yards–a significantly higher than the 13.1 percent clip of 10+ yard runs using all other formations.
Lastly, the sack rate of just 3.6 percent using “Gun TE Spread” was also superior to the overall 5.6 percent mark.
The story is not over, however, as the Cowboys also found great success using the formation with Tony Romo under center.  This is simply called “TE Spread.” The Cowboys ran 25 plays out of this version of the formation–17 passes and eight runs.  They averaged an incredible 14.06 yards-per-pass (including a gaudy 58.8 percent rate of 10+ yard plays), and 6.38 yards-per-rush.  They also allowed no sacks.
So, while we pick on Jason Garrett from time to time (okay, from day to day), we must show him respect for recognizing the efficiency of the two verions of “Tight End Spread” and utilizing it often.  193 times, to be exact–19.4 percent of all meaningful plays.
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One Response to Why ‘Gun Tight End Spread’ Is Cowboys’ Most Productive Formation

  1. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys 16 Best/Worst Running and Passing Formations in 2009 | Dallas Cowboys Times

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