Cowboys vs. Giants Week 7 Initial Post-Game Notes, Observations
Obviously this is a difficult one to swallow. I will warn you now that it will take me awhile to study the film of this game. I simply do not have the motivation or concentration needed to objectively look at the game tape. I do feel a responsibility to the regular readers of DC Times, though, so if there’s anything in particular at which you’d like me to look, let me know and I’ll do my best.
- Can this team win without Tony Romo? We’re about to find out, but if it doesn’t happen next week against the Jaguars, it might not happen at all. Romo looks to be out at least 6-8 weeks with his fractured clavicle, although the team probably won’t rush him back.
- The play everyone will be talking about appeared to be a mistake on the part of Chris Gronkowski. He looked to have a “check-flat” responsibility on the play, which means his initial duty is to pick up the blitz/chip on the defensive end. He obviously misread the blitz and it cost Dallas.
- The entire team lost all energy and motivation once Romo went down. Obviously a broken collarbone to your starting quarterback is devastating, but the fact that no one stepped up is a problem. There are 10 games left in the season and the Cowboys don’t really seem to have a leader. Who is going to step up?
- Sam Hurd and Danny McCray did a really nice job on kick coverage early. It’s amazing what being “pumped up” can do for a player.
- I don’t like Jason Garrett’s decision to call back-to-back draws inside the Giants’ 10-yard line. The point of a draw is to fool the defense into thinking the play is a pass and get the linebackers and safeties to drop into their zones. Where are they going to go down by the end zone?
- Early in the game, the Cowboys did an awesome job of disguising their blitzes and faking others. There was a play with 6:15 left in the first quarter in which Dallas used just two down linemen. The other defenders were just kind of walking back and forth pre-snap without giving away their intentions. That “Amoeba” look hasn’t happened all season.
- The Cowboys got away from that creativity, though, and. . .surprise, surprise. . .the Giants started scoring points. The players looked excited to be on the football field early, but that dissipated (even before Romo’s injury) once they went back into their boring, predictable base alignments.
- One of the lone unique defensive calls after the first quarter was a blitz by Orlando Scandrick. I loved the call and it worked to perfection. Scandrick doesn’t seem like a great candidate to blitz, but remember that the offense thinks that too. You could tell the Giants were unprepared for it and Scandrick got right in on Eli Manning to force a poor throw.
- How in the world did Gerald Sensabaugh end up covering Hakeem Nicks one-on-one in the end zone? I know the Giants were in a “Jumbo” offensive package, but with Nicks on the field, a cornerback must be as well. There must have been some mistake in personnel, because the Cowboys had zero cornerbacks on the field and the Giants will take that match-up all day.
- Doesn’t it seem as though Jason Garrett’s prime objective is to acquire first downs? That might seem like a fine goal, but it isn’t. His top priority should be scoring points. That means it is often a smart idea to take shots deep on plays like 2nd and 1 or 2. Garrett seems content to just run the ball and move the chains, though, and it forces the Cowboys to have to repeatedly beat defenses. They’ve had three 2nd and 1 plays on the season–all runs. I completed a study a few months ago on the importance of 2nd and 1 plays. . .
The value of a 2nd and 1 play is so incredible that, on average, a team will score .7 extra points each time they gain nine yards on 1st down as compared to gaining 10 yards. Yes, gaining one less yard on 1st down provides a team with .7 more “expected points.” In fact, 2nd and 1 plays are so valuable that they yield more expected points than any 1st down gain all the way up until 17 yards. Thus, a nine-yard gain on 1st down is actually more valuable to an offense than a 16-yard gain.
The value of 2nd and 1 plays is even greater, though, if offensive coordinators take advantage of the situation. This is not the case, however. League-wide, coaches called a run play on 78% of all 2nd and 1 plays. That is evenmore than the 76% rate on 3rd and 1′s!
Jason Garrett’s 2009 play-calling on 2nd and 1 was nearly identical to the league average (he called a run on 80% of plays, compared to the 78% mean). Garrett rarely exploited the high-reward opportunity of short-yardage 2nd down plays. In fact, the Cowboys attempted just three passes of 15+ yards all season in 2nd or 3rd and 3 or less (3.22% of all plays in these situations).
- I don’t understand why the Cowboys punted on 4th and 3 from the Giants’ 39-yard line. In that situation, the math says to go for it with all the way up to 10 yards-to-go. Even though the Cowboys were almost saved by an incredible diving play from Danny McCray (to keep the punt out of the end zone), it was a terrible call.
- Like I predicted in my pre-game Manifesto, Sensabaugh did line up over Ahmad Bradshaw from time to time. This was a smart move by Dallas, although it was basically negated by the stupidity of placing him over Nicks.
- The largest problem with the Cowboys defense right now is their tackling. I think it is less about their ability to tackle (although that is poor too), and more about their willingness to tackle. I loved to see the Cowboys come out on fire and flying around to the football, but it was also depressing. Why can’t that be the rule and not the exception? This team is going to have to dig deep to find motivation to be competitive after a 1-5 start and no Romo for what could be the rest of the season.