Cowboys vs. Titans Week 5 Final Film Study Observations
- Tony Romo’s second interception was a throw into the flat to Martellus Bennett which got tipped at the line of scrimmage. I’ve watched the play numerous times and I actually think Titans cornerback Alterraun Verner had a shot at intercepting the pass even if it wasn’t tipped. The Titans appeared to be in Cover 2–the perfect coverage for that play–and Verner got a tremendous break on the football. Why? I think he recognized the play, which the Cowboys called numerous times in the preseason. Actually, they dialed it up so much that I diagramed it in one of my post-game reviews:
As you can see, the inside tight end runs a five-yard hitch while the outside tight end runs a flat. The inside tight end (usually Martellus Bennett) is the first read on the play.
On the opposite side, the slot receiver runs a little hook, sitting down in a weak spot in the defense, while the outside (Z) receiver has an option route. Depending on coverage, he either runs a 15-yard dig or a fade. If he beats his man off of the line (as Roy Williams did on the second quarter pass on which Romo overthrew him), the quarterback can hit him deep. If the defense is in a “safe” coverage, such as cover 3 or 4, the receiver turns his route into a dig.
The running back runs a swing to the double-tight side of the formation.
The Cowboys don’t line up in this formation (“Double Tight Left Twins Right Ace”) often. Actually, it was only the second time they did so all season, and they ran the above play the first time as well. Now I don’t know how much film study Verner did this week, but it is very, very possible he got such a great beat on the ball due to knowing what play might be coming.
So while Jason Garrett’s play-calling has been pretty unpredictable this season, the Cowboys may want to add another play or two from this formation into the rotation, or else scrap it altogether.
- As I stated two weeks ago, Garrett loves to motion and shift early in the ballgame (likely due to scripted plays). On the Cowboys’ three opening drives this year, they’ve motioned 14 times (4.7 times per drive). That’s nearly twice the rate of other drives (2.5 motions per drive). On Sunday, Dallas motioned 11 of the first 21 plays, but then only four more times over the final 52 plays.
- The Cowboys ran 32 plays from three-receiver sets: ALL passes.
- The personnel packages were obviously radically different this week due to no true fullback being active. Tight ends Jason Witten and Scott Chandler split time at fullback, meaning Dallas was very heavy on two and three-tight end sets. Actually, they used two tight ends 31 times and three tight ends six times (which is actually more than average).
- Romo checked out of eight plays on Sunday: four runs for nine yards and four passes for 38 yards.
- After running only four counters in the first three games, the Cowboys ran five on Sunday for 66 yards. They need to continue to use misdirection plays to take advantage of over-aggressive defenses.
- The Titans blitzed on only 24.7 percent of plays, but they did a nice job disguising their blitzes. 10 of their 18 blitzes came on plays when they did not show blitz pre-snap. Meanwhile, they showed blitz three times without actually coming. Further, even when they did show blitz and and then also came after Romo, the rushers were often defenders who weren’t the ones showing blitz pre-snap.
- The Cowboys took their shots downfield: 15 passes went over 10 yards, while seven traveled 20+ yards.
- I credited Romo with eight “off-target” passes–near his average from last season.
- I attributed three sacks to Leonard Davis, two to Marc Colombo, and one to Jason Witten (although the Witten one was close–he was a backside blocker on a rollout and Romo did hold the ball a little too long).