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By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys vs. Giants Week 10 Film Study Observations

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Jonathan Bales

  • In my initial post-game notes, I wrote briefly about a new formation the Cowboys ran against New York.  They called it three times, running the same pass play (below) from it each time.  I’ve named the formation “Double Tight Left Ace.”  It’s actually very similar to “Double Tight Left I,” except there is an extra tight end to the weak side instead of a fullback.

Double Tight Left Ace

  • The first time the Cowboys ran the play, it appeared as though Felix Jones was the primary read on the pass.  The Giants were in man coverage, which meant their linebackers ran with the three tight ends who flooded the left side of the field.  Jones stepped up into the vacated area and Kitna quickly hit him for a 12-yard gain.
  • The other two times the Cowboys ran the play, however, the Giants were in a zone.  Instead of running to the middle of the field, Jones headed out into the flat.  The other players’ routes were the same, meaning Jones probably had an option route on the play.  If New York was in man coverage, he ran the route above.  If they were in zone, he headed out into the flat.
  • After reviewing the film, the Cowboys’ clock management prior to halftime was even worse than I thought.  They had a 2nd and 1 at their own 46-yard line with well over a minute to play and two timeouts.  Instead of using a timeout or going into a hurry-up offense, they huddled.  The decision cost them the opportunity to move into field goal range for David Buehler.
  • I didn’t see too many differences between Paul Pasqualoni’s play-calling and that of Wade Phillips.  Pasqualoni dialed up an exotic zone blitz early in the game, dropping both DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer into coverage and sending Alan Ball after the quarterback.  The play worked well, but the Cowboys didn’t come back to it.  I think Pasqualoni is too similar to Phillips for my liking.
  • I’m not sure what sort of effect the Cowboys’ full pads practices had on the outcome of the game, but Dallas did appear much, much more physical on defense.  They looked genuinely excited to be playing football for the first time since Week Three.  I was particularly impressed with the physicality of players in the secondary, especially Mike Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick.
  • Scandrick had a really good game overall.  He was a step ahead of his normal position on most plays, causing Eli Manning to make difficult throws on a number of occasions.  On Alan Ball’s late interception, Manning had to lead the receiver too far because of Scandrick’s tight coverage.  Now he needs to show consistency.
  • Once again, proponents of the run will claim the Cowboys won because they were more balanced offensively, but that’s simply not the case.  Only 12 of the first 33 plays were actually runs (36.4 percent).  The correlation between rushing attempts and winning is generally due to teams running after they’ve already obtained a lead.  As was the case Sunday, that lead usually comes via big plays through the air.  The Cowboys didn’t win because they ran the ball often–they won because they ran it effectively, allowing for big passing plays downfield to Dez Bryant and Miles Austin.
  • Garrett must simply not like Tashard Choice.  Choice again played just one snap–the 3rd and 22 pass to Roy Williams that went for 27 yards.  It was ALL because of Choice.  Well, not really, but why is Marion Barber still getting so many reps ahead of him?
  • Besides “Double Tight Left Ace,” the Cowboys lined up in another unique formation.  You’ve probably all seen the “Pistol” offense run by college teams like Nevada and Indiana.  If not, see below. . .

  • The trademark of the “Pistol” offense is the running back lined up behind the quarterback in a Shotgun formation.  Generally, the running back is to the left or right of the quarterback.  The reason I love the “Pistol” so much is that it doesn’t allow the defense to obtain a pre-snap key as to the play-call.  When a team is in a regular Shotgun formation, running plays are generally designed to the side of the formation opposite the running back.  In “Pistol,” a running play could go either direction.
  • The Cowboys used a variation of the “Pistol” which I have termed “Trips Right Pistol,” running the ball up the middle for a combined 12 yards the two times they called it.  I drew up the formation below. . .

Trips Right Pistol

  • I didn’t see a significant change in Garrett’s play-calling, but the Cowboys did motion a lot more than usual later in the game.  Generally, Dallas has motioned the majority of the time in the first 20 or so plays of games–the scripted plays.  On Sunday, Dallas motioned 11 times in the second half alone, including five of the first six plays to start the half.
  • Of those five plays, four were passes and they totaled 117 yards (29.3 yards-per-pass).  Let’s see if this trend continues into next week.
  • Dallas lined up in a lot more two and three-tight ends sets, even before securing a large lead.  Of their 49 offensive plays (minus two quarterback kneels), the ‘Boys implemented three or more wide receivers only 14 times.  It may have seemed like more because Bryant was targeted so much, but you’ll be happy to know that he’s effectively replaced Roy Williams as the No. 2 receiver.
  • Jon Kitna checked out of a play four times–two runs for five yards and two passes for 13 yards and a touchdown.
  • After running the ball to the outside of formations quite often to start the season, the Cowboys went back to pounding it up the middle against the Giants (as they did in 2009).  15 of their 24 runs were in either the “1″ or “2″ hole–right up the center’s butt.
  • I thought the Cowboys would run more draws than they did (three).  Those runs went for 24 total yards, so the few times they dialed up a draw it was effective.
  • The Cowboys didn’t run a single counter all game.
  • The Cowboys ran four playaction passes.  Only one was completed, but it went for 27 yards.
  • Garrett also dialed up four screen passes and they were extremely successful, thanks to Felix Jones (71 yard screen for a touchdown) and Dez Bryant (46 yard screen).
  • It may have seemed like the Cowboys threw the ball downfield much more often than usual, but that simply wasn’t the case.  Only eight passes traveled over 10 yards.  Kitna & Co. were simply effective when they did take their shots.
  • I counted only four passes as being off-target for Kitna.  He had quite the night.  Imagine what Romo could have done with this sort of protection.
  • Garrett made the offensive line’s job easier by calling three designed rollouts–the most in a single game all season.
  • I was shocked with the lack of pressure the Giants brought.  I counted only five blitzes all game, and the Cowboys totaled only eight yards on those plays.  After the initial success the Cowboys had on offense, I thought the Giants would become more aggressive on defense, but it just never happened.

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20 Responses to Cowboys vs. Giants Week 10 Film Study Observations

  1. JJ says:

    J- I just posted the same on Choice. I just don’t get it.

    I loved Jason’s energy. It reminded me of Jimmy Johnson and his presence. He was brash, smart and enthusiastic. So, for all the need for discipline (in which i wholeheartedly agree), I also like Jason’s enthusiasm on the side line. To me, Wade was like watching grass grow…Jason was slapping butts and getting guys going….loved the energy.

    Not to be a downer but still very concerned about the D. James played hard, the backup DBs played their guts out and we caught some breaks. I also liked the gang tackling against the run but the lack of pressure from the DLine and OLBs as well as coverage issues has me concerned for the long term. Conversely, it’s fun to watch what the Cowboys can do in the vertical game particularly if Bennett can join the mix….just give Choice a chance.

  2. I don’t get it either. One snap is ridiculous. He’s made plays the majority of the times he’s gotten an opportunity. Barber has proven he isn’t going to get the job done, and I don’t think he’ll be here next season. Why not discover if Choice can be a major part of the rotation? And what the heck happened to the Wildcat?

  3. chris stallcup says:

    regarding choice, i still believe that choice said something in the media and jason garrett genuinely does not like him. which would be a big waste of his talents.

  4. Pingback: Dallas Cowboys

  5. Well if that’s the case, that would be poor coaching. Let’s give him a chance to get Choice touches in the next few weeks, but I’m not counting on it.

  6. Brett says:

    Choice is just not as good as Barber or Jones. Its that simple. (well in my opinion). Look at choice on all those options early in the season, he had a pitch to felix open multiple times and NEVER pitched it. You can say what you want about Barber but he does whatever it takes to win.

    And for “stats” fans they must escape you when it comes to Barber. Against the NYG his numbers were: 8 carries for 47 yards (5.9 avg). Explain to me again WHY he needed to be spelled by Choice. Choice is a solid backup but thats it. The grass isnt always greener.

  7. Chris stallcup says:

    Choice proved he could be a solo back….barber doesn’t do what he can to win and seems to have lost his ferociy. Choice won’t look pretty running but he is the most complete back of the three.

  8. Chris stallcup says:

    And regarding the option plays, why would you want to pitch a ball you almost never see or touch. If he would have seen more touches he more than likely would have pitched it to Felix.

  9. Brett says:

    So your OK with a player making a decision that benefits himself over the team? What about a kick returner that doesn’t get many touches and fields it 9 yards deep, is it OK for him to bring it out of the end zone and get tackled inside the 10 because, “well, I don’t get many touches so who cares whats good for the team”.

  10. Brett says:

    People for some reason dislike Barber but the fact is he has averaged over 4 yards a carry over his career. 1000+ touches. If you like choice thats OK, he should get about 3 or 4 touches a game. But to say he is some elite RB and Barber cant even get to the line of scrimmage is ridiculous. I think if Barber would have fumbled in the Redskin game, people would still be ripping him but choice gets a pass some reason. What has he done so amazing? The wildcat?

  11. Brett–Your numbers on Barber are skewed. He had the last four carries of the game for 35 yards. The game was over at that point and the Giants’ defense had given up. Before that, he had four carries for 12 yards (3.0 YPC). He’s a sub-par RB that possesses zero explosiveness. Any personnel man in the league will tell you Barber’s been done for awhile.

    As far as Choice. . .the Cowboys ran one option play with him, and I believe it gained eight yards. He isn’t an option quarterback. . .he’s a RB. I personally don’t grade RBs on their ability or willingness to pitch a football.

    And I’m not sure how Choice has gotten a free pass for his fumble in Week One. . .he’s averaged about three snaps a game since then.

  12. Mark Watkins says:

    I wholeheartedly agree on the Barber/Choice situation. Barber really doesn’t seemt to have the same explosiveness as he did in years past. And it seems like it was bound to happen at some point. He doesn’t have the build of Earl Campbell, where he could keep pounding the ball inside year after year. I think they should see what Choice can do.
    Two questions Jonathan- Why do you think it made it easier on the OL by JG dialing up rollouts, just by keeping the D-line of the Giants guessing and not pinning their ears back to rush in? And why do you think the Giants didn’t blitz more?
    I think we should give Kitna a lot of credit for his play in this game. He’s pretty darn good for a backup QB.

  13. john coleman says:

    I’ve said it before but here it is one more time. Choice was forced to start for 3 games in 2008. In those three games as the only back we had he averaged 5.5 yards per carry and 8.8 yards per reception. Two of those games were against the Steelers and the Ravens. I’m pretty sure the Steelers were the #1 D in the league that year and the Ravens are always right there. The Steelers was also at their house. Choices career averages are something like .2 of a yard lower. This year his sample size is simply to small to evaluate. BTW I aven’t heard anybody elses name mentioned as trade bait. Barber is a closer at the end of games and that’s all he has ever been. Jones flashes glimpses but no consistency. It’s way past time to see what Choice has to offer. A new back every year is a waste. We have other needs that are much more pressing. Choice is the only unknown, so give him his shot. Look at Bryan McCann, he gets his shot and comes up huge. Remember he was cut and we are really lucky to have got him back. If we lose Choice he will suceed elsewhere. Ever heard of Danny Amendola. I rest my case.

  14. Chris stallcup says:

    never said choice was an elite back. But he does seem to be the most consistent when given the oppritunity. Barber’s and choices rolls should be switched in the offense. Choice never got a pass on the fumble, he basically does not see the ball. The past two games I believe he saw the ball about one time. The cowboys need a back that can make himself skinny in between the tackles at the line of scrimmage, barber definately can no longer run the same way he used to. It seems to me as if he’s afraid of reinjuring himself

  15. Brett says:

    @jonathon MY number are skewed? An average is an average. How much do you think those 60 yard runs helped choice a couple years ago. Big run always “skew” the RB stats. Do you take the same thought process on goaline runs given to barber? do you say well on 4th and 1 he got 2 but everyone knew it was a run so lets credit him with more yards.

    How many 3rd and shorts does barber get us? The other day he converted on 3rd down runs for us like 4 times in a row. And your thought about “every personnel man in league will tell you that” Is that so? Than why doesn’t choice get those touches? Barber will get the Cowboys 50 First downs this year. Thats what he does, first downs and short yardage. You’ll see when Choice is traded. Obviously the team agrees with me. And I would say they have “some” football knowledge.

  16. Chris stallcup says:

    All I have to say to that is, ever heard of Danny amandola?

  17. Mark–You’re exactly right on the rollouts. It isn’t that it’s inherently easier to block on the move during a rollout, but rollouts can be an effective tool against a defense with players who rush to a spot. It’s easy to block someone that is nowhere near your quarterback. Plus, you can limit the effectiveness of one particular rusher (generally the RDE). So for team’s with one guy who is superior to his teammates, it is useful.

    And I have NO idea why the Giants didn’t bring pressure in the second half. My guess is they started the game without it because they figured they were the superior team and they simply needed to limit big plays. Safe coverages, i.e. no blitzes, make that easier. In the second half, though, I thought they needed to become more aggressive.

  18. John–LOVE that you bring up sample size. I know I sometimes overdo it on the effect of a small sample but it really is true. And Amendola sure would be nice to have in the slot with Bryant/Austin outside in future years.

  19. Brett–”An average is an average,” as you point out, and Barber is averaging 3.3 YPC this season. He isn’t garnering any extra short-yardage carries as compared to previous seasons, so why the low average? It isn’t all due to the O-Line.

  20. john coleman says:

    The truth is that if Barber didn’t have that ridiculous contract he would already be gone. NO TEAM will take him. His salary rates with the Roy W. trade as Jerry’s worst fubars. Parcells had him doing what he is good for. Also what is Barber trying to do by defying Garrett on the dress code. Barber is a role player not a starter.

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