Cowboys vs. Cardinals Week 16 Film Study Observations
This game was extremely difficult to watch again (and again, and again). It’s always particularly hard to take when the team thoroughly outplays an opponent with the exception of a few plays, and those plays determine the outcome of the game. That was clearly the case on Christmas night, as Dallas dominated Arizona on basically all but three plays (two interception returns and the long touchdown to Andre Roberts).
Still, there are a lot of other things the Cowboys could have done to win the game even after the Cardinals’ three quick scores. Here are a few of them, along with some of my other observations. . .
- I discussed Jason Garrett’s decision to kick a third quarter extra point when down 21-19 at length in my initial post-game review. I won’t repeat all of that here, but you can tell just how poor of a choice I found that to be.
- Marc Colombo, somehow, was even worse than it initially appeared. I can count on one hand the number of snaps he adequately performed his job. I watched him intently on every play, and I have no idea how he wasn’t pulled. I don’t care how poorly Robert Brewster or Sam Young have performed in practice–one of them must be better than Colombo.
- I attributed four sacks to Colombo. Three were obvious, and the last was a play on which I’m certain Colombo missed his assignment. He decided to stay inside and double-team Darnell Dockett instead of kicking out to pick up Clark Haggans. Chris Gronkowski was left on an island to block Haggans, which clearly didn’t work.
- The Cowboys did an incredible job of shutting down Larry Fitzgerald up until the Cardinals’ final drive. On a crucial fourth down near the end of the game, Fitzgerald caught a 26-yard pass to get Arizona near midfield. The two closest Cowboys? Keith Brooking and Gerald Sensabaugh. You’ve got to be kidding me. After effectively placing Alan Ball over top of Fitzgerald in Cover 1 all night, you allow Fitzgerald to find an opening in a poorly-played zone coverage? How in the hell do you have Brooking on the field in that situation?
- The Cowboys utilized pretty many two-tight end sets on Saturday night. Of their 76 offensive snaps, there were two or more tight ends on the field on 37 of them (48.7 percent). That rate would have been higher but Martellus Bennett was on the sideline for the final 10 plays.
- The Cowboys motioned on 33 plays (44.1 percent), including 24 of their first 43. They gained 153 total yards on those plays (4.64 per play), as opposed to 5.32 yards-per-play on the non-motion snaps.
- Dallas lined up in Double Tight Left/Right Strong/I seven times, running a strong side dive on four of those plays. They averaged 4.75 yards-per-rush on those plays, but 12.33 yards-per-play on the non-strong side dives, including the 24-yard touchdown run from Marion Barber. On that play, the Cardinals were clearly anticipating a run up the middle but the Cowboys ran outside to the weak side.
- That Barber run is an example of how Garrett can use his predictability in a positive manner. If he properly sets up future plays from “Double Tight Strong/I,” the strong side dives won’t be so disadvantageous. Still, I think he can garner the positive effects of the strong side dive without running it at such a high rate.
- I previously told you the Cowboys lined up in “Double Tight Right I” and then motioned out of it in a unique way. I’ve drawn up the play below.
- You can see that Bennett lined up at fullback (something he does almost never) before motioning into the slot. I think he and Austin were decoys on the play, as they both ran ‘go’ routes and McGee never looked their way. It appeared as though Witten was the primary option on the play, running a crossing route, but McGee checked down to Jones over the middle.
- I’m not really sure why Garrett designed this play. It’s possible the motion was used to simply gain a mismatch of some sort, but you’d have to ask Garrett (and please do–I’d love to know).
- Two counters, 20 yards. When the hell will Garrett call more of these?
- The Cowboys ran nine playaction passes, but had next to zero success on them. They gained just 17 total yards on those nine plays.
- With Jon Kitna in the game, the Cowboys attempted only six passes of 10+ yards (30.0 percent of all pass attempts). With Stephen McGee in the game, that rate dipped to just 17.7 percent.
- According to my count, Felix Jones received 37 snaps, Tashard Choice garnered 25, and Barber got 13. Nice usage by Garrett, but I’d still like to see Choice get more touches. He received one less than Barber despite nearly twice as many snaps.
- The Cardinals were much more aggressive than I anticipated, particularly early in the game. They blitzed on 11 of the Cowboys’ first 23 plays and 23 snaps overall. On those 23 plays, the Cowboys gained 104 yards (4.52 yards-per-play), although 94 of those yards came on four plays, meaning Dallas gained only 10 yards on the other 19 Arizona blitzes.