The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys vs. Cardinals Week 16 Film Study Observations

Subscribe to The DC Times
Never miss a post again!

Jonathan Bales

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.

Dallas Cowboys Times is on Twitter.

Subscribe to our free e-mail updates.

Like this post? Share it with others:
  • Facebook
  • MySpace
  • Reddit
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Netvibes
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati

No related posts.

Related posts brought to you by Yet Another Related Posts Plugin.

12 Responses to Cowboys vs. Cardinals Week 16 Film Study Observations

  1. willis says:

    Good observations.
    I was thinking the same thing about Colombo on the Gronkowski sack. The lack of decision to pull him during the game worries me greatly. He gave up more sacks this game than some tackles do in a year, and I think it illustrates the lack of ability to pull starters. Not sure if it starts with Jerry or the coach but if you look at teams like the Pats, they have no problem pulling and trading players when they start to decline. We on the otherhand seem inept at recognizing when talent is beginning to fade and getting value for it.

    Anyway we can compare Scandrick’s production vs. Jenkins and Newman. I’m wondering if its time for him to step into a starting role, and although I know it won’t happen I think a great time to test that would be against the eagles speed recievers.

  2. john coleman says:

    I’m still sensing that you have a little left over RANT concerning Garrett. So I guess the honeymoons over for you as well. As I said on my post from the Initial pgame, “I’m looking for a complete overhaul”. We need a detailed disciplinarian, who is an offensive innovator. I’m convinced we have explosive talent, especially when Dez is healthy. We need somebody who can figure out ways to get the ball to Miles Austin on the move, so he can utilize his running ability. How about a little FB pass, when everybody is expecting a run or a quick hitter to Witten.

    Speaking of Gronkowski, I thought I saw him make a couple of nice lead blocks. I wonder if he has quietly improved and might deserve a little credit for the improvement in the running game?

    Witten has looked better of late, but he continues to look like he can’t get the seperation of years passed. I still wonder if he is 100%. You mentioned Austin being a good #2 in the IPG observation. I’m guessing you meant to Witten. I love Witten, but I feel that no team will be as explosive as it can be with a TE as a leading receiver. I still feel his looks should be cut in half. I feel if his catches go down his yards per will go up. I am glad we have rediscovered him in the redzone.

    Defensively, we need a complete coaching overhaul as well. I first thought we should keep PP as a d-line coach. After some thought the d-line has been atrocious and that’s on him. So off with the heads! I’m talking Campo, PP, Herring, the whole lot. Again, I feel we have some explosive athlete’s and lack the scheme and coaching to maximize their output. We know Spencer and Jenkins are better than they have played.

  3. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Johnny B,

    I’d like to know how far away Sensabaugh was from Fitzgerald on the last 4 and 15 play Az converted? It’s been my contention all year that Sensabaugh has been preoccupied w/ ensuring he doesn’t get burnt deep and is, therefore, playing 3-5 yards deeper than the receiver he’s supposed to be guarding in his zone.

  4. JJ says:

    jonathan – you reviewed the game so i’ll defer to what you saw but from watching the game I thought the Cardinals did want to ask their QB to do much. I have a feeling they could have tried to get the ball to Fitzgerald all game but if they saw man coverage or a gap in the zone, they went there or to his quickest read. It’s almost as though the Cards resolved themselves to “get the ball to Larry” on the winning drive and when they did, the Cowboys gladly conceded. It’s not effort. It’s that our starting ILBs cannot cover in space…our safeties are just woefully inadequate and the once stellar Newman is showing his age.

    That is why John C, i don’t know that I disagree with your statement about blowing up the coaching but I don’t agree that it’s the issue with the offense. As I stated, for the Cowboys to put up the points they have with a weak OLine, back up receivers, a running game with no real identity and a back up QB is pretty amazing. I really think Garrett deserves the chance…a guy who just comes in and yells does not mean he is a disciplinarian…he just yells. A young innovative guy with attention to detail and a defensive coordinator who embodies a kick butt, in your face, aggressive D sounds good to me. That’s why I think Garrett with an entirely new defensive staff and a few replacements on the offensive coaching staff (see Wade Wilson and Houck) is not a bad option at all.

    My biggest concern is who has an eye for talent. The 2009 draft and recent acquisitions suggest that it is not Jerry and was not Wade…

  5. Michael says:

    Nice comments from everyone.

    I completely agree with JJ’s thoughts in the second paragraph.

  6. moses says:

    It was a hard game for me to watch as well.

    I can’t believe the first pick six thrown by Kitna. He usually makes better decisions. But that put us in a big hole.

    It seemed like Columbo was beaten or out of position for almost all of the passing downs. I can’t believe that Garrett did not replace him or get a TE on that end to help. Didn’t Garrett see what was happening??

    Where was the D? How do we let a 6th round rookie QB beat us on a winning drive???
    How??

  7. Willis–I will do an analysis of the cornerbacks at the end of the season. I’ll try to make it one of my first position analyses.

  8. He was about five yds back. I’m sure he was in a bit of a prevent mode on that play. I’m not saying he should have made a play, but he should have been closer. As you point out, we’ve seen that a lot this year.

  9. You’re right that Arizona just tried to “hide” Skelton for the majority of the game. They gave him really simple reads and let him make easy throws. On the last drive, they couldn’t do that anymore, and Dallas knew it. That’s what makes the completion to Fitzgerald so sad. 4th and 15, you KNOW the kid has to throw it downfield and will look for Fitz, and you have Brooking/Sensy on him?

  10. I think Kitna’s first interception was a both his and Miles’ faults. Miles fell down and would have at least broken up the interception if he stayed on his feet, but the ball was also slightly forced and thrown inside–to the wrong shoulder on that particular play. Unusual from Kitna.

  11. Mark Watkins says:

    I agree with many of the comments above and thanks as always for the astute analysis Jonathan. It does surprise me that Garrett leaves Colombo in there. I wonder if that is a case of not wanting to hurt a respected veteran’s feelings. If so, he is too much like Wade Phillips in that aspect of his coaching. And if that is the case, he is most certainly not the right guy for this job. On the other hand, if it’s coming from Jerry, that is troubling as well, since I don’t want a coach who is a puppet of Jerry’s. As I’ve seen someone state before, Jerry seems to go back and forth between more independent coaches and ones that are young or inexperienced and will accede to his command. At any rate, the main reason I might be more inclined to hope for an experienced coach is with the hope that we might bring one in that is a good evaluator of talent. I don’t know that Garrett is good at that. Maybe we’ll get a chance to find out..

  12. Thanks Mark. I don’t think the Colombo thing is coming from Jerry. I do think it could be about feelings at this point. JG is probably less inclined to make a move because playoff hopes are dead. If Dallas needed this game to get into the playoffs, I actually think Colombo would be sitting. Perhaps I am being naive, but I can’t believe Garrett really sees Colombo as the best option at RT.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>