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This pass to Dez Bryant is a great sign for Dallas

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At Dallas News, I broke down an innocent pass to Dez Bryant and why it’s such a good sign for the Cowboys.

On a first-and-10 at their own 47-yard line, the Cowboys lined up in “Tight End Trips Right” with Bryant isolated on the left side of the formation. Dallas lined up in “Tight End Trips” on 59 plays in 2012—right around four per game—passing the ball on only 17 of those snaps. It’s the one spread formation from which they really like to run the ball, as they planned to do on this play.

The Raiders were in an unusual alignment because cornerback Mike Jenkins (top) was lined up 10 yards off of Miles Austin and actually sunk back farther before the snap, yet cornerback Tracy Porter was less than five yards off of Bryant. The reason was that Porter was supposed to blitz on the play.

As you can see below, Porter started to blitz as Romo took the snap. With Bryant slanting in, Romo pumped but pulled back when he saw Porter. The cornerback actually stopped rushing when he recognized that Romo was throwing the ball to Bryant.

The play might have looked like a busted slant, but it was actually a run. You can see Jason Witten stayed in-line to block and the other receivers both jogged out leisurely to block the defenders lined up over them. DeMarco Murray hesitated behind the line-of-scrimmage, indicating that this was a designed draw.

When Romo decided to forgo the handoff and throw to Bryant, he was executing what is known as a “sight adjustment.” On many running plays, quarterbacks have the freedom to pull up and immediately hit a receiver—typically on a slant or quick screen—if they see something that suggests a pass will be successful.

It’s pretty standard, but something about this play really stands out: Romo didn’t decide to throw the football until after the snap. Typically, the quarterback makes that determination before the snap. But even with the odd coverage, I don’t think there’s any way that Romo could have anticipated Porter blitzing. The cornerback did nothing to show it; you can see him lined up well off of the ball in a traditional position just before the snap in the first image.

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