Cowboys Analysis: Report Card and Play Breakdowns
At ABC, I broke down two plays from the Cowboys’ Week 2 loss in Kansas City:
A Big Third Down
Although Monte Kiffin had his defense playing well on Sunday, they stumbled out of the gates, digging themselves an early hole by allowing a touchdown on the first drive. The ‘Boys had Kansas City in a difficult spot, facing a third-and-15 at the Cowboys’ 35-yard line.
In that situation, I think Kiffin was more concerned with making sure the Chiefs didn’t advance the ball at all than ensuring they didn’t secure a big play. That’s understandable given the field position; if the Cowboys could force an incompletion or even get a sack, Kansas City would be forced to either attempt a long field goal or punt.
So Kiffin brought the dogs, lining up six defenders at the line with a soft look behind it.
At the snap, Orlando Scandrick rushed off of the edge and Sean Lee dropped into coverage, meaning the ‘Boys had five defenders coming after Smith and six in the back end. The secondary played off, seemingly content to give up any underneath completions.
Smith had time to throw the ball, so he hung onto it instead of taking the sure thing underneath to set up a closer field goal try. The problem for Dallas was that, once the receivers got downfield, the back six were out of position to corral the scrambling Smith. He took off down the sideline, diving for a first down that ultimately led to the first of only three total touchdowns for both teams in the game.
This is the problem with continually playing man coverage against a mobile passer. In such a close game, it’s pretty evident that Dallas would have won had they contained Smith as a runner. Kiffin probably felt as though Smith is accurate enough to consistently pick apart zone coverage if given enough time, but it might have been smarter to utilize zone blitzes if he wanted to send pressure. That way, the Cowboys could have forced Smith out of the pocket, yet still have defenders playing underneath to stop him on the ground.
And at Bleacher Report, I graded each position.
Just as was the case in Week 1, Romo turned in a poor performance from an efficiency standpoint. He averaged 7.1 YPA—up from 5.4 YPA in Week 1—but it seems like Romo is throwing the ball scared right now.
It’s pretty apparent he’s placed an emphasis on minimizing his turnovers, which he’s done really well, but it’s come at the expense of some big plays. In Romo’s defense, he had some passes dropped, including a big one down the sideline to Bryant late in the contest.
Still, Romo didn’t lead the team at the end of the game. I’m as big of a Romo fan as any, but why wasn’t the team in a hurry-up mode for much of the fourth quarter when they were losing?
Down by four points with just a few minutes remaining, the Cowboys showed no urgency. Yeah, they had enough time to score on that drive, but what happens if you don’t score a touchdown right away? The Cowboys didn’t, and they had no time left to come back after kicking off.