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Cowboys vs. Rams: Key Plays for Dallas

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At ABC, I posted a breakdown of a couple important plays for the Cowboys in Week 3:

DeMarco Murray’s 41-Yard Rush

Just out of halftime, the Cowboys faced a second-and-four at their own 26-yard line. They lined up in “Double Tight Left Twins Right Ace”—a formation they used 24 times in 2012. On the 11 plays on which they ran the ball from the formation, the Cowboys found a lot of success with 77 total yards (7.0 YPC) and a touchdown.

On this particular play, Romo issued a “kill” call prior to the snap. A “kill” call is an audible that allows the offense to change the play in just a second or two. This is the audible system that Dallas has used over the past few years, though we didn’t see it much in the first two weeks since Romo was given more freedom to change the play himself at the line. Romo issued multiple “kill” calls on Sunday, which might be a sign that the Cowboys are limiting his responsibilities just a bit.

Before some plays, the offensive coordinator calls in two plays to Romo, who then relays both of those plays to the guys in the huddle. The plan is to run the first play, but if Romo sees something in the defense that suggests that play won’t work, he yells “kill, kill, kill” at the line, alerting the offense to run the second play. It’s an effective way to change plays in a hurry, which is often necessary when you’re calling two of them in the huddle.

On this play, Romo made the right read. When he handed off the ball to Murray, only tight end Jason Witten didn’t win his battle at the point-of-attack.

This is a theme for Witten, by the way. It’s popular to say that he’s the best receiving-blocking combination tight end in the NFL, but he’s not. He continually loses at the point-of-attack, and I’d argue he’s barely an average blocker anymore.

In any event, Witten did enough to stay in front of his defender, and Murray adjusted by cutting back on a play initially designed to get outside.

After cutting back, Murray was contacted just two yards past the line. He was able to slip the tackle to get into the open-field, ultimately galloping for 41 yards. This shows just how volatile each running play can be, though; had Murray been a fraction of a second late to the hole, he would have been tackled for a couple yards. The difference between a great rushing game and a horrible rushing game is often a handful of bang-bang plays just like this one—a reason to be optimistic that Dallas can continue their rushing success.

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