Cowboys vs. Lions: A Game Plan for Dallas
At Bleacher Report, I posted my game plan for Dallas in Week 8:
DO attack cornerback Chris Houston.
All of the Lions’ cornerbacks have been poor in 2013, each allowing at least 1.30 yards per route. That numbers ranks all the way down at 50th in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus, showing you just how bad they’ve been.
And as bad as cornerbacks Rashean Mathis and Bill Bentley have been, Chris Houston has been much worse. He’s allowed 522 yards—the second-most in the NFL—on 45 targets (11.6 YPA). The Cowboys could find massive success on Sunday just by targeting the receiver covered by Houston.
DON’T run for the sake of running.
The Cowboys might not seem like a running team, but the truth is that they come out of games looking to establish balance. They’ve actually run the ball on 53.7 percent of their first downs in the first quarter.
Balance in the final box score is good because it signifies late running, which is of course correlated with winning. But the way to achieve final balance isn’t always to be balanced early. Instead, the Cowboys should generally be passing early in games, especially on first down, and then running it late once they’ve acquired a lead.
DON’T forget about play-action. . .again.
I’ll stop talking about play-action when the Cowboys run it more often. Through seven weeks, Romo once again ranks last in the NFL in play-action pass rate, having attempted one on just 10.5 percent of his dropbacks. He ranked last in 2012, too, by a wide margin.
Again, you don’t actually need to run the ball a whole lot (or even effectively) to utilize play-action. There’s no correlation between rushing efficiency and play-action passing success, as evidenced by Romo’s 109.1 passer rating on play-action in 2012. This year, Romo is even better on play-action with a 131.1 passer rating.
Ranked second in the NFL in play-action rating, it’s just mind-boggling that the Cowboys haven’t used the look more often in 2013.