How the Cowboys Stopped LeSean McCoy + Game Notes
At ABC, I broke down how Dallas stopped Shady:
Containing the Edges
The Cowboys halted McCoy because they played extremely disciplined run defense. McCoy is the “King of the Cutback,” so the ‘Boys did everything they could to not over-pursue, nearly always having a defender sealing each edge.
That was apparent early in the second quarter. The Eagles lined up in a Shotgun Trips formation.
They ran their patented read-option, with Shady flowing away from the “Trips” toward the boundary. The Cowboys did a good job of moving to the ball without giving McCoy room to cut back.
With defenders playing with outside leverage in both directions, McCoy had no choice but to keep it inside, picking up just a couple yards.
Just one play later, Philly ran the same concept to the opposite side of the field. They again lined up in “Trips,” this time using a tight end in-line opposite the three-receiver side.
Again, the edge defenders maintained their leverage so as to not allow Shady to bounce anything outside.
Again, he had nowhere to run.
This type of defensive concept is why we saw Sean Lee total 11 tackles while the starting outside linebackers combined for two (yes two) tackles. It was obvious that the outside defenders were playing not to make tackles at any cost, but rather to make sure McCoy couldn’t turn a would-be two-yard gain into a 40-yard run.
That idea is reflected in this pie chart.
Of the tackles made by the Cowboys’ 11 starters, only 15 percent combined came from the defensive ends and outside linebackers. Meanwhile, Sean Lee had 27.5 percent of the tackles by himself. He and the secondary combined to make 72.5 percent of the tackles. That’s what you’d expect when the perimeter defenders are playing disciplined run defense, extending plays instead of forcing the issue.
And at NBC, I posted some thoughts from the game:
– It won’t get much publicity since the Cowboys’ defense played well enough that the game was never really in question, but Jason Garrett punted three times in the first quarter when he should have gone for it: a fourth-and-one at the Cowboys’ 43-yard line, a fourth-and-five at the Eagles’ 36-yard line, and a fourth-and-one at the Cowboys’ 39-yard line.
– Using the fourth down calculator at Advanced NFL Stats, we can use past game data to calculate how many expected points the Cowboys lost by being so risk-averse. In total, the ‘Boys lost 2.7 expected points and a 10 percent chance of winning the game by punting three times. That’s just one type of decision in one quarter. But yeah, the team is totally fine as one of the only ones in the NFL without any type of analytics department.