My Running the Numbers piece takes a look at more interesting stats for the ‘Boys following their big loss in Atlanta in Week 9.
- Sunday night’s loss is the perfect example of why passing attempts are strongly correlated with losing; it isn’t that frequent passing is a cause of losing, but rather that teams that are already losing are forced to pass the ball late in games. The Cowboys aired it out on 12 of their 13 fourth quarter plays, bringing the final pass rate to 66.7 percent. The truth is that the Cowboys attempted to be balanced through the first three quarters, passing the ball just 23 times compared to 17 runs.
- Romo threw for 9.17 yards per attempt (YPA) and recorded a 109.3 passer rating. The late passing attempts were too-little-too-late for a team that managed only 3.61 yards per carry (YPC) on the ground. Amazingly, 50.8 percent of the offense’s rushing yards came on two carries to start the third quarter.
Check out more at DallasCowboys.com.
Over at NBC, I published some stats from my film review. . .
- We saw two screens from the Cowboys—one to Lance Dunbar and one to Miles Austin. The ‘Boys have now tried only 12 screen passes in all of 2012, and only seven of those have been to running backs. If the rationale for Garrett’s lack of downfield routes is poor pass protection, how can the team average less than one true screen pass per game?
- Romo, one of the league’s premiere deep ball passers over the past few years, attempted only three deep passes (traveling at least 20 yards past the line-of-scrimmage) against the Falcons—through no fault of his own. He completed two of them for 94 yards and a touchdown. Until Garrett opens up the offense, there will be no running game and defenders can continue to sit on routes.
Read the whole article.
At NBC, I broke down the three passes the Cowboys ran with one yard to go for a first down on their second-to-last drive against the Giants.
The typical upside on a regular 2nd and 1 play wasn’t there. And since 2009, the Cowboys have run for a first down 83.6 percent of the time on 2nd and 1, compared to converting a first down on just 46.2 percent of their passes. Nonetheless, the Cowboys lined up in “Shotgun Spread” and Tony Romo was unable to connect with Jason Witten on an out route, setting up 3rd and 1. Although the numbers suggested the ‘Boys should have run on the play, I wouldn’t fault that particular call too much.
Read the entire post.
At DallasCowboys.com, I broke down my Cowboys-Giants film study.
- In the season opener, the Giants defense disguised their intentions, – meaning they either blitzed after not showing it or showed a blitz and then sat back in coverage – on only 7.1 percent of the Cowboys’ snaps. In Week 8, they did it on 14.5 percent of snaps, often showing a blitz but backing out. Dallas passed on all 14 plays, with Tony Romo getting sacked on one of them. He completed nine of the 13 passes he attempted for 71 yards (5.46 YPA), no touchdowns, and one interception. I think the Giants made a serious effort to try to confuse Romo with their alignments, and it appeared to work.
- One of the plays on which the Giants may have baited Romo was his first interception. On a first-and-10 at their own 45-yard line, the Cowboys lined up with “12” personnel, which is one running back, two tight ends and two receivers. Jason Garrett called for a play-action pass. By my count, the Cowboys had run 20 play-action passes on the season up until that point, and nine of them (45 percent) resulted in the same post pattern to Dez Bryant. The Giants showed blitz on the play but backed out. I’m not sure whether or not it confused Romo, but either way, the Giants seemed to know what was coming and safety Stevie Brown jumped the post to Bryant for the interception.
Read the entire article.
At Dallas Morning News, I examined the coverage that the Cowboys used to beat the Giants in Week 1.
I just re-watched the Week 1 win, focusing on Rob Ryan’s defensive calls. The Cowboys played with a Cover 2 shell on 39 of their 51 defensive snaps (76.5 percent). On the 12 plays Ryan decided to dial up something other than Cover 2 (or Cover 2 Man-Under), the Cowboys yielded one rush for 32 yards and 11 passes for 78 yards (7.09 net yards-per-attempt). Eli Manning was actually 7-for-9 for 98 yards (10.89 YPA) when the ‘Boys had just one safety deep, but DeMarcus Ware also had two sacks for -20 yards. When the Cowboys sat back in any form of Cover 2, Manning averaged only 5.0 YPA and the Giants’ running game, which should have excelled against the look, totaled just 2.78 YPC.
Read more at DMN.
At DallasCowboys.com, I broke down the Cowboys’ game film.
- Of the Cowboys’ 28 designed running plays, only six (21.4 percent) increased the points they could have been expected to score on that particular drive. In terms of staying ahead of the chains, the first down rushing attack has been successful in just one game all season. On Sunday, the Cowboys ran the ball on 18 of their 28 first down plays (64.3 percent).
- Head coach Jason Garrett has called a near 50/50 split on first down over his play-calling career, but I really think the Cowboys could benefit from opening up the offense in those situations. Defenses still play to defend the pass on first down, but the Cowboys have averaged nearly twice as many yards on first down passes as first down runs since Garrett has been calling plays. Further, Romo has a career first down completion rate of 67.1 percent and he’s been sacked on only 4.6 percent of first down dropbacks, i.e. the risk of a loss or no gain perhaps isn’t as great as you might think.
Read the entire article.
I finished breaking down the Cowboys-Panthers film, and I posted some observations from the game at NBC.
- I think it’s time to take Dez Bryant off of punt returns. Yes, he has some explosiveness, but the risks are too great. For one, the Cowboys simply can’t afford to lose Bryant on offense. Secondly, despite his ability to break tackles, Bryant isn’t a natural returner. He’s not incredibly fluid and I’d be willing to bet he’ll fumble on a punt return before he breaks another big one.
- In my game plan for Dallas, I suggested Rob Ryan blitz often. He did, but I didn’t see too many zone blitzes early in the game. That’s probably one of the reasons Cam Newton was able to gash the Cowboys on the ground in the first half, ultimately rushing for 64 yards; he took off on a few scrambles when the Cowboys were in man coverage and had their backs turned to him. The ‘Boys played more zone coverage in the second half and they were able to stifle Newton’s rushing efforts.
At DallasCowboys.com, I published the stats from my film study of the Ravens game.
- On the season, Tony Romo has completed 13 of his 16 play-action passes for 219 yards and a touchdown, good for a passer rating of 139.6. Play-action passes are a great way to leverage big chunks of yards from a strong running game. If you continue to run the ball again and again, even if it’s working, you put yourself in a position in which you must continually beat the defense. Had the Cowboys generated a quick score off a play-action pass, perhaps they wouldn’t have even needed to attempt a field goal at the end of the contest.
- Unfortunately, we didn’t see many downfield passes from Dallas. Only one pass, the third-and-5 incompletion, traveled at least 20 yards. On the season, only 19 of Romo’s 187 attempts (10.2 percent) have traveled that far. While opening up the offense with deep passes is admittedly a high-variance strategy, it could lead to big plays that would allow the Cowboys to finally “steal” a victory as the Ravens did on Sunday.
Read the entire breakdown at the team site.
I’ve spent the morning breaking down the game and posting as much content as possible on Jason Garrett’s horrendous coaching in the Cowboys’ Week 6 loss. At NBC, I recapped some of Garrett’s major blunders:
- Early in the game, I loved what I saw from Dallas. Their rushing attack was obviously dominating Baltimore’s front seven, and Jason Garrett took advantage by dialing up a lot of early runs. The problem was that Garrett never utilized that rushing success to acquire big plays through the air. There were very few playaction looks throughout the course of this game, particularly late after the run had already been established.
- I’m all for pounding the rock if it’s working, but the problem is that you need to consistently beat teams with it again and again. In general, it’s suitable to use the running game to garner big chunks of yardage through the air, even if it means an incomplete pass or two. In the third quarter, the Cowboys ran the ball on 16 of 25 plays, yet didn’t do much to attack the Ravens downfield when Tony Romo dropped back to pass. If you’re really that confident in your running game, you’d think you could still convert a first down following an incomplete pass on 1st and 10. So why not take a shot?
Read the entire post at NBC.
At DallasCowboys.com, I questioned why Garrett didn’t go for it on a 4th and 5 at the Ravens’ 35-yard line.
Since Garrett began calling plays in Dallas and I began tracking them, the Cowboys have converted 47.1 percent of their plays on either third-and-5 or fourth-and-5. The league average during that same period is 49 percent. With Dallas moving the ball against Baltimore effectively all day, we’ll label their chances of converting as an even coin flip at 50 percent. Had the ’Boys failed on their fourth down attempt, they would have left the Ravens with a first-and-10 at their own 35-yard line, a starting point that results in an average of 1.76 points per drive. We can again easily deduce the overall expected points of going for a first down with some math: 3.32 (0.5) – 1.76 (0.5) = 0.78.
Check out the entire analysis.
And at Dallas Morning News, I broke down one of the worst clock management errors I can remember.
With the ball just inside the Ravens’ 35-yard line and 26 seconds left to play (sound familiar?), the Cowboys lined up in ‘Gun Tight End Spread Right’—a typical formation for them in passing situations.
The Ravens blitzed, presumably to try to knock the Cowboys out of field goal range. Romo had Jason Witten open on an out in the boundary, but he decided to throw a slant to Dez Bryant.
Bryant caught the pass for a short gain with 24 seconds remaining on the clock. By the time Bryant was wrestled to the ground and the whistle was blown, there were 21 seconds remaining.
Head to DMN for the full breakdown.
In my weekly film study column at the New York Times, I took a look at the Ramses Barden pass interference penalty in last night’s Giants-Eagles game that pushed the G-Men out of field goal range.
The Giants’ offensive coordinator, Kevin Gilbride, called for “11” personnel: one running back, one tight end and three receivers. In a Trips Left formation, wide receivers Domenik Hixon and Victor Cruz lined up to the boundary with tight end Martellus Bennett. Ramses Barden (circled below) was isolated on the wide side of the field with cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha.
You can see that Asmougha was the only defender lined up in a true press position. With free safety Nate Allen lined up deep in the middle of the field and strong safety Kurt Coleman stationed just seven yards off the ball to the wide side of the field, I think Eli Manning recognized that the Eagles were in Cover 3.
Cover 3 is characterized by three deep defenders — the outside cornerbacks and the free safety — each playing with “deep-third” responsibility. The job of Allen, Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the play was to make sure no receivers beat them in their deep section of the field. If the receivers lined up in front of the cornerbacks were to threaten them vertically, their responsibility would basically turn into man coverage.
Read the whole analysis here.