- I’ve explained this before, but fullback Chris Gronkowski’s pre-snap alignment is a strong indicator of the Cowboys’ play-calls. When he lines up closer to the tailback, he is lead blocking on a run play (or receiving the handoff himself). Otherwise, he runs into the flat in a pass route. He did this a few times from “Strong” formation on Sunday.
- In my post-game notes, I remarked that the big reception by Johnny Knox down the field was the fault of both Mike Jenkins and Alan Ball. I mistook Ball for Gerald Sensabaugh, though. I’ve watched the play again and again, and Dallas appeared to be in a Cover 3 with Sensabaugh manning the deep middle portion of the field. He bit up on a crossing route and is most to blame for the 3rd and 15 completion. Overall, though, Sensabaugh played really well.
Red Zone Play-Calling
The Cowboys ran seven plays in the red zone: three runs for four yards and four passes for 20 yards and a touchdown. I didn’t like Jason Garrett’s red zone play-calling last season, but it has improved this year.
- Base (TE, 2 WR, RB, FB): 11 plays
- TE 3 WR, RB: 25 plays
- 2 TE, WR, RB, FB: 12 plays
- 2 TE, 2 WR, RB: 19 plays
- 2 TE, WR, 2 RB: 1 play
- 3 TE, RB, FB: 2 plays
After lining up in 25 different formations in Week 1, the Cowboys used 19 on Sunday.
3 Wide Strong (2), Ace (3), Double Tight I (4), Double Tight Ace (2), Double Tight Left/Right I (5), Double Tight Left Strong Left (1), Double Tight Right Weak Left (1), Full House (1), Gun 3 Wide Pro (5), Gun TE Spread (18), Gun TE Trips (4), Gun Trips (5), I-Formation (7), Strong (2), TE Spread (2), TE Trips (3), Twins (2), Weak (2), Wildcat (1)
- The Cowboys motioned on 22 of 70 plays (31.4 percent). They gained 111 yards on those plays (5.05 yards-per-play). Here are last year’s motion stats.
- After calling more draw plays than anyone in the NFL last season, the Cowboys have called just six in all of 2010. Those plays have totaled only 13 yards. In my Ultimate Guide to Dallas Cowboys draws, I proposed they run far fewer this season, but six may be a bit low.
- It was obvious that Romo wasn’t himself on Sunday. He threw 12 off-target passes. In my 2009 study of Romo’s throws, I noted he threw just over seven off-target passes per game.
- As you can see below, the Cowboys made an obvious attempt to run the ball inside. Of their 19 runs, 10 were right up the gut.
- Romo checked out of the play at the line of scrimmage five times. All five were runs, and the Cowboys gained only one total yard on those five plays. Two of those runs were draws. I noted that last season, 77.27 percent of Romo’s run audibles were to draw plays.
- The Cowboys lone counter attempt went for -4 yards. They should run far more counters going forward (and I mean ‘going forward’ in all possible ways).
- Of the 39 pass plays that Witten was in the game, he went out into a route on 29 of them (74.3 percent). This is a little bit less than last year’s average, but the Cowboys made up for it by utilizing a lot of two-tight end sets. Even before Witten went down with a concussion, Martellus Bennett was on the field for 39 of the Cowboys’ 58 plays. That 67.2 percent rate is nearly double the 38.0 percent rate at which Bennett saw the field in Week One.
- I suggested that Dallas not run playaction passes because I thought the Bears’ defenders (specifically Julius Peppers) wouldn’t bite on the run fake anyway, so it would basically be a wasted motion. Nonetheless, the Cowboys ran 12 playaction passes for 80 yards (6.67 yards-per-attempt).
A side note: Jason Garrett loves to run playaction with exactly 10 yards-to-go (either on 1st and 10 or after an incomplete pass on first down). On Sunday, 10 of the Cowboys’ 12 playaction passes were from this distance. The trend dates back to last year. Take a look at these numbers.
- After running 10 screens against Washington, the Cowboys called only two against the Bears: one to Chris Gronkowski for six yards, and one to Felix Jones that fell incomplete.
- The Cowboys were in a true no-huddle offense on four plays–all passes for a total of 44 yards.
- LT Doug Free: A-
Although he received some help from Martellus Bennett, Free quietly had a really good game.
- LG Kyle Kosier: C-
Kosier got called for holding once and was generally overmatched at the point-of-attack.
- C Andre Gurode: C-
Gurode was fine in pass protection but didn’t get much of a push otherwise. He also had a premature snap.
- RG Leonard Davis: B-
Davis had a rare false start, but he wasn’t bad on the day.
- RT Marc Colombo: C-
Colombo is obviously a huge upgrade from Alex Barron, but that doesn’t mean he’s a Pro Bowl-caliber player.
- WR Miles Austin: A
He’s simply sensational. Incredible leg drive and ability to come out of breaks, particularly on comebacks, curls, and so on.
- WR Roy Williams: B
Williams and Romo had their weekly miscommunication, but Williams has played much better than last year.
- WR Dez Bryant: B+
He didn’t get on the field much due to the abundance of two-tight end formations, but he is electric once the ball is in his hands.
- TE Jason Witten: B
Watching Witten caged up by the trainers on the sideline was excruciating, but he should be fine this week.
- TE Martellus Bennett: A
Bennett had one hell of a game. He pancaked defenders multiple times, provided ample protection for Romo, and performed well as a receiver when Witten went down.
- RB Marion Barber: C
I’m just not seeing it yet. He’s still great in pass pro though.
- RB Felix Jones: C-
Jones has been hesitant to hit the hole, dancing too much in the backfield. For all the hype about him as a receiver, he really isn’t much of a natural pass-catcher.
- QB Tony Romo: C-
There’s no doubt about it. . .Romo played poorly. He threw 12 off-target passes and made some poor audibles as well.
I didn’t study the defense as in-depth as normal, but here are the grades for the players on which I focused.
- NT Jay Ratliff: B
- OLB DeMarcus Ware: A-
- OLB Anthony Spencer: B-
- ILB Keith Brooking: C-
- CB Mike Jenkins: C-
- CB Terence Newman: B-
- S Alan Ball: C-
- S Gerald Sensabaugh: A-
- K David Buehler: D+