A look at the defense in Week 2 finds a mixed bag of results. On one hand, they limited yardage and damaging drives to a minimum. They found 4 sacks and did a nice job of keeping the running game from causing issues most of the day despite playing a team with a running reputation. But, on the other hand, they caused 0 takeaways – Remember, since 2010, the Cowboys are 0-11 when getting no takeaways on the road – and most discouragingly, were absolutely demoralized with Kansas City taking the ball with 3:50 left and all 3 Dallas timeouts and running the ball down the throat of Dallas with almost no difficulty whatsoever.
The 4-minute drill is something that is not often discussed by football fans, but teams put a fair amount of emphasis on it because it can and does win games. The 4-minute drill is the ability for a team to kill off the final 4 minutes by running the ball and moving the chains twice (assuming the opponent has its full allotment of timeouts. It is ideally done without ever throwing a pass and therefore not risking a stop of the clock.
So, to see the Cowboys, down 17-16, pin the Chiefs in deep – only to basically never touch the ball again is very disappointing and a big reason why nobody should be saying that “the defense did its part.” They almost did. But, they sure didn’t close the deal.
Here are the details of that final drive:
Drive starts: 3:48 Charles middle +3 Dallas timeout #1 – 3:44 Charles+9 FD – Durant miss Dallas timeout #2 – 3:38 Charlesright for +16 FD PEN Illegal shift 82 Charles right +6 Dallas timeout #3 – 3:21 Charles+4 PEN Delay of Game -5 slantto Avery – INC – PEN 24 Pass Inf FD Charles no gain 2:00 Minute Warning Charles+4 Charles+5 PUNT and it bounces to 4 yard line 0:16 left
Limit them to a 1st Down and you can still win. Give them 3 first downs and you don’t even get a chance – and that is what happened on Sunday. With almost every play starting with the Chiefs declaring run and the Cowboys countering with 9 in the box, too.
That simply cannot happen.
Here is the 16 yard run against 9 in the box – although, it is interesting to see that the Cowboys are aligned with the extra man on the left, showing a weakness in man-power if the Chiefs run right – which they of course attacked:
The simple zone stretch right is where the Cowboys found trouble here. It is possible you have never heard of KC fullback Anthony Sherman. But, if the NFL allowed the save to become a stat, I might argue that he deserved a save for his lead block here that moved the chains and kept the clock moving (sort of – Charles for some reason runs out of bounds here).
Watch 42 take out Bruce Carter and Sean Lee and obstruct Jason Hatcher, too. All 3 guys are close to the play, but the lead block frees Charles just enough to turn a few yards into 16. Then, Bowe obstructs Scandrick on the edge and the Cowboys are pretty much finished.
This isn’t Alabama the Cowboys were playing. When the opposition declares run 8 plays with the game on the line in the NFL against 9 in the box, you can’t let them gain 47 yards (basically, 6 yards a carry!).
So, if I disagree with the silly premise that “the defense played well enough to win” this week, well, that’s why.
WEEK 2 vs Chiefs
In our weekly splash play study, I found 13 this week.
What is a splash play? Well, for purposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: A sack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a batted ball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how this leads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdown at all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles for loss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle where a player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of an exceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play, but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in the secondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the play will determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who just caught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generally pass the test on this blog. So, stop doing it.
I am trying to be careful about handing out too many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme in either direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on the chart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, you are welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a single play, we will try to see that as well.
Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays on the defense. We don’t want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to see broader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help the Cowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will not deduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasions where we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particular idea.
A splash play is a play that makes a major difference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see which defenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have our thoughts on both categories, but let’s see if we can dig a bit deeper and actually have numbers to back up our claims.
And now, the 2-game 2013 season totals – showing George Selvie once again setting the pace with Jason Hatcher all over the place in KC:
Pass Rush/Blitzing REPORT
This segment of the defensive study is simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on the opposing QB. We have spent a good part of the offseason talking about Monte Kiffin’s philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is based on using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity. If you use the blitz as an ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times, you can often get free runs at the QB. If, on the other hand, you must use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, then the offense usually is waiting for you and prepared – so even 6 rushers don’t accomplish much.
Here, we look at the big plays for (Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week (Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by the defensive coordinator.
EXPLOSIVE PLAYS ALLOWED
Smith to Bowe, +27
Smith to McGrath, +22
Smith to Avery, +31
All 3 of the Chiefs big plays did not come from sending too many men. Instead, it looked like Bowe beat Carr in man-coverage, McGrath got lost in Bruce Carter’s zone, and Avery beat the zone again by turning the safety Will Allen around on a nice route.
SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS
On the 4 sacks, we saw the Cowboys unleash 2 3rd Down blitzes that are the trademark of this defense. Here is video of the Carter sack and as you can see, it is the dreaded Double-A-Gap blitz that Chicago, Philadelphia, and several teams have made famous over the years. This is trouble because the 2 middle LBs show it several times a game but only run it a few times. The rest of the time they are “sugaring” the blitz pick up and bluffing. But, on 3rd and long, you can believe they are coming and it is a quick and powerful free run at the QB from right in his face.
On Ware’s sack in the 2nd Quarter, they ran a similar blitz, but Lee peeled out and Church targeted the opposite B-Gap from Carter. Both got free runs because it causes chaos – especially when you only unleash it at the rare time of your choosing.
Here is Alex’s Smith game chart for the Full game. The thing to look at here is that the Chiefs worked the middle of the field. They know that the Cowboys are still uncomfortable running a full Tampa 2 and getting the proper drops from their linebackers. In fact, it seems Bruce Carter is a particular target, but Sean Lee can be had as well. It is a difficult process to learn the drops in game action and to patrol your area with multiple targets running through.
I have been asked about how much “Tampa 2” the Cowboys are actually running. They opened the game with almost all man coverage. But, like any team, they are changing coverages a lot. I would say right now from my untrained eye that they are almost 50/50 with zones and man coverage. And of course, some of each are actually combinations where it looks like the corners are in man and everything else is zoned underneath.
No team wants to show the same coverage all the time. It makes it too easy on the opposition.
Pass Rushers Against Kansas City Chiefs – 43 pass rush/blitz situations:
In this game, the Cowboys brought pressure 10 times in 43 opportunities. Again, they are using the blitz as a weapon, not a necessity. That is a very encouraging sign if they can keep that up. On 3rd Down, they get off the field with a timely blitz. Otherwise, they are getting pressure with 4. Let’s see if that holds up.