Kiffin Report: Relentless Effort On Full Display

When you play a team after listening to the media for the
entire week tell you they are reinventing the way offense is played in the
modern NFL and then hold them to an embarrassing low levels of points and yards
on Sunday, you cannot have too much to complain about when considering the
performance of the defense.

In fact, if you enter the
game after announcing the reality that Jay Ratliff is no longer employed here,
Anthony Spencer is done for the year (and likely his run in Dallas), DeMarcus Ware
will join you in Philadelphia – but only in street clothes – and the Cowboys
will play with at least 2 defensive linemen who 7 days earlier were not even on
the roster, you really should consider presenting the team with a victory
Monday bonus day off.

The Cowboys did a fantastic job
of defense on Sunday, although the post-narrative has surely surrounded the
inept play of Nick Foles.  Foles was lousy, but he entered the game in
pretty strong form and therefore one should not be too reluctant to present the
Cowboys with just a little bit of credit for making him play as badly as he
did.  This is not golf, where all mistakes go to the player who made
them.  This is a sport where the defense finds out what you are uncomfortable
doing, and then forces you do prove that you can get out of that mess or your
humiliation will continue all day.

And for Foles, it
did.  Until he left the game after a sack from George Selvie and
Jarius Wynn.  Then, Matt Barkley entered the game and distributed
footballs to 3 members of the Cowboys defense (and a 4th that was called back)
in just 1 quarter of football.

Again, don’t be afraid
to give this defense its credit, even if you are having a hard time explaining
it or planning on it continuing.  I fight that all of the time,
because in following the Dallas Cowboys over the last stretch of time, we have
been conditioned to two things 1) the reserves cannot be counted on
accomplishing much and 2) too many reserves playing as attrition continues will
ultimately lead to the demise of the team’s playoff hopes.

But, past performance is not indicative of future results, so let’s try
to ignore that looming feeling that these injuries will ultimately lead to a
crash with the defensive line and try to enjoy the present results that tell us
this defensive line’s performance is maybe the story of the season through 7
weeks.

Which leads me to Rod Marinelli and Monte
Kiffin and the difference that they make – not just with their rhetoric and
resumes, but rather the film.  The Marinelli claims are that his
defensive line is relentless, tireless, and determined to play through the
whistle.  That is all well and good in July, but can he take that
message and apply it to replacement level NFL players and make it appear on
film?

I am sure it starts with selecting players that
match the profile of player he is looking for.  I am sure the players
he brings in are either “high motor” players to begin with or they
are put on notice bright and early that “this is how we do it here, and if
you want to be here, then this is how you will do it.”  Then,
peer pressure takes over and the entire group hold each-other accountable on
the practice field, film room, and ultimately they bring it to the stadium on
Sunday.  We will not take a snap off.  We will fly to the
ball.  We will not assume someone else is going to make this play.
 We will Finish Everything.

And how do we
know this is the message in the room?  Well, easy.  It is in
the defensive linemen manual from the 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers – a team
coached by Kiffin and Marinelli.  One of them likely put this on paper
and here it is:

Looks good on
paper.  Looks better on film.

Let’s give you
a few fantastic examples from Sunday:

And before we
dive into both plays, I want to offer 2 things – 1) it looks like all 4 players
are busting their tails the entire snap – but George Selvie is flat-out absurd
in his relentless pursuit and 2) Jason Hatcher is not on the field in either
case.  He is a fantastic player and the idea that they don’t rely on
him to carry them through this, but rather continue to rotate is really
something to get excited about.

Play #1 – 1Q – 1:00 –
2/12/26

Here is a screen
right to McCoy.  When LeSean catches the ball, he isn’t thrilled about
his options right, so he decides to cut back and ends up losing more yardage
because he is corralled by Selvie and Brandon Carr.  But, on the gif
below, just enjoy all 4 guys deciding that this guy isn’t going anywhere.
 They are relentless and tireless against one of the more difficult
guys in the league to track down.  Doesn’t mean they can’t go 100%
until he is down.  Watch how 92-Wynn falls in his pursuit but then
pops right up.  This looks like 4 guys determined to impress their
bosses by playing at their maximum effort levels.  Do not conserve
energy because we will rotate you out when you need a rest.

Play #2 – 3Q –
:03 – 3rd/Goal/8

This play is the
same 4 linemen, considerably later in the game.  In fact, this is
right after the interception that Romo threw, so the game can change
dramatically if the Eagles can cut it to 10-7.  Again, note the
tireless efforts from 92-Wynn and 99-Selvie in particular.  There is
no question Foles has too much time on this play and should get rid of the
ball.  But, when you rush just 4, your coverage with 7 behind you is
much more sound and there should be fewer preferable options for the QB to find.

Clearly, Foles can’t find anything and he knows he
doesn’t want to take points off the board with a silly throw (see Barkley,
Matt) and ends up eating it and getting knocked out of the game in the process.
 Jarius Wynn in particular looks like a guy who knows this could be
his last chance to be in the NFL and is going to play as hard as he can to take
advantage of this golden opportunity.

Finish Everything.  Finish
every pass rush – Never give in.

You have to love how
it is moving from the page the film.

WEEK 7
at Philadelphia

First, a
reminder of what a splash play
is
:
 


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.

Here
are the final results for 2011
 and here
are the final results for 2012
.

I am really
impressed with the splash plays from the secondary in the last 2 weeks, too.
 In particular, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick are looking better
and better.  And the safety play is evident each week, as well.

Q-Time

D/D/Yd Player Play

1-14:36

1/10/O29 Selvie Sack
1-13:53 3/10/O29 Carter Big
3D Pressure
1-3:54 2/10/O22 Scandrick Pass
Defended
1-3:50 3/10/O22 Wilber Big
QB Pressure
1-1:32 1/10/O28 Scandrick Tackle
For Loss
1-1:00 2/11/O27 Selvie/Carr Tackle
For Loss
2-12:32 1/10/O42 Hatcher Run
Stuff
2-8:11 1/10/O26 Lee Tackle
For Loss

2-0:55

1/10/O38 Hatcher Sack
2-0:22 2/1/D42 Claiborne Pass
Defended
3-8:56 2/6/O24 Hatcher Holding
Drawn
3-2:46 1/10/D30 Wilcox Pass
Defended

3-0:03

3/9/D9 Selvie/Wynn Sack
3-0:06 1/10/D30 Carr Tackle
For Loss

4-7:14

3/6/D37 Lee Interception
4-4:54 2/8/O5 Scandrick Pass
Defended

4-4:13

3/10/O29 Church Interception
4-1:51 1/10/D36 Carr Pass
Defended

4-1:04

1/10/D12 Carr Interception

2013 SEASON TOTALS

These season totals are very interesting.  Lee
is likely to lead the team, but George Selvie is continuing his pace and is
getting to the point where it might be time to talk with his agent about
securing his services past this season.  And although I need to
elaborate on this soon, let me just say it here: it is sure nice to have 2
safeties who can make a play.


Player

Splashes

Lee

17
Selvie    
  

15.5

Hatcher

14.5

Church

11

Carr

10.5

Ware

10

Carter

7.5

Claiborne

6

Wilber  

5

Scandrick

5
Hayden  
  

3.5

Allen 3.5
       
E. Jones 3

Wilcox

2

Durant 

1.5

Sims

1

Rayford

1

Nevis

1

Wynn

.5
Team
Totals 
119      
   

===========

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.

I don’t want to say this
portion of our study is becoming outdated, but the Cowboys almost never blitz
and all of these plays were with the standard 4-man rush that they are
employing 81% of the time.

EXPLOSIVE PLAYS
ALLOWED



Q-Time

D/D/Yd Play Rushers
4-2:52 2/10/O12 Barkley
to Cooper, +26
4
4-2:00 3/5/O43 Barkley
to Ertz, +21
4

SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS




Q-Time

D/D/Yd Play Rushers
1-14:36 1/10/O29 Selvie
Sack 

4

2-0:55
 
1/10/O38 Hatcher
Sack

4

3-0:03 3/9/D9
   
Wynn/Selvie Sack  
  
4      
    
4-7:14
 
3/6/D37 Lee
Interception

4

4-4:13
 
3/10/O29 Church Interception
  

4

4-1:04
 
1/10/D12 Carr Interception
      
4  
        


PASSING CHART

Red (Incomplete), Black (Interception), Blue (Complete), and
Yellow (Touchdown)

Tim made a chart for each QB Foles
and Barkley so you could see just how poor Foles really was – but, of course,
Barkley had 3 picks in 1 Quarter, so let’s not think he had it all figured out,
either.

Pass Rushers
Against Philadelphia Eagles 
– 51 pass rush/blitz
situations:



Pass
Rushers
3 Rush 4
Rush
5 Rush 6
Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To
Go)

0

1 0 0
Second Level (5-10 Yds To
Go)

0

17 4 0
Open Field (10+ Yds To
Go)

0

0 0 0

Totals

0 18 4 0



Pass
Rushers
3 Rush 4 Rush 5
Rush
6 Rush
Short
(0-5 Yds To
Go)

0

1 0 0
Second Level (5-10 Yds To
Go)

0

7 2 0
Open Field (10+ Yds To
Go)

0

3 0 0

Totals

0 11 2 0



Pass
Rushers
3 Rush 4
Rush
5 Rush 6
Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To
Go)

0

4 2 0
Second Level (5-10 Yds To
Go)

0

7 2 0
Open Field (10+ Yds To
Go)

0

1 0 0

Totals

0 12 4 0

And, here are the full season numbers
to date:

Pass Rushers 3
Rush
4 Rush 5
Rush
6 Rush 7
Rush
1st Down 5 –
3%
118 – 83% 16 –
11%
3 – 2% 0
2nd Down 1 – 1% 87
– 90%
8 –
8%
0 0
3rd Down 3 – 3% 55
– 67%
14 – 17% 8 –
9%
2 – 2%
4th
Down
1 – 16%  5 –
83%

0

0
Totals 10 –
3%
265 – 81% 38 –
11%
11 – 3%

2 –

 3%

The game by game pressure numbers sent by the
Cowboys:

Wk 1 – NYG: 7/49 – 14%
Wk 2 – KC:   10/43 – 23%
Wk 3 – STL: 11/57 –
19%
Wk 4 – SD:  4/43 – 9%
Wk 5 – DEN: 6/42 –
14%
Wk 6 – WAS: 8/45 – 18%
Wk 7 – PHI:  10/51
– 19%

2013 Totals:  56/330
– 16.9%
2012 Totals:  134/551
– 24.3%


SUMMARY:
 
There is no way to color this performance other than
fantastic.  They shut down an offensive machine and as we said on
Monday, it was enjoyable to see Kiffin/Marinelli get their revenge against Chip
Kelly.  I am sure it is not the last laugh in this match-up, but it is
one day where they can demonstrate again that past performance means nothing in
this sport.


The pass defense was sound (mostly) and the run defense was
magnificent.  After Peyton Manning completed his clinic, it was going
to be interesting to see how the mentality of the Cowboys defense was going to
be affected.  2 weeks later, after making the Redskins and Eagles
attacks look rather pedestrian, they can feel good about going to Detroit with
a chance at 5-3 at the halfway point.


But, make no mistake, Detroit is a
better offense than those last two and have a QB who doesn’t lack confidence,
nor weapons.  That will be another great test, but for now, this
defense should feel good about itself.  Tactically, there is a lot to
discuss about this defense, but it is a very simple sport sometimes that we
complicate.  And if you can get your team to maximize its effort at
all times, that can be the small difference in success or failure at this
level.