Kiffin Report - Getting There With Four

BY foxsports • September 25, 2013

About once every two years, the Cowboys have a day where they get to the QB for 6 sacks.  It is a rarity to apply this much pressure, so you can certainly see why the entire city is not currently in depression over the news that Anthony Spencer has possibly played his last game in Dallas due to recurring knee issues and will now undergo season-ending and career-threatening surgery.  Spencer was the leader in 2012 in splash plays for this defense and is an exceptionally under-appreciated Cowboys defender, but in this league, to have success, you must truly be a "next man up" type of squad.
They can't worry about who isn't here.  They have to worry about those they have available who can alter the outcome of this next game and this next QB.  The NFL doesn't cry over spilled milk.  It can't be undone.
So, let's focus on how the Cowboys found 6 sacks without blitzing on 5 of them.  The most unlikely preseason chatter that I repeatedly swatted down was the idea that the Cowboys would be able to "get there with 4", and apply pressure without blitzing - which is what gets them in trouble because it exposes the secondary to huge plays.
But, on Sunday, we saw the Rod Marinelli/Monte Kiffin calling cards to getting there with 4.  We saw explosive rushes from the snap and winning matchups as this group is barely recognizable.  They are playing a whole new style that is most exciting if it can last.  
And in there, we see many of the rush-games that those Tampa and Chicago defenses were known for. The twists and slants, the continuous stunts that are designed to cause confusion and to present favorable and winnable match-ups are being unleashed and executed nicely.
Let's look at 2 stunts that led to sacks on Sunday.
Play #1 - George Selvie Sack - 7:36 2nd Q
The idea here is for Selvie to go first, and to slant in and hit the guard - 62-Harvey Dahl on his outside shoulder to knock him off the 3-technique, Jason Hatcher.  Hatcher then should be able to get around the RT-72-Joe Barksdale as big Joe will be trying to recover on Selvie, thus going to his left while Hatcher will be crossing his face to the right.  This is the off-balance result that you look for in pass-rushing, and should give Hatcher outside leverage to the QB.  

In frame #2, you can see that Selvie now has Dahl swung around and facing the sideline.  Hatcher can see how spread out Barksdale's legs are and this is working quite well.  Scott Wells, #63, is looking at Rayford and figuring he needs to help out his LG - 65-Chris Williams, and is unaware that Dahl is almost on top of him.

Selvie demonstrates his fork-lift power as he has now pushed Dahl into Wells and even though he was supposed to sacrifice himself to free up Hatcher, he did it so well that Selvie now sees that he has his own angle to getting to Bradford.  Keep in mind, this is happening very quickly, even though it might not seem that way when you look frame by frame.

Selvie overpowers Dahl, and with Hatcher sealing any escape route for Bradford to his right, Selvie has his sack before his RB can even provide a safety valve.  Quick, powerful, and a player carries out his assignment so well that he was rewarded with a free path to the QB.

Play #2 - DeMarcus Ware Sack - 8:19 - 3Q

Again here, Dallas is rushing just 4, and St Louis has 3 against 2 with Dahl, Barksdale, and the RB to account for Ware and Hatcher.  You can believe that the RB is planning on an outside chip on Ware to help out his RT.  So, the Cowboys know that if Hatcher can get to the tackle on the stunt, then Ware can cut back inside and run through Harvey Dahl.  In case you are picking up on the pattern here, it is clear that the Rams' RG was the target of both of these stunts.  An attacking defense figures out your weakness and then makes you fix it or to be destroyed.

Look at Hatcher just setting the pick here.  He heads right for the inside shoulder of Barksdale (the man responsible for Ware).  Ware helps the leverage here, by taking 2 giant strides to the outside path.  This occupies the RB who is preparing to chip Ware back inside.  But, Ware has no intention of actually rushing outside.  He is just giving Hatcher time to set up his pick.  As you can see, Hatcher is now in position.

Ware is slamming on the brakes here, and Hatcher is getting to Barksdale.  All the while, Bradford is waiting for something appealing, but keep in mind that the Cowboys have 7 in coverage against just 4 Rams since they are using 6 to block 4.   Look at Dahl again.  He has no idea that he is going to have to switch to Ware.  Dahl is actually facing his own end-zone.  He has no chance once Ware plants his foot.

The blur is DeMarcus Ware.  Dahl can see him, but he can't even touch him.  Hatcher has pulled it off by taking everyone with him, leaving the Cowboys all-time sack leader to pass Harvey Martin and set his record by devouring Bradford with great ease.

In honor of Ware breaking the record, I figured I would make today's gif to show his best technique.  It is the bull-rush that Jake Long obviously wasn't ready for.  That makes Reggie White proud as Long goes flying through the air.
Amazing power.

WEEK 3 vs Rams

In our weekly splash play study, I found 19 this week against the Rams.  That is a very high number, but I think it fairly represents the number of big plays the defense was generating.

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.

 Here they are for the Kansas City Game:

Q-Time D/D/Yd Player Play
1-14:14 3/7/O23 Church Pass Broken Up
1-13:19 2/9/D34 Claiborne Big Hit
1-12:46 3/8/D33 Scandrick Sack
1-6:24 3/6/O24 Ware Sack
1-1:35 1/19/O9 Ware Run Stuff
1-0:11 3/11/O17 E Jones Pass Batted Down
2-7:32 3/6/O38 Selvie Sack
2-3:13 1/10/O12 Ware Tackle For Loss
2-1:56 3/6/O16 Church Pass Broken Up
2-0:20 2/1/O22 Hatcher Sack
3-11:28 1/10/O20 Durant Strip Fumble
3-11:28 1/10/O20 Lee Recovered Fumble
3-8:16 1/10/D35 Ware  Sack
3-7:09 2/13/D38 Lee Run Stuff
3-3:33 2/G/O4 Church Pass Broken Up
4-9:42 1/10/O38 E Jones Run Stuff
4-9:07 2/10/O21 Wilber Sack
4-2:00 1/10/50 E Jones Big QB Pressure
4-1:04 3/5/D36 Claiborne Pass Defended

And now, the 3 game 2013 totals - I think the work of George Selvie has been noted all 3 weeks, but let's make sure that Barry Church is getting the recognition he is earning.  I think he keeps getting better and better.


Player Splashes
Ware 7
Church        7
Hatcher 6
Selvie 6
Lee 4
Carter 4
Allen 3
E. Jones 3
Hayden  2.5
Carr 2
Claiborne      2
Durant 1.5        
Scandrick 1
Wilber 1
Team Totals  50

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.


Q-Time D/D/Yd Play Rushers
3-11:39 1/10/O20 Bradford to Givens, +25 4
3-9:35 1/10/O25 Bradford to Givens, +29 5

Anytime you can get out of a game with just 2 explosive plays against - and one of them ended with Justin Durant stripping the ball away and Sean Lee recovering for a takeaway, you would definitely say you had a wonderful day at the office.


Q-Time D/D/Yd Play Rushers
1-12:46 3/8/D33 Scandrick Sack  5
1-6:24 3/6/O24 Ware Sack 4
2-7:32 3/6/O38 Selvie Sack 4
2-0:20 2/1/O22 Hatcher Sack 4
3-8:16 1/10/D35 Ware Sack 4
4-9:07 2/10/O21 Wilber Sack 4

Look at this!  6 sacks and you got there with 4 on 5 of them.  That is really impressive work which leads back to the ability to "get there with 4".  Ware and Hatcher seem to be threats to beat their guy on any play, and now they have active bodies joining them.  Losing Spencer is certainly going to be felt, but you have to be excited about the 3-4 active, young bodies that have been acquired with Marinelli/Kiffin's watchful eyes and templates for what they look for in defensive line play.

With each passing week, they are gathering a group that wasn't even in Oxnard with the team.  They keep churning the roster to find their group that fits their ideas.


One comment I wanted to make on Tim's passing chart that he made for Bradford's performance.  I think all of the red on the long throws demonstrates that Bradford needs to improve his deeper accuracy.  I realize there were a couple drops, but if you go back and watch the game, you see that he had some opportunities down the field and failed to make a proper, accurate throw to take advantage.  He sailed quite a few receivers and that led to his dismal performance as well.  It is very possible he was hearing footsteps after all of the early pressure.

Pass Rushers Against St Louis Rams - 57 pass rush/blitz situations:

This is very exciting to look at from my perspective as you are watching the Cowboys apply pressure throughout the game, but when you total up the number of blitzes that Monte Kiffin is using, you see it is just 11 of 57 situations.  That number falls at 19% and proves that although they are causing their fair share of chaos, it is also being done soundly and without making unwise decisions about pass coverage.

Put another way, Rob Ryan's defense blitzed 24% of the time in 2012, and still didn't generate enough pressure on the passer to be effective.  I know it is early, but if you can blitz less but get to the QB more?  Well, perhaps the Cowboys do have a couple very smart men coordinating their defense these days.  The 16 games will reveal the truth, so we cannot get carried away about how it might work against a Giants squad that has no rhythm, Alex Smith, and Sam Bradford.  Rivers and Manning are warming up in the bullpen.

Pass Rushers 3 Rush 4 Rush 5 Rush 6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go) 0 0 0 0
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go) 0 13 2 2
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go) 0 0 0 0
Totals 0 13 2 2

Pass Rushers 3 Rush 4 Rush 5 Rush 6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go) 0 6 0 0
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go) 0 11 1 0
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go) 0 2 0 1
Totals 0 19 1 1

Pass Rushers 3 Rush 4 Rush 5 Rush 6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go) 0 1 1 1
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go) 1 4 2 1
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go) 0 3 0 0
Totals 1 8 3 2

Pass Rushers 3 Rush 4 Rush 5 Rush 6 Rush
Short (0-5 Yds To Go) 1 3 0 0
Second Level (5-10 Yds To Go) 0 0 0 0
Open Field (10+ Yds To Go) 0 1 0 0
Totals 1 4 0 0

And, here are the full season numbers to date:

Pass Rushers 3 Rush 4 Rush 5 Rush 6 Rush Total
1st Down 3 - 5% 45 - 77% 7 - 12% 3 - 5% 58 - 38%
2nd Down 1 - 2% 42 - 85% 4 - 8% 2 - 4% 49 - 32%
3rd Down 2 - 5% 23 - 62% 7 - 18% 5 - 13% 37 - 24%
4th Down 1 - 20%  4 - 80% 0 0 5 - 3% 
Totals 7 - 4% 110 - 73% 18 - 12% 10 - 6%

The game by game pressure numbers:

Wk 1 - NYG: 7/49 - 14%
Wk 2 - KC:   10/43 - 23%
Wk 3 - STL: 11/57 - 19%

2013 Totals:  28/149 - 18.7%

2012 Totals:  134/551 - 24.3%

SUMMARY:   What more can you say?  They won't happen like this very often, but you can only play who is on your schedule.  San Diego will present definite match-up issues for this defense and what you did to Sam Bradford will be irrelevant.  But, on this day, the Cowboys showed what they are capable of on their day.  

Pass rush without blitzing.  I understand if you are amazed.  It has been a while around here since we could say that.  

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