Thursday, September 27, 2012

X's and O's Breakdown: Who Busted Sunday?

This week, on the Xs and Os breakdown in the film room, I have decided to get to the bottom of the demoralizing moments that happened over and over again on Sunday - the negative plays.

And, I had to narrow that down, since there were so many negative plays in the game. In fact, if you can believe this number, 31 of the 63 offensive plays resulted in 1 yard or LESS. That is shockingly and amazingly pitiful.

However, I didn't want to look at 31 plays, so I boiled it down to just focus on what was going on with the running game. Yes, there were 4 sacks, and that is a major concern, but I wanted to know why 1st and 10 was quickly becoming 2nd and 12 so often on simple, high-percentage run plays. So, these are the 7 - yes, 7 - negative runs that were from under center to DeMarco Murray that resulted in a loss of yardage. These 7 runs went for a total of negative 13 yards.

 We will identify the play and then try to see from looking from the end zone angle who got beat on the play. It will appear quickly that there is plenty of blame to go around. This can happen once or twice a game, but to see it 7 times (with 6 before halftime) tells us that the chemistry and continuity is just not there right now in 2012.

 Let's begin:

 RUN #1

1Q - 8:58 - 1/10/28 - 21 Personnel

This first play has been the bread and butter of the Cowboys running game for years.  It is an inside zone, FB lead run/pass option that has worked as a pass for a TD in Houston in 2010 and a 91-yard TD run versus St Louis in 2011 for DeMarco Murray.  The Cowboys run this play over and over again - especially against 4-3 defenses where they get a double team block (Center and LG, who is #76 Dockery here) on the DT who is shading over the center, and then Ryan Cook must then release to get the WLB #54 David while #47 Vickers the FB will get MLB #59 Foster.

You will see rather quickly below that the play blows up for 2 major reasons.

1) -  RG Bernadeau loses his block on 93-Gerald McCoy pretty badly and pretty quickly and collapses the middle.  Dockery gets 90-Roy Miller, but the chaos from McCoy is causing Miller to wiggle free.

2) - C Cook runs past 54 as you can see below.

When Cook leaves him untouched, Dockery tries to clean up that mess, causing 90 to run free.  Now, Murray has to bounce it outside, but the play has totally collapsed.

BUSTS:  Cook and Bernadeau both affected this play, and when both the C and RG struggle on an inside run, the play is going for a 3 yard loss.


RUN #2
1Q - 6:08 - 2/12/37 - 12 Personnel
This 2nd play is another favorite of the Cowboys, the outside zone stretch.  What you want here is for everyone blocking to get their left gap, and for Murray to decide between a cutback lane or just taking the play all the way to the left sideline if the blocks are sustained but the defense keeps its gap integrity.

The play breaks down when Adrian Clayborn gets outside of his blocker, Tyron Smith.  Basically, on the outside zone stretch, once that happens, then the runner cannot proceed down his path and must cut back - but usually there is no lane with which to cutback and the play is dead.

As you will see below, with Michael Bennett closing down and unblocked from the backside, Murray is in big trouble once Tyron loses to Clayborn.

BUSTS: Tyron Smith - otherwise, this play may find some space out on the edge.


RUN #3
1Q - 3:23 - 1/10/23 - 12 Personnel
Here is yet another run from the 1st Quarter that went nowhere fast.  Here is essentially the same play, but from the opposite side.  With the arrows above, I attempted to show you each man's assignment to make this work, but you cannot see Witten's man who is off the screen, but once again it is #54-David, the rookie from Nebraska.  Bernadeau is going to get the DE 71-Bennett and Cook is going to try to get 93-McCoy.

Below, it is a bit blurry, but Bennett jacks up Bernadeau so quickly at the snap that big Mac is almost knocked on his back.  Anytime you see a Right Guard with his arms flailing in the air on a running play, something has gone horribly wrong.

Now, you run into another problem, not that the play isn't already doomed with Bennett running down Murray without anyone left to slow him down.  You also have Witten being driven back into the running lane by the LB-David.

In the picture below, you can see Bennett about to destroy Murray, with Witten prohibiting Murray from bouncing to the outside because that path is now closed off by David's win over the Cowboys TE.

This, again, is a clear example of how looking at Running Back stats and judging his work is about as foolish an exercise as their is in football.  Murray is trying to run plays where blockers are being tossed aside and players are getting to the RB completely unimpeded.

BUSTS:  Bernadeau busted badly, Witten busted less, but still affected the play negatively.


RUN #4

 2Q - 11:54 - 1/10/11 - 12 Personnel
This 4th run is a bit more tricky, but I think we have this figured out now.

This play is just another of the countless outside zone stretch runs, but it comes with a wrinkle that is designed to hold the opposite defensive end.  The wrinkle is the fake end around to Dez Bryant.  He is the ghost on the play and the design is to make the DE (71-Bennett) have to "stay home" rather than crashing down on Murray from behind.  One false step is all that it takes to take Bennett out of the play, but the Cowboys did not come close to fooling Tampa on this play.

When looking at the play several times, I think we have to blame Tony Romo and Dez Bryant on this one.  Without being in the coaching room, we will not know which one is truly to blame, but the reason this didn't work is that the motion did not happen early enough to have a chance to work.

Above, notice how Bennett doesn't fall for the motion fake because he doesn't even see it.  Timing is so important on a concept like this because if Dez doesn't arrive in the peripheral vision of Bennett.  In other words, if Bennett never sees your fake, then he can't fall for it.  And if the fake doesn't get there in time, did Romo not wait on his snap count for the motion to arrive or did Dez take too long in going in motion?

Again, above, you see that the OL has everyone blocked, but the design is not for the backside DE to have a man on him.  They are trying to get him with the motion and you can see he is crashing down hard on Bennett and not even considering the end around fake.

And finally, Murray has no place to cut back and Bennett has the play destroyed.

BUSTS:  Most likely, this is on Tony Romo for not orchestrating the motion properly.


RUN #5
2Q - 6:16 - 1/10/24 - 12 Personnel
As you can see, all 7 of these plays are from under center, and 6 of the 7 happen with multiple tight ends.  And, the concepts of the zone blocking plays are repeated often enough that if you are Tampa Bay, you certainly are starting to anticipate what the plan here is.

That is why this play is one in which Ryan Cook is the one that we will point at here, but we also concede that this might be as much on the coaching staff as it is on Cook himself.

In a perfect scenario, Cook would get the DT Roy Miller who is right on top of him, and Nate Livings would try to reach Mason Foster the MLB.  But, they are actually at the mercy of Miller and read his actions off the snap.  When Miller shoots across the face of Livings, then Cook has to figure out how to get around those two, and beat Foster to the edge.  It is 2 on 2, and somehow, they have to get the DT and the MLB.  And this is the worst possible match-up.

Mason Foster is not the fastest linebacker on the planet - not even close.  His 4.75 40 time at the combine did not turn too many heads.  However, Ryan Cook ran one of the slowest recorded times at the combine with a 5.47.  This is a footrace to the edge, and Cook is not going to get there.

Below, you see the choice Cook has.  Reach out and hold or Murray gets clocked by a LB who is untouched.

Look at the running lane for Murray if they can get to Foster.  This might be a touchdown if Murray can make Foster miss.

BUSTS:  This is technically on Cook, but asking him to win a footrace with Foster is just a poor idea.  I imagine this is a case of Tampa sitting on this play since the Cowboys keep running it and figuring out how to scheme the play so that the Cowboys cannot block Foster.  I might haul off and say the coaching staff lost the chess match on this play.


RUN #6
2Q - 4:18 - 1/10/12 - 22 Personnel
22 Personnel is on right here, and the Cowboys are looking for points.  The beauty of "22" is that your lone WR, if a dangerous player like Dez, will attract 2 DBs and therefore, the double coverage should leave the defense out-numbered in the box.  There should be room to run.

On this play, it looks like Vickers, the lead-blocking FB, is trying to consider his options and is quickly shown that outside of RT Doug Free is just not going to happen as Free loses and is pushed right back by Michael Bennett again.

So, Vickers heads back inside, where he runs Murray is about to find even more resistance because Nate Livings is losing badly to 90-Roy Miller.

This is all supposed to happen quickly, but the Cowboys cannot get this play going at all.  By the time the two backs re-route from RT to "up the middle", Livings has been discarded by Miller and the play is completely swallowed up.

By the end of this play, Murray had 10 carries for 11 yards, which included a TD run of 11 yards.  There was plenty of head-shaking on the way back to the huddle as frustration had set in.

BUSTS:  Doug Free, Nate Livings both were defeated.


RUN #7

4Q - 9:57 - 1/10/48 - 12 Personnel
The Cowboys pretty much stopped trying to run the ball until the 4th Quarter, where they tried again on a 1st Down to run a simply inside run out of 12 personnel.

Keep in mind, this is at a moment in the game where the Bucs are just overwhelming the Cowboys front with the pass rushes, as the Cowboys have been sacked 4 times in the game and most of them had just happened.

McCoy, Miller, Clayborn, and Bennett have flat-out worn down the Cowboys OL to a point where nothing is working out very well and Romo looks like he is one more hit from being knocked out of the game.

So, here, the Bucs are just running stunts and games and having a grand time.  And the Cowboys ran a play right into the teeth of a stunt.

Above, you can see that Miller goes to the "B gap" between Livings and Smith, and Foster will attack the opposite "A gap" between Cook and Bernadeau.  This leaves a giant hole where Lavonte David will dive in and meet a running back without a lead blocker right in the hole.

As you can see, Tyron sees what is happening, but again, this is not a speed match-up that the Cowboys can win.  He is close enough to witness David sprinting into the hole and charging down Murray at the point of the handoff.

David trips Murray up and another demoralizing running play is destroyed.

BUSTS:  Honestly, this is just running a play into a buzz-saw.  Nobody lost their battle, Tampa just had a perfect stunt on that was going to make any middle run quite a task.  Perhaps, we must look to the Tampa play-calling on defense as the big winner here against an offense that has no confidence whatsoever.


In the end, after looking at these 7 plays, I think we named everyone at least once.  Bill Callahan talked at length about all of the issues they have and they are focusing on working things out.  But, we are starting to see that the overall quality of the line is not very good and it seems like quite a chore for everyone to hold together on the same play.  In particular, the interior continues to be over-matched on running plays, and the tackles are no great security on passing plays.  We could have looked at the sacks (I did) and assign blame on those as well.  Pretty much everyone was over-run by the Tampa pass rush.

The most disconcerting element of all of this is the lack of regard that the league has for the Buccaneers front.  Either the Cowboys made them all look fantastic or they are better than the league is crediting them for.

Either way, this will have to improve quickly.

What do you think?  Leave your thoughts below.

BaD Radio Weekly Podcast

September 28, 2012 Welcome back you Ticket loving P1’s. We have another great edition of Homer Call of the Week and of course The Jason Witten Show. The Great Donovan has an interesting trivia game to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the T.V. show Martin. And The Sturminator goes on a rant for those ungrateful Cowboy fans who didn’t appreciate their latest win against the Bucs

September 21, 2012 - Great bits this week P1's! The Great Donovan goes Behind The Drop with one of Dan's infamous arguments and stop-down moments. Audio fun with Homer Call Of The Week. Batman and Robin make their guest appearance all week on BaD Radio. Jason Witten oddly enough joins us for the Jason Witten Show. And lastly, Bob tries to break apart some high school culture in this great state of Texas!

September 14, 2012 - Newest Dallas Maverick O.J. Mayo joins BaD Radio in studio. We have Bob mixing in a little hockey talk over the collective bargaining agreement that's about to expire. Homer Call of the Week makes a return for a second week in a row, and the legendary Geraldo Rivera joins BaD Radio on a star-studded week at the little Ticket.

September 7, 2012 - Good guests this week P1's! Yeardley Smith, the voice if Lisa Simpson, joined BaD Radio and we also had former host of The Man Show Adam Carolla call in. And if that wasn't enough, Homer Call has returned! We also have NFL Picks and a look back at the great Cowboy win against the Giants.

August 31, 2011 - We have a good one for you this week P1's. Some great guests this week including Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels and former Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson. Another edition of Breaking Bad talk. Jake Kemp takes over the spotlight on another edition of BaD Radio Reports, and to close things out, we have lots of Cowboys audio including the Mickey Spagnola E-brake.

August 24, 2012 - Another edition of the podcast is here! This week we have a recap of Ticket Fight Night just in case any of you P1's missed it. Steve Busby brings us his version of "Strike one to Austin Jackson." Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stops by in studio and talks everything Mavs. And last but not least, BaD Radio Reports takes a look at the marching band hazing incident.

August 17, 2012 - Back again boys and girls with another great week of sports segments from BaD Radio. Lots of football and Cowboys talk with sound from Jerry Jones, Rob Ryan and a little dip into Hard Knocks. We also found out whether you have been acting Gay or Not Gay. The Great Donovan brings us another edition of BaD Radio Reports, and we close things out with some Breaking Bad talk. Enjoy!

August 10, 2012 - This is week two of Cowboys Camp in Oxnard with Jason Witten, Victor Butler, Bob's Pro Athlete Front Running Theory, Donovan's 41st Birthday Surprise Guest - Spinderella from Salt n Pepa, Dirty Cowboys Liners, Tom Grieve and The Hitlers Shout-Out and Venice Beach audio including the Reggae Childrens Songs Singer, Romo Question Guy, 2012 Presidential Election HSOs and the Buy a Homeless Bum's Sign Guy

August 3, 2010 - Here is the next edition of the podcast. This week we hadCowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer stop by for a little football talk, Adam Richman from the TV show Man v. Food joined us as part of the Guest Booking League. BaD radio tries to uncover the Norm E-brake mischief and Dan talks to Cowboys defensive back C.J. Wilson. We have Bob’s Fun Friday bit, and his key playerfor the Cowboys upcoming season. And last but not least, we mixed in a little Ranger talk as well.

July 27, 2012 - Welcome back P1's, we knew you couldn't get enough. Newest Dallas Maverick Elton Brand joins BaD Radio. Mr. Dan calls in from vacation time to join Bob and Donovan for a little Breaking Bad talk. Guns N' Roses hit 25 years with their album Appetite for Destruction, and we have some HSO's from The Ticket guys. Penn State has the hammer dropped on them and we have some reaction to their ongoing problems. And the end of an era is here, Tom Grieve talks Rangers and the end of Cookie Talk.

July 20, 2012 - We have a very guest intensive podcast this week P1's. Rangers manager Ron Washington joins us. Newest Dallas Maverick Chris Kaman joins the BaD Radio boys to talk the next Mavericks season. The great Donovan provides us with the dangers behind using the drug PCP. And arguably the greatest Dallas Star ever, Mike Modano joins us to talk a little Stars hockey.

July 13, 2012 - This week on the BaD Radio Podcast Jimmie J.J. Walker from Good Times stops by as part of the Guest Booking League. Cowboys tight end John Phillips joins the gang to talk a little Cowboy football. We also have a great bit by Dan with the sound-a-likes. BaD radio talks some Penn State and our old pal and former Dallas Star Steve Ott calls in.

July 7, 2012  - Hey P1's welcome to another edition of the podcast. The Great Donovan, Rich Phillips and Mark Followill are sitting in for the BaD Radio boys this week, but we still have great bits and segments for you! We have the Tom Grieve Show with Tom Grieve, Donovan quizzes everyone on the happenings at the BET Awards, Bob Sturm calls in to talk about the Steve Ott trade, we find out with is Gay or Not Gay and Followill gives us a breakdown of the Mavericks future.

June 29, 2012 - BaD radio gives us some great interviews this week with legendary rock drummer Vinnie Paul, and one of the greatest villains of all time Billy Zabka, aka Johnny Lawrence from The Karate Kid. We also have NBA Draft talk with Doocy and Donovan. Ranger Talk with the Sturminator, and the Dallas Stars make a roster splash this offseason.

June 22, 2012 - This week on the podcast Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle stops by the studio. Guest Booking League continues to shine with another great guest. This time it's John C. McGinley, from such movies as Office Space and Any Given Sunday. BaD Radio talks with Texas Rangers HOF Tom Grieve once again. Jake Kemp gets lucky and attends the Dave Chappelle show at House of Blues. BaD radio looks back at songs performed at Summerbash. And to close things out, the always important Big Foot talk.

June 15, 2012 - Welcome back P1's. This week on the podcast local musician Ben Kweller join us as part of the Guest Booking League. Bob talks Cowboys vs. the NFC East. BaD Radio gets into some playoff talk about Lebron and the Miami Heat. They continue their review of classic sports movies with this weeks review on Rocky, and Nitro from American Gladiators joins the boys at the 2012 Sneaky Pete's Summer Bash! Also, a look into the past and how BaD Radio got their little feet wet as part of the little Ticket.

June 8, 2012  - The BaD Radio boys talk to Donovan's guest for the GBL, comedian John Witherspoon. The interns have lunch run troubles. Channel 8 reporter Brett Shipp stops by. NBA playoff talk and whether OKC will rule the NBA world for the next few years. Also, Tom gets a liner from the great Hulk Hogan.

June 1, 2012 - This week on the podcast we have Rangers talk with the recent signing of Roy Oswalt. Guest Booking League interviews with Ace Cash Express girl Jenna Liston, and Call of The Wildman star Ernie Brown Jr. aka Turtleman. Also child entitlement/ice cream talk with the BaD Radio boys and UFC fighter Johnny Hendricks drops by the studio.

May 25, 2012 - This week we had some great variety. Bob breaks the news that his book is now out on paperback and can be purchased through or through The return of The Jason Witten Show, something we hope all the P1's can look forward to every week during the Cowboys season. Donovan finally took the chance to watch Stars Wars, and he has a BaD radio report for Bob and Dan. The Guest Booking League gets off the ground with a Friday draft day. And professional golf instructor Hank Haney drops by the studio to talk about his new book with the BaD radio boys.

May 18, 2012 - The BaD Radio boys talk some Rangers - Angels. C.J. Wilson makes his return to Texas, Yu Darvish continues to dominate and Josh Hamilton makes baseball history. Stars Owner Tom Gaglardi has a sit down with the hosts as he talks Stars Hockey and what lies ahead for the team in the future. Dan's enjoys some Cowboys HSO's from HOF Emmit Smith. Hurts to miss that one!

May 11, 2012 - The Mavericks of this Year vs the Title Year, Donnie Nelson talks about this Season and the Future, Donovan's Game - Is It True (Mexican stereotypes edition), Josh Hamilton hits 4 HRs in Baltimore with Tom Grieve and Josh v Rangers Contract talk, it's our Major League Movie Review and Nolan Ryan talks Josh, Yu, CJ and his own career

May 4, 2012 - How the Mavericks miss Tyson Chandler vs OKC in the Playoffs, Tom's Cumulus Song in the Sales Office, Dan vs Ducks in his Backyard, Bob's Jack the Ripper Tour in London, Muser Campout Fun w Gordo (Where the Sun Rises and Surviving the Game talk) and Poor Effort from the Mavericks and Dirk in Game 3 vs OKC

April 27, 2012 - Jason Terry in-studio, Bob talks to a Racist English Soccer Fan, Bob & Friend Fart all over London

April 13 2012 - NFL Draft HSOs from the crew and Pat Kirwan, Bob's Radio Friend from his Lynchburg Days, the Arkansas Bobby Petrino Rally and it's the Days of Thunder Movie Review

April 6, 2012 - Khloe & Lamar traded to Dallas, We talk about Grubes Leaving for College, Farewell to Grubes Songs, Dan's Friday Bit - Stump the Sturm episode 2

March 30, 2012 - Our Annual sit down with Dirk Nowitzki, we talk to Mr. Ranger - Michael Young, it's Pictures in Blue Bonnets time again, and the amazing story of Antoine Walker's bankruptcy

March 23, 2012 - Peyton Manning Traded to Denver and Tim Tebow to the NY Jets, Dan confronts an AAC Usher, Stars Trevor Daley & Steve Ott, Tom's Homeless vs Away with Laker Metta World Peace and Phoenix Coyote Paul Bissonnette

March 16, 2012 - Jason Terry says He's Playing for Next Year, Stars Road Trip - Minneapolis and Winnipeg with Mike Ribeiro, We talk to Ralph Strangis and his Father, The Show Pranks Tom into Wearing a Suit, Donovan's Behind the Drop - Bob's I'm Not the Guy in the Next Cubicle and Bob gets into it with Daryl Razor Reaugh,

March 9, 2012 - Tony Stewart at the TMS Media Day, Bob Loves Walking Dead Zombie but Not Sure Why, Deion Sanders Divorce Talk - living in same house, and Dan's Gameshow - Baseball Jeopardy with Mike Rhyner

March 2, 2012 - Bob's World - Coaching Youth Soccer Crying Kid, Lamar Odom Flakes Out and Misses Games, Khloe Talks about Living in Dallas, TC Witnesses Cuban & Odom Meeting at W Hotel Lobby, Lamar Odom sent to the D-League, Dan's Birthday Guest - World B Free, Bob Quizes Dan on his History with the Show

Feb 24, 2012 - Bob pulls a Hamstring Running on the Treadmill, Dan reviews Khloe and Lamar - Sex Swing episode, Dan Reports - Words with Friends and Alec Baldwin Trouble on Flight, Tom Friday Bit - Survey of the Staff About the Ticket Hosts

Feb 17, 2012 - Bob says Franchise Cowboys LB Anthony Spencer, Bob goes to Chuckie Cheese for Valentines Day with the Family, Donovan Salutes Michael Jordan on his Birthday, Donovan hosts Ticket Pyramid

Feb 10, 2012 - We get ready for the Rangers 2012 Spring Training with Jon Daniels (talk Yu Darvish and Josh Hamilton), Terrell Owens says he's now broke, and it's the First Word that Deion Sanders and wife Pilar are Fighting from friend Laura talking to K104, Bob's Game - Name that Movie

Feb 3, 2012 - BaD Radio at The Super Bowl in Indianapolis: Dan goes Wireless on Radio Row, we talk to Vanilla Ice (Robbie Van Winkle) with George, Media Day with Sterling Moore

Jan 27, 2012 - First Podcast from the new Victory Studios: Movie Review - Blue Chips, Cuban Rips The Ticket for their Lamar Odom HSOs and we interview Mark Cuban, Dan's Stump the Sturm

Jan 20, 2012 - HSO's on Yu Darvish, the Rangers Signing of Yu Darvish, Called Green Bay and Brett Favre Steakhouse after Packers Playoff Loss, Bob Reports - documentary Catfish (deceptive on-line romances and we discover Catfish is a hoax)

Jan 13, 2012 - Dan wins Suit Bet on Tebow and Broncos vs Steelers, Bob's Mavericks Book and the Interviews with Kidd and Dirk and Mavs Insider re the book

Jan 6, 2012 - We review Dick Clark's Final New Years Eve and driving home after the Stars NYE game, Lamar Odom's Obsession with Candy, Dan Loses our Football Picks Bet and Dan's Suit, Donovan's Ticket after Rolls Thru Stop Sign Hate Crimes, Screenless

Dec 30, 2011 - We talk about the public's response to the re-release of Air Jordan 11, Boston Bruin's play-by-play man Jack Edwards and his hate for Steve Ott, It's the Steve Ott Show and his response to Jack Edwards, and Screenless

Dec 9, 2011 - White Elephant Day
Corby (along with Bob and Norm) pranks TC and tells him he won't get an access card for our the building or parking garage at Victory Park, Porn star - Rachel Starr visits in-studio with Dan, Rich, Ty & Craig, Sean Bass talks about the end of his engagement and living with Grubes, Screenless

Dec 2, 2011 - Dan is obsessed with the Jerry Sandusky / Bob Costas drop "Slap, Slap, Slapping Sounds" and it ruins his night of sex, Newy Scruggs and Terrell Owens get into a twitter fight, TC tells us about his days at a drug rehab boarding school, Screenless

Nov 25, 2011 - Donovan talks to the guys at Nice Look Barbershop and they have their own theories on who shot John F. Kennedy, Dan describes his vegetarian Thanksgiving, Interview with new Stars owner Tom Gaglardi and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Screenless

Nov 18, 2011 - Goofing on the Musers guest bookings and George Dunham calls-in, Bob and the stigma of living in an apartment, Tim Tebow talk, Screenless

Nov 11, 2011 - Penn State Jerry Sandusky child molestation talk, News News News Rick Perry and Twitter talk, Donovan goes to Nice Look barbershop and discovers the Magic Johnson HIV conspiracy, Screenless

Nov 4, 2011 - BaD Radio realizes the world's population is now 8 Billion, Craig Rosengarden Audio Bag, review of the NFL Films documentary about the life and career of Tom Landry, Screenless

Oct 28, 2011 - Derek Holland Fox interview from the dugout after his near World Series shutout  with his impersonations, George Dunham calls-in from St. Louis for World Series talk, CJ Wilson bragging montage, Brett Hull interview talks about being at Game 5 of the World Series and his St. Louis fan loyalty, Brett Hull is a Cheater t-shirts in Buffalo

Oct 21, 2011 - Rangers win the ALCS over Detroit, Derek Holland's great game, Josh Hamilton talk, ALCS montage, World Series preview vs St. Louis, Tim McCarver audio "Moneyball" reference, Fox 4 audio about Nelson Cruz, World Series Songs - Donovan's "He's a Maniac when they score" Sean and Grubes "Cliff Lee song", Tom "Rape that Squirrel to Whip It", Bob "Elvis", Dan "JD"

Oct 14, 2011 - Bob Returns from Honduras with adopted son Justin, Beard talk, What he learned from his 40 days in Honduras, Justin not knowing his age, Power/government in Honduras, Justin's passport, visa and shots to come to the US

Oct 7, 2011 - Rangers beat Tampa Bay in ALDS, Napoli and Beltre, Dan doesn't like Uehara, Matt Harrison audio, JD Talk, Tom Seaver interview review (etc, etc montage and awkward liner), Screenless

Sept 30, 2011 - John Rhadigan complains about Modano Retirement speech bc he thanks everyone in the media but Rhadigan, GBL Payoff - Sean, Grubes, TC Green man suits, TC stays in the concourse, Jim Knox interviews Donovan and thanks The Ticket,  Bob calls from Honduras - long adoption processing time, bored, Screenless

Sept 23, 2011 - Moneyball Film review, Dan complains about the inaccuracies, Mark Followill - Ticket history, Full Disclosure book, Modano retires, Modano audio from his Draft day, Bob call from Honduras - flight cancelled and dealing with bugs

Sept 16, 2011 - Dan needs a handy man, Dan and Donovan fix a flat tire together, Gibby Haynes in-studio re his dad (Mr Peppermint's career and failing health), in a band with Johnny Depp, playing nude tennis, Moneyball the Film preview, Bob calls from Honduras after a crazy, hectic week

Sept 9, 2011 - Ed Bark in-studio (how news has changed, Ch 5 changes, audio), Cowboys game funny audio, Michael Irvin "you made a read" audio, Mark Followill Bit - Play by Play on the Street (on Maple by a utility pole and gas station), Bob Calls from Honduras, Screenless

Sept 2, 2011 - Troy Aikman interview from the SMU Athletic Forum (hates Skip Bayless, Ticket needed to see his house, his NFL retirement, career in broadcasting), Daniel Johnston GBL interview (The Devil in Daniel Johnston, Eddy Vedder covers his song, TC's awkward interview that wins him an EBrake), Bob calls from Honduras - realizes this adoption may take longer than they first thought, Justin eats like a horse

Aug 26, 2011 - Dan's News - Kindergarten teacher in Murphy guilty of child sex abuse, He plays the Mommy - Baby game and changes diapers, Little League World Series talk, Bob leaves for his trip to Honduras to adopt a son (expects to be gone 4-6 weeks, Honduran cell phones, 3rd world country)

Aug 19, 2011 - TV show Most Eligible Dallas embarassing show (Matt Nordgren back-up UT QB and failed NFL QB), Wrestling Talk (the story of the Von Erichs documentary, cursed family of deaths, WWF), Knox City High School football fan audio from youtube, Screenless

Aug 12, 2011 - Deion Sanders Hall of Fame speech audio, Shannon Sharp speech audio, Snoop Dogg song and audio about his mama, Dan gets stranded in Houston after Cowboys Camp with his family, AAA sends tow truck to Houston - not Houston Street, Bob reveals he wrote a Dallas Mavericks book "This Year Is Different" about the 2011 season the NBA Title, Sceenless

Aug 5, 2011 - Cowboys camp in San Antonio (players pop culture quiz, won by Martin Rucker), Rob Ryan talk (his scheme, big personality, DeMarcus Ware INT), Dan and Donovan perform at an Open Mic Night at LOL's Comedy Club (Donovan does a Katrina hurricane routine and Dan bashes Spurs fans and gets them back with Hitler comedy), Sceenless

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Splash Plays - Week 3 - Tampa Bay

As we look at the defense week after week, it is important that we keep a close eye on their progress and while noting that the caliber of opponent and quarterback is a very important consideration, we also don't want to minimize a gradual, but physical domination like we saw against Tampa Bay.

The Cowboys took a step back against Seattle, and all week you would think that Tampa was pretty sure that they could just follow the recipe and run the ball down the Cowboys throat while staying in a down and distance that would allow some things to happen down the field.

The Cowboys were very strong in forcing 3 and outs and flipping field position on more than one occasion.  They were tempering their attacks, but continuing to fly to the ball.

It will be most interesting to see how they try to compensate for all of the safety injuries and replacements that are in front of them right now with the mysterious injury to Barry Church and the nagging calf muscle of Gerald Sensabaugh.  But, for now, they seem like they are using common sense by fixing that issue from depth.  Using Mike Jenkins as a real piece of the puzzle, but not at safety.  Moving Brandon Carr to safety in the nickel is a very nice fix, provided it allows you to get Orlando Scandrick, Mo Claiborne, and Jenkins out there together.  You would think that would match-up well with most offensive attacks.

It puts Carr in the middle of more situations that will require tackling, but he is a very big player and should handle himself well.  Also, don't expect seam tight ends to trouble him much.

When I look at the defense from a standpoint of who is showing up week after week, I keep coming back to Jason Hatcher.  This might be the first play-maker on the defensive line not named Ratliff since the days of Greg Ellis.  He is coming into his own and making everyone happy the Cowboys showed so much patience with him.  After all, he is one of the longest-tenured Cowboys and a holdover from the Bill Parcells era.  And yet, he still seems like a relatively young player.

The other player that looks the part after 3 weeks is still Bruce Carter.  He is really a force in the running game and can keep up with most running backs who head for the sideline.  Athletic middle linebackers are required for the upcoming matchups with Washington and so forth, but the startling contrast to Bradie James and Keith Brooking is remarkable every week.

Let's take a look at the "Splash Plays" from Week 3 versus Tampa Bay:

Splash Plays are key impact plays from the defense.  Usually, they are obvious, but there are some that blur the line.  I have listed time and play of each one for those who want to double check my work.

For more, read a detailed explanation of this study here:  What is a Splash Play?


1-12:203/1/D3SpearsRun Stuff
2-14:101/10/T47WareSack and FF (2)
2-13:2032/15/T42HatcherRun Stuff
2-10:131/10/T35HatcherDrew Holding Pen
2-9:391/10/T46SpencerRun Stuff
2-8:093/3/D47Carter3rd Down Stop
3-9:472/7/T22CarrHit Pass Breakup
3-5:502/6/T42LissemoreRun Stuff
3-4:593/6/T42CrawfordBig Pressure
3-2:001/10/D31LeePressure draws Grounding
3-1:592/10/D41JenkinsPass Break Up
4-5:573/4/T15WareSack and FF (2)
4-2:301/10/T20SpencerRun Stuff
4-2:103/9/T21CarterRun Stuff
4-1:221/10/D40L. LewisPass Defended

Lots of newcomers registered their first contribution of the year.  Included in that group is the promising Tyrone Crawford from Boise State.  He had a big pressure that rattled Josh Freeman and I look forward to seeing more of his work as we go.  They seem to be bringing him along slowly, but I am all for adding to his work load.

Here are the team standings kept on a week-by-week basis with the numbers below:

Team Total45



Whenever we look at the blitzes for the Cowboys, we want to take special note of what the blitz situation was on all of the big plays for both the offense and the defense.  It is important that we do not just note the great moments the blitz causes, because as we have seen a number of times with Rob Ryan, the blitz opens up opportunities for the offense, too.

If the blitz is doing more harm than good - as it did in 2011 - we must recognize that and alter the delivery or the pattern.  So far in 2012, the blitz has been used sparingly, and for the most part, the first 3 opponents have not been able to punish the Cowboys for being short in coverage.

To date, the Cowboys have only conceded 8 explosives (plays of 20 or more yards).  This ranks 3rd best in the NFL behind the Steelers and Chargers.  Obviously, we must consider the offenses that the Cowboys have been playing, but under any circumstance, that number quite good so far.

4-2:004/11/T19Freeman to Jackson, +294
4-1:222/10/D43Freeman to Williams, +235

Meanwhile, the Cowboys had an interception and 2 sacks, one of which came on the blitz:

1-3:283/14/17Lee Interception4
2-14:101/10/T47Ware Sack #14
4-5:573/4/T15Ware Sack #25

Here is how Rob Ryan deployed pass rushers, separated by down.

Pass Rushers Against Tampa Bay - 32 pass rush/blitz situations:
Pass Rushers1st D2nd D3rd D4th DTotal
3 Rush00202
4 Rush4103118
5 Rush42309
6 Rush10203
7 Rush00000

The best way to look at those numbers is the percentage of blitzes by downs.  Meaning, how often do they bring pressure (5 or more) in certain downs.  To properly do this, we would also need to list distances to go, but I want to try to keep this simple enough for everyone to follow along, so I will keep that to myself unless I find something that jumps out.

So, on 1st Down, they brought pressure 55% of the time (5 of 9), 16% on 2nd Down,  and 50% on 3rd Down.  Our studies show that Rob Ryan generally likes pressure when you don't expect it, and coverage when you do expect a blitz.

But, he has to make sure his call sheet isn't too predictable, thus a different plan for each opponent.

Make no mistake, game planning for Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and a much improved (we think) Chicago offense will have nothing in common with the last 2 offenses that hardly did anything adventurous.

This will be a much better test on Monday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Decoding Garrett - Week 3 - Tampa Bay

In the 27th game under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys have reached an all-new low in a very vital department for their offense on Sunday against a defense that was quite generous to the New York Giants the week before.

It is the concept of "winning 1st Down".  It simply means that as an offense, the play that is valued least by the general public is so important to the minds that call plays.  If you win 1st Down, then you set up a variety of options for 2nd and 3rd Down.  However, if you lose 1st Down, as the Cowboys did on a regular basis, you eliminate most of your creative options and simply fall into a "we need yardage badly" posture which results in the invitation of blitzes, mixed up coverages, and the advantage swings heavily to the defense.

In a way, the Cowboys are losing the fundamental struggles in football in these last two weeks in completely different ways.  In Seattle, it was falling behind and allowing the undermanned offensively Seahawks to dictate the style and pace of most of the contest.  In this game, the score was never a major issue, but every 1st and 10 situation for the offense led to 3rd and a mile.

Since Jason Garrett has been coach, no single game made a bigger mess out of 1st Down than Sunday. In fact, only 3 times under Garrett has the offense not been under 9 yards in the "Average yards to go on 2nd Down" category.  Those 3 games were, at Philadelphia last year (9.88), the home game against Washington in 2011 (9.76), and the game at San Francisco (9.04).  Otherwise, in all of the other games, the Cowboys were inside 9, and most of the time even inside 8 yards to go.  The best work ever under Garrett was Thanksgiving of 2010 when they only had 6.04 yards to go on 2nd Down.

But, Sunday, they went backwards on 1st Down.  Then, they had penalties. By the time they actually snapped the ball on 2nd Down, they were at a shocking 11.3 yards to go on 2nd Down.  11.3!  Not only is it the worst under Garrett, it is the worst by a healthy margin of a yard and a half.  Shocking.  Long 2nd Downs usually lead to long 3rd Downs and in this case an average of 9.5 yards to go on 3rd Down.  Not the recipe for a win, but because of some field position generosity where the Cowboys were beneficiaries of some short fields and the ineptness of the Bucs' offense, the Cowboys still won.

In short, the offense on Sunday couldn't get out of its own way.  And every new set of downs led to yet another scenario in which the Cowboys shot themselves in the foot.  Later in the week, with the help of the coach's film, we will examine why the running game was such a mess and who was at fault, but for now, let's just look at what the results were.

The Cowboys ran the ball 12 times on 1st and 10 in this game and totaled from those 12 different attempts 8 yards.  12 carries for 8 yards!

Now, many are using this as proof that the Cowboys should not try to run the football at all, because they are not successful when they do it.  That, of course, is backwards thinking and only serves to make passing the football more impossible because they see they have no reason to respect the running game and thus pin their ears back and attack your QB (See Seattle's relentless assault on Aaron Rodgers in the 1st Half of Monday Night Football).  I would counter that any play-call that you ever consider assumes that the play must be run well.  No pass call works that results in a sack or interception, but you don't stop calling passes simply because you are not executing them well.  That falls into the category of performance.  No selected play will ever work when your players are getting whipped.  But, don't blame the play or the concept in most cases.  Blame the most fundamental test in football:  Can my guy handle their guy in this 3 second match-up.  If he can't, then there is no offensive game plan that can hide that for long.

The bottom line right now seems rather simple.  The offense is still experiencing major issues at the line of scrimmage.  It is one thing to be penalty prone, but it is yet another to be losing battles too frequently.  The Tampa front is not thought of as terribly fearsome, and yet they reduced the Cowboys OL to rubble.  The Bears front is feared and they also lead the NFL in sacks.

If this offensive line doesn't start winning battles, the offensive efficiency will be hard pressed to improve.  There are no plays that can be called when your big boys up front are being whipped.

Data from Week 3 vs Tampa Bay

Starting Field PositionD 37
1st Down Run-Pass12-13
2nd Down Avg Distance to Go11.3
2nd Down Run-Pass6-15
3rd Down Avg Distance to Go9.5
3rd Down Run-Pass2-13
3rd Down Conversions5-16, 31%


Here are the passing charts to see what was being accomplished on Sunday.

Blue is a completion. Red is incomplete. Yellow is a touchdown, and Black is an interception. The passes are lines from where Romo released the pass to where the pass was caught. This shows you his release point and where he likes to throw when he slides in the pocket.

Clearly in the 1st Half, there was nothing accomplished down the field in the passing attack.   In fact, you may simply examine it based on throws over 8 yards and under 8 yards to see a startling difference in what was being done.  Tampa Bay was resisting anything behind the linebackers with great effectiveness in the 1st Half in particular.

1st Half

The 2nd half shows much more blue with completions a higher percentage of the throws.  This is particularly noteworthy as protection was breaking down much worse in the 2nd half it seemed as the over-matched offensive line of the Cowboys was making things quite difficult on their passing game.

2nd Half

Intern Tim, who does a fine job on these charts, made one especially on passes to Dez Bryant this week.  Here are all of the passes to Dez, which again shows that it is difficult to get him the football down the field right now.  Much like the entire offensive attack, they are having a hard time getting much done here right now through 3 weeks.

Pretty clear which side of the field Dez does most of his damage....

Dez Bryant

Drive Starters - The 1st play of each drive can often reveal the intent of a coach to establish his game plan. How committed is he to the run or pass when the team comes off the sideline? We track it each week here:

Wk 1-At New York: 9 Drives - 5 Run/4 Pass
Wk 2-At Seattle: 9 Drives - 3 Run/6 Pass
Wk 3-Tampa Bay: 13 Drives - 7 Run/6 Pass
Season: 31 Drives 15 Run/16 Pass - 48% Run

2011 Total: 181 Drives - 79 Run/102 Pass 44% Run


Shotgun snaps are fine on 3rd Down and in the 2 minute drill. But, we track this stat from week to week to make sure the Cowboys aren't getting too lazy in using it. They are not efficient enough to run it as their base, and with a 15%/85% run/pass split across the league, there is no way the defense respects your running game. When shotgun totals are high, the Cowboys are generally behind, scared of their offensive line, or frustrated. High Shotgun numbers are not this team's calling card for success.

As you can see, the situation in the game dictates the use of shotgun. The Cowboys use "Shotgun 11" as their "catch-up" mode and the more they run it, usually the worse the game is going and the more trouble they are having running the ball like against the Bucs.

Wk 1 - NYG: 15/54 27.7%
Wk 2 - Sea: 29/56 52%
Wk 3 - TB: 34/63 54%

2012 Season Total: 78/173 45%

2011 Total - 445/1012 43.9%

Here is the breakdown by groupings:

Before you study the data below, I would recommend that if the numbers for the groupings are unfamiliar, that you spend some time reading a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groupings here.

A few things of note here, including another week of not being able to handle your business in the all-important under-center running game.  All non-shotgun runs were pretty useless aside from DeMarco's TD run.  Beyond that, the Cowboys ran into wall after wall and gained a total of 24 yards of 16 different under center running plays (Including the touchdown!).

That means that in the last 2 weeks, the Cowboys have called the under-center runs 30 different times for just 73 yards.  That is not play-calling that is hurting this team right now, it is the inability to get your running back a shred of space.

Meanwhile, the Shotgun 11 group is as inefficient as they have been in a long time.  30 plays to get 144 yards out of shotgun where yards are often easily conceded underneath is just as depressing.  Less than 5 yards a play from Shotgun?  Historical lows in all categories.

As for wrinkles, we wrote this last week:

22 personnel has had 11 snaps this season and 11 runs. That is telling us that they are 100% run out of a grouping that never is 80/20 run usually. They have some pass out of 22 up their sleeve for down the road. Look for that.

Well, just as we expected, they were trying to tell their opponents that they only run out of "22", but we know that isn't true.  On Sunday against Tampa, they rolled "22" out on 6 occasions and threw plenty of play action passes.  This is their way of getting Dez Bryant cooking, as he is the lone WR in "22" on a pretty regular basis.  They put both TE's to one side and then run him in a route on the weak side - usually his bread and butter, the 15 yard "Dig" route.  They hit on this route twice for his 2 biggest gainers of the day and this is a wonderful mess to put the defense in, because they want to double team Dez.  But, if they do so when the Cowboys are in "22", then the defense is a bit weak to stop the run to the strong side.

Nice adjustment by the coaching staff, and one I expect they will use frequently this season as teams try to figure out how to slow that down now that it is on film.

Totals by Personnel Groups:

PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

One of the easier ways to decipher 3rd Down numbers is to see how your success rate is affected by the yards to go.  This Tampa game is quite revealing as they had 3rd Down and 7 or less on 7 different occasions and they converted 5 of them.  Then, they had 3rd Down and 8 or more on 9 more occasions and converted none of them - throwing an interception in the process on 3rd and 15.  League wide, 3rd Down and 10 or more to go is historically horrendous (19% conversion rate in 2011), so this should not surprise us.  Dallas actually converted 25% of 3rd and longs in 2011 which ranked 4th in the league behind New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and Carolina.  But, it is no way to make a living when 25% is actually really good.

Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:


Precision and high point totals are important and the ultimate goal for the offense.  But, sometimes, they take a back seat to simply trying to keep your Quarterback off the injured list.

It is clear that offensive line problems are not just being felt locally.  Of the NFC contenders, it appears Atlanta and San Francisco are ok, but Philadelphia, Green Bay, Chicago, New York, Detroit, and even New Orleans are having trouble protecting their passer as well.

But, their problems are of small consolation when you see your QB being tossed around as if he was in a car accident between Gerald McCoy and Adrian Clayborn.  The running game is non-existent despite having a significant weapon at running back for the first time since Emmitt Smith.

Chicago will present another fantastic test for an offense that just hopes to break the 300-yard barrier again before it sets its goals back to the 400 yards it is used to rolling up under normal circumstances.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Morning After: Cowboys 16, Bucs 10 (2-1)

A quick thought or two before we get into the meat of the day's events; wins are hard to come by in the National Football League.  Every week, some teams play their hearts out and still do not get to leave with the victory.  Wins are the entire point to sports, and while there are personal statistics, fantasy teams, style points, opinions that matter, opinions that don't matter, execution, point spreads, and countless other subjective and objective ways to analyze a sporting competition, the win is all that truly matters in the long run.  They will not ask "how" at the end of the season when they are deciding which 12 teams advance to the playoffs, they will ask "how many" wins do you have?

The Dallas Cowboys set the bar pretty high for this franchise.  They do not value a win like the Carolina Panthers or Cincinnati Bengals value a win.  They have a higher goal in mind at all times based on the 5 Lombardi Trophies and world titles.  This has turned the modern-day Cowboys' fan into one of the more self-loathing fan bases in sports today.

In a normal 9 or 10 win season, based on the fans I hear from, the Cowboys win about 3 games a year against teams so bad that the fans won't allow themselves to smile.  Then, the Cowboys win about 3 more other games each year where the team didn't play well.  So they aren't happy about those wins either because "that will never do in January" or "If this team thinks they can win with that effort each week, they have another thing coming".

By the time all of the complaining after wins is done, that leaves roughly 3 to 4 days each calendar year when most Dallas Cowboys fans allow themselves to feel good about the football team that they follow.  That constitutes about 1% of each year, with the other 99% spent wishing that Tom Landry and Roger Staubach were still here to teach these guys what good football looks like.  Because surely, those two never made mistakes, threw the ball into coverage, or won a game the ugly way.

We must all remember, wins are very hard to get in a sport where there is one game a week and the physical toll is so high.  Some teams make it look easy, but most struggle every single week.  Nobody is asking a Cowboys fan who has seen the mountain top to try to forget that, but it just seems that there should be a difference in public reaction between an ugly loss at Seattle and an ugly win against Tampa Bay.  Both were ugly.  Both were not well played.  Both were mistake filled.  But, the contest yesterday has about as important a distinction as there could possibly be in a sporting event; it was a victory.

As long as we can all see the obvious point that the world's ugliest victory is significantly better than the world's most beautiful loss, then we are on the same page.  But, man, the reaction that is in my email box and on my twitter account seems to indicate that nobody is willing to acknowledge that point.

OK, on with the talking points...

One thing that was consistent between the Seattle and Tampa games was the inconsistency of the offense and the frustrating difficulty it is having in trying to execute its game plan.  There appears to be some significant issues that surround this offensive unit and have made them a complete mess.  297 yards of total offense was nearly twice what Tampa Bay was able to put up, but far, far behind what the  mighty Cowboys offense is capable of.

Consider this:  In the Tony Romo era, according to my numbers, there have never before been consecutive games in which the Cowboys had Romo as their QB and fewer than 300 yards of offense each time.  In fact, when it has happened ever so rarely, Brad Johnson or Stephen McGee were making a mess of the offense that Romo has generally orchestrated with some ease.  But, now, with Seattle at 296 and Tampa at 297, the Cowboys offense - with all of their weapons present and available - they have stalled to an all-new low of production under their top QB.

Those issues are obvious and they seem to be snow-balling.  And again, many of the issues can be directed to the achilles heel of the modern-day Dallas Cowboys, the offensive line.  The players and names change, but the issues stay exactly the same with this unit, it would seem.  Changing 4 of the starters before the 2011 season and changing 3 more before the 2012 season hasn't appeared to adjust the narrative - they still cannot get out of their own way and seem to be incapable of winning their battles in most games, regardless of opponent.

They commit penalties by the dozen, while getting beat so badly that Romo appears lucky to still be able to stand.  Tampa featured a pass rush that is 32nd out of 32 teams since the start of the 2010 season, and yet the Cowboys were reduced to nearly helpless against them yesterday in the 3rd and 4th Quarters.

And we haven't even begun to discuss the running game, that appeared to try hard to feature DeMarco Murray as the centerpiece of the attack.  But how many negative runs can you allow before you stop allowing 1st and 10 to become 2nd and 12?  Well, by my count, they stopped at 8 for DeMarco.  And of those 8, I have about 0 of them as his fault as the OL was being over-run by Buccaneers that seemed to have little regard for the blocking efforts that were in front of them.

So, you scrap the running attack to go to the aerial plans, but those require that you can keep your QB from the injured list.  The hits Romo took yesterday were vicious and at times scary.  It seems like playing "Russian Roulette" where you simply hope that this isn't the hit that puts your Quarterback out for 2-3 months.  The one sack that really boggles the mind was the moment late in the 3rd Quarter when Romo sustained a brutal hit from Michael Bennett, brother of Martellus.  The Bucs rushed only 3 players on that down, so clearly Romo was thinking he had time.  But, Bennett was pushing through the blocking efforts of Jason Witten as if Dan Bailey switched uniforms with the usually reliable Witten.  Meanwhile, Doug Free, who had no other possible responsibility with other rushers in his area seemed to have a great spectator position on the play as he certainly did not assist the over-matched tight end.  The result was a collision that ultimately caused Romo to fumble the ball and perhaps to sustain a few aches he will feel this week.

The Cowboys seemed to get lucky in that regard yesterday, but for how long?  The Chicago Bears are the next opponent and they happen to have the most sacks registered in the NFL this season.

As for Witten, the results from the Tampa game were roughly just as disconcerting and shocking as they were the week before in Seattle.  I have no idea what is going on with one of the most consistently excellent football players in this era, but one can only attach his significant injury of August to his most uncharacteristic start in September.  There is a fine line between being a warrior and being a weak link, and Witten is certainly crossing over in the minds of many as the same people who were singing his praises for his heroic rushing back to the field to help the team now want him criticized for hurting the cause.

Is he right physically?  Is he right mentally?  Is the spleen injury simply serving as a easy explanation for a player with incredibly high mileage on his odometer?  Nobody knows, but if we were going to call the Seattle game the worst game of his career, then what do we do with Tampa?  This is a disturbing trend that has to make him question himself right now. Some have asked how this story would be handled if it was Dez Bryant, and the answer from this laptop is disbelief.  If you want to compare someone who has been one of the very best at his position for a decade with a guy who has hardly left the starting blocks in his career, go ahead.  But, I will err on the side of cutting Witten some slack that few deserve and assume he rushed back before his body was ready.  Does he need to play through this or should he perhaps spend the Chicago week and the bye week to get right for October and beyond is the real question in my mind.  He just isn't himself.  But, to assume that he switched bodies with Martellus Bennett in some sort of dollar-movie plot twist, seems folly to me and a major jump to conclusions.  Count him out, at your own risk.

The bottom line, offensively, appears to remain the same.  The offensive line is still broken and the Cowboys are paying the price for trying to find sales last March when perhaps they should have addressed the line of scrimmage first and foremost.  Carl Nicks or Brandon Carr?  If you can't afford them both, which do you need?  There is no wrong answer and there is no right answer.  Which ever you picked would be fantastic and the other position would still be undermanned.  The Cowboys got Carr, but their offensive line still looks like something they have to try to game-plan around rather than use as a weapon.

Meanwhile, the additions of Carr, Mo Claiborne, Bruce Carter, and Barry Church have raised the defensive play pretty well.  Much like the offense, there were too many holes to fill, and now with the huge injury to Church that will cancel the remainder of his season, the Cowboys scramble to find safety play that is anywhere close to passable.  To the Cowboys credit, their first idea seems to make plenty of sense, which is to get their 4 best corners all on the field at the same time by moving Carr to safety.  He certainly has the size to do it, but whether that becomes an issue when more advanced offenses than Tampa are the opponent work on ways to expose that remains to be seen.  The Brodney Pool idea of last spring was a waste of time and money, and now safety seems as thin as it has ever been - which says something if you consider the days of Keith Davis and Pat Watkins.

But, overall, the defense looks more capable than we have seen in a while.  The true tests are yet to come, and the physical loss to Seattle will remain until the Cowboys demonstrate the ability to deal with Ray Rice running the ball at them, but so far so good against teams throwing on Dallas.  3 and outs were the order of the day, and if we are going to point out how great the Giants were at killing the Tampa defense, are we allowed to point out that this inept Tampa offense had a much more enjoyable day playing the Giants, too?  At least compared to their putrid effort of 166 yards yesterday, the 307 yards and the 34 points (albeit assisted by the defense) the week before looks good, right?  Wow.  They must really be questioning where year 4 of the Josh Freeman experiment is taking them.  Before the game, a colleague compared his career to Quincy Carter and I scoffed.  Then, I watched him play.

That was ugly.  Mistakes all over the field and a physical beating was sustained by many key components of this squad.  There is simply nothing easy about this league and this particular team compounds that by making even the simplest game on their schedule look difficult.  And yet, this team is 2-1 waiting for Chicago next Monday Night and has a chance to be in 1st place heading into their bye week.

So, I guess the point is to remember that during the self-loathing and gnashing of teeth, it is ok to do what the team is doing right now for a brief moment.  Sigh and enjoy the rare feeling of victory for a second before starting to work on the next opponent.  No matter how ugly and qualified it is, there are only about 6-12 mornings like this a year if you follow a football team.  Don't be that guy who tells the waiter that this steak is simply unacceptable and walk out of the restaurant.  This league is too close from top to bottom to forget that the ultimate goal every Sunday is to be the one team that leaves that stadium with a "W".

And the ugliest win in the world is still worth the same as the easiest 63-0 victory.

Breathe.  There are too many battles ahead to walk around angry on the day after a win.  Things need to be fixed and everyone is well aware of this.  I imagine Jason Garrett is clear that things need to get way better very quickly.

If only they could play Tampa Bay ever week.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

BaD Radio Song Archive Project

Slowly, but surely, because that's how we roll, we are starting to archive some of our old musical pieces online for your enjoyment. This weekend, I got around to the 2008 collection which spans from the summer of 2007 until the summer of 2008 as each new BaD Radio year starts on the Birthday Show of BaD Radio - June 14th. So, here are a bunch of those....Enjoy:

Summerbash 2007

Bob and Donovan - It's Tricky

Dan - BabyArm 

Cowboys Songs - Playoffs 2007 - Jan 2008

Dan - Double D's -

Bob - There Goes My Romo

Grubes - Cowboys Wussification

Tom - T.O. Don't Cry

Donovan - Roy Williams Help 

Sean - Romo 

Ticketstock 2008

Donovan - Humpty Dance

Dan -  First Song of Ticketstock - Age of Aquarius 

Bob - Party Hard


Donovan  - Tiny Dan - Dan's Birthday 2008 

Donovan - Negro National Anthem 

2008 Birthday Show Musical Montage

More years to come soon....

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cowboys Email 9/21

For the 2nd year in a row, the NFL has asked the Cowboys to open with 2 straight on the road before playing their home opener on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Obviously, they are smarting pretty badly about the egg that was laid in Seattle, but now see 8 of 14 home games and recognize the opportunities that lie ahead. If they can simply make their new stadium an actual home field advantage, they will be in pretty good shape this season. Unfortunately, with a 13-11 home record since they left Texas Stadium behind, it doesn't appear that the home environment has much effect on the Cowboys. The stadium seldom gets loud, and while I used to blame that on the architecture and the cavernous design of the stadium, I must concede that college games and the Super Bowl were very loud and therefore perhaps more of a reflection of the audible impact of the Cowboys' fans themselves.

Is that because these fans do not necessarily buy what the team has been selling over the last few years or is it because the ticket prices have brought a quieter more subdued type of fan to the game? I am not totally full of theories. And, should crowd noise really be factored in when looking at a win/loss record? Perhaps the team assembled has only been good enough to win 13 of 24 home games in the last 3 regular seasons, and blaming a subdued fan-base is misguided. Whatever the reason, it appears the opponents are not scared of a trip to Arlington.

Tampa destroyed Carolina in week 1 before letting the Giants off the hook in New Jersey last weekend by collapsing late and surrendering a ton of points and yards in the 4th Quarter.

They are a new team that is getting used to a new coaching staff under new coach Greg Schiano who has brought in a new style and a new attitude of accountability and hard work. It will be interesting to see if his style has more staying power of his predecessor Raheem Morris, as we heard all about how Morris was bringing his style of relating to the players and not being some screamer back when the Bucs were having a big 2010.  So goes the cycle of coaching styles.  Nothing works when you lose, everything makes sense when you lose.

But, perhaps the thing to make most note of is that the cheapskate Bucs have started to spend some money again.  In comes free agent prizes WR Vincent Jackson and LG Carl Nicks.  Anyone who follows my essays know my regard for Nicks.  I thought he should have been the #1 target for the Cowboys in free agency back in January.  The Cowboys went in a different direction, but Nicks almost never allows anyone to get past him and will serve Tampa quite well despite his guard opposite Davin Joseph being injured and lost for the year.

With Jackson and top picks Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn, the Bucs now are building a reasonable set of targets for Josh Freeman.  Dallas Clark is the tight end and even Jordan Shipley has now been signed to add some slot assistance.  Freeman actually appears to have a little bit of help besides a thumping running game.

Doug Martin is now their top running back option, from Boise State, and LeGarrette Blount provide the backup play in the ground attack.

On defense, they have plenty of high-energy players that will fly to the ball, but no real overwhelming front players that require a game-plan to be centered around slowing them down.  Michael Bennett and Adrian Clayborn will run all day but should be neutralized with proper efforts from the tackles.  Inside, Gerald McCoy has not been the game-changer they had hoped when they took him so high, but there is no question he is the most dynamic of the front.

The back 7 of the defense features plenty of players who have dazzled in pre-draft workouts in the last few years.  Mason Foster and Lavonte David are two excellent linebacker prospects, and everyone knows about Aqib Talib, Ronde Barber, and the apple of the Cowboys' eye, Mark Barron from Alabama.

Barron has not looked totally comfortable at safety yet, but once he gets his bearings, he appears to be one of those play-making safeties that will nail down his spot for quite a while.  The Cowboys war-room gave every indication that if Morris Claiborne was gone early in the 2012 draft, that they would try to mobilize up the board to get Barron.  Did the Cowboys need a big-time corner more than a big-time safety?  Like Tyron Smith vs JJ Watt the year before, I am not sure there is a wrong answer to that question.

One thing that jumps out at you is that there will be opportunities down the field.  Eli Manning and Hakeem Nicks enjoyed their day, but the word is starting to get out that Dez Bryant is not a big fan of press coverage.  If Talib jumps on Dez, it could be a fun match-up to watch all day.

I will take the Cowboys to break out and win, 27-17.  It should be noted that I had the Cowboys winning last week, too, for what it's worth - Which doesn't appear to be much.


Email from Debra:


I think you're confusing causation/correlation with regard to the +25 rushing attempts. The winning percentage is better because they're protecting a lead. They're running out the clock. Teams don't typically win games by allowing the RB pound his way X amount of times. 

By the way, Football Outsiders and other football writers sympathetic to advanced stats have written about this many times. I know you're familiar with Football Outsiders' work, so I was surprised that you came to this conclusion. As to whether the Cowboys should have ran the ball more, I'm not sure. Murray had 12 carries for 44 yards (3.7 YPC). 

Seattle is well known for their stingy run defense. From watching the game live, as well as seeing a few all 22 clips from other sources, it seemed like Seattle played heavy toward the line of scrimmage with Earl Thomas back deep on many plays. That, I think, would encourage passing plays. Especially considering the talent Dallas has at WR/TE (and RB if you consider Murray a receiver in this context).

Thanks, Debra for the email.  She is referring to my "Decoding Garrett" story this week that discusses the Cowboys falling out of balance with regard to running the football which you can read here.  She is also referencing a rather famous essay that Football Outsiders about the myth of running the ball to win a game which can be read here.

I am a very big fan of the work of Football Outsiders and agree with their overall premise that running is not the key to winning, it is often a result of winning.  I know all of this and yet I write that the Cowboys balance is a very important element to their game-plan that Jason Garrett often ignores and it gets the Cowboys in trouble.

Let me explain the difference, in my opinion.  From the 68 games that I have tracked since I have begun my play by play Cowboys database, I have seen the Cowboys fall into the traps of scrapping their normal game plan - every play brings a new personnel grouping and a logical mix of formations and play ideas - for what amounts to a shotgun-heavy, exclusive-pass offense that is closer to Texas Tech circa 2008 than it is to a traditional NFL offense.

When the Cowboys do this, they get in big trouble and run into major inefficiency numbers.  Shotgun, with 11 personnel, is something that many of the best offenses in football have done with ease for years.  The Colts, Patriots, Saints, Packers, and Chargers all employ large doses of Shotgun 11 and drive defenses crazy trying to slow them down.  But, not the Cowboys.  When the Cowboys go shotgun 11 - which is their 2-minute drill offense and their 3rd Down offense - they get into major protection problems, which lead to sacks, false starts, and holding penalties, which then lead to 3rd and 17.  And nothing good happens on 3rd and 17.

My issue with balance may actually not be run/pass.  It may be shotgun/under center.  It is harder to run those numbers, but that is the real issue.  Shotgun is the least physical style of football you can play, as your offensive lineman are always going backwards.  You never allow them to fire off the ball, so they will never get a physical edge in a game.  I think the Cowboys offense has always worked better with Romo under center and a run/pass balance threat for the linebackers and safeties to consider.

But, no, I am not someone who thinks that if Emmitt carries 20 times, the Cowboys automatically win.  If I did, you would give Emmitt the ball the first 20 plays and load up the bus.  That isn't real football.

Dave writes:

Should the Cowboys consider a special teams coaching change?  It seems that the big plays rarely happen and the catastrophes are becoming more common.  It didn't even appear that the Seahawks did anything special to block that punt.

And would it be illegal for the Cowboys to ever block a punt?

I am certainly glad you asked me that!

No, it doesn't appear the Seahawks were trying to block as they only rushed 6 guys.  With 8 blocking 6, it should not be this difficult.  But, Dan Conner and Bruce Carter both got beat to their outside shoulders and honestly, 2 different Seahawks could have blocked that punt.  Bruce Irvin got the credit on tv, but Malcolm Smith actually did the deed before Jerrod Johnson ran it in.

Here is the photographic evidence of who was on the scene.

One of these days, I would love to figure out why the Cowboys have the unbalanced formation on their punts, but I have never received a solid answer.  It is awful deflating to work all week on being prepared to play a game like this only to be sabotaged because 2 linebackers cannot occupy their man for enough time for Chris Jones to get the punt off.

I am sure you are wondering a few questions about this blocked punt, right?

 1) Do the Cowboys lose every game in which they get a punt blocked?

No, it just seems that way.  In the last 15 years, they have lost in Seattle (2012), at the Jets (2011), at Arizona (2008), at Philadelphia (2001), at New York Giants (2001), and at Kansas City (1998).  However, they have had punts blocked at Indianapolis (2010), home versus Washington (2002), and home versus San Francisco (2001) and won.

So, of the last 9 punts that the Cowboys have had blocked, they are 3-6.  And wow, Filip Filipovic, the punter in 2001, had 3 punts blocked in one season.  That is amazing, given that Mat McBriar had 3 punts blocked in his entire career.

 2) How come the Cowboys never seem to block a punt of their own? Let's take a look at this historical record on this front, shall we?

Last 15 years, the Cowboys have blocked just 3 punts.  If you can name them without looking, you are the biggest Cowboys fan of all time.

*10/31/1999 - Lemanski Hall blocked a Hunter Smith punt in a loss at Indianapolis.

*12/8/2002 - Marcus Steele blocked a Bill Lafluer punt in Texas Stadium in a game best remembered for Terrell Owens going to the star and George Teague knocking him off of it.

And the last punt blocked by a Dallas Cowboy?

*11/23/2008 - Carlos Polk blocks Andy Lee's punt at Texas Stadium that rolls out of the endzone.

I had no recollection of any of these - despite watching all 3 games closely - and went to go find the Polk block in my video library.  Here is what I found for you.  Enjoy:

Finally, everyone sent me a variation of this email or tweet:



This is likely the first thing many of you expected when you found out that Martellus Bennett, the latest version of Bobby Carpenter (draft pick that not only did not reach expectations, but never came close to even demonstrating a worthiness of being in the NFL while in Dallas) signed with a rival.

Looking back, he was a pick they didn't need to make, as they already had a fine #2 Tight End in Anthony Fasano if they wanted to make "12" personnel a part of their attack.  Let's not forget, before New England did this idea right, the Cowboys tried to make it work.  It just never came close to working.

But, why?  Why did he look so promising at times?  Why did he look like a weapon in training camp but never a threat on game day?  Who do we blame?  Are the Cowboys this bad at developing talent?

It makes you wonder.  He already has 3 touchdowns in New York - the only Giant to ever get 3 in his first 3 games - which is just 1 short of his 4 he scored in Dallas in 4 seasons.

Why did it not work here?

Coaching?  Yes.  There is no doubt that they tried to turn him into a highly compensated blocking tight end when they got tired of his act.

Quarterbacking?  Yes.  He was dead to Romo by about late 2009.  He wasn't dependable and he didn't make tough catches so he was a last resort.

Bennett being immature?  Yes.  He wasn't always in great condition, he lost his confidence, and his immaturity was legendary for thinking he had arrived when he did arrive in the NFL.

You would think that to deal with a guy like Bennett, you would need a veteran to show him how to act.  And the Cowboys had Jason Witten.  You would think that the Cowboys would be able to pull off the New England model of "12" personnel with tight ends that cannot be covered by linebackers killing the seams.  Then, you switch to dime to cover them, and they kill you on the ground.  There is no way to deal with it.

And the Cowboys never got out of their own barn.

Sooner or later, the wasting of perfectly good picks like Felix Jones and Martellus Bennett must stop.  And that is the mandate of this current staff.  Instead, it seems like a perpetual cycle of frustration that the Cowboys continue to ride when they try to develop players.

Meanwhile, Martellus might have needed the humbling of Dallas to show him what amount of work is required to be a player on Sundays.  For the first time in his life, he cannot dominate just by showing up.  These players are just as gifted and now it comes down to work.

Regardless, it makes everyone ill to see a giant talent like Bennett hooking up with Eli Manning now on a regular basis.  He will surely have a career year (he only needs 99 yards to eclipse his high) and revive his future chance to get paid.