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Thread: Sturm's Morning After - Cowboys Defense Can't Stop Rodgers Late

  1. #1
    One-armed Knife Sharpener Iamtdg's Avatar
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    Sturm's Morning After - Cowboys Defense Can't Stop Rodgers Late

    By Bob Sturm , Special contributor

    If you believe that "the best defense is a great offense", then the result of yesterday's game falls to the group that had the ball in their hands down on the other end of the field. If you believe that Aaron Rodgers is nearly unstoppable - especially in this building against this defense - then you have to roll the tape back to where there is still 1:24 to play in the game.

    That is where my attention goes.

    Ezekiel Elliott just rolled off a Zone-Read give for 8 yards. The Cowboys are rolling. They have the Packers on the run and the game in their sights. Yes, they trail 28-24, but because of two consecutive coaches challenges - one from each head coach - we had a Cowboys 1st down, challenged back short of the sticks, then a Cowboys 4th down stop, challenged barely ahead of the sticks all within moments. Sky cam saved the day with a view of Elliott reaching the ball past the hash at the 19 yard line.

    Then, Elliott eats up 8 more yards. The Cowboys have the Packers down to 1 timeout and there is a very real possibility now - with 1:24 to go - that if the Cowboys play this right they can take the clock almost all the way down, burn the Packers' last timeout, and then drive over the goal-line with no time remaining. Perhaps even a replay of Bart Starr crashing in behind Jerry Kramer, but here it is Dak Prescott following Zack Martin to pay-dirt.

    But, that requires some perfect decision-making to compliment the rough execution to drive the dagger into the hearts of their current-day nemesis.

    And, this is where the decision making went bad. You see, the play before it (the Elliott 8 yard run) and this play and the play after it (the Prescott touchdown) were all basically the same play-call off the RPO (Run-Pass Option) that we talk so much about. They all gave Prescott the authority to diagnose the situation and the defensive alignment and all the coaches can do once they give him the complete control of the steering wheel is to hope he makes the correct decision.

    Now, they do that because he makes the correct decision almost every time. And, just like the loss to this same opponent 266 days ago in the exact same location, Prescott played a brilliant game that should have been more than enough to leave with the win. Except, of course, if the other guy plays a game even more close to perfection.

    So, here is 2nd and 2 with 1:24 to go. Prescott's biggest decision blunder is to look at the Packers in pre-snap and diagnose what he sees as a call that is an automatic in the Dallas offense. You see a corner on his own - this time Davon House (a man released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in March and was re-signed by his original Green Bay team shortly thereafter) - trying to handle Dez Bryant in the red zone. This is a read that the QB sees only occasionally since most opponents don't try it anymore, but when you do see it the alarms go off inside the head of a QB. Tony Romo saw the same thing at Lambeau Field when Sam Shields was trying to do the same thing back in January of 2015 and now Prescott saw Davon House on Dez Bryant all alone.

    You always go to this throw. It is 100% the correct read in a vacuum. Except, that decision was incorrect here.

    If you go to that read, Bryant on House, you have a number of potential outcomes. The best one is a Touchdown - which is great to give the Cowboys the lead, but now you give the Packers way too much time to respond from what would be a 3-point deficit based on lessons learned last January. Another not-so-great outcome is an incomplete pass which gives Green Bay a timeout they didn't have to spare.

    Dak Prescott almost always makes the right decision. But, here, you have to ignore your meetings and your instincts and you have to play the game in front of you. In other words, it is automatic, unless you are playing against the clock. On 2nd and 2, you run the ball and keep the clock moving. You cannot allow the Packers to keep their timeout and the remaining time in the game. The QB did not know his situation well enough at this early stage of his career.

    The clock stops at 1:18 and sets up a 3rd and 2. The Cowboys call yet another RPO. If there are 3 different adventures for RPOs, we are seeing them all here. Give to Elliott on the dive, keep and throw to the open man (which worked for the 2nd Cole Beasley Touchdown in the 1st half), and finally, keep the ball and run to the opposite corner after Elliott draws all the attention from the backside edge defender.

    On this 3rd down, Ahmad Brooks crashed in on Elliott and had both arms around #21. Problem is that he didn't have the ball and now Prescott runs to the space that Brooks just vacated and turned the corner. From here, Mike Daniels is not facing the run and no other Packers' defender is close. Jason Witten has Haha Clinton-Dix on a block and the safety had no chance, either. By the time anyone touches Prescott, he had already crossed the goal-line to score an 11-yard touchdown with 1:13 to play. He was untouched.

    It made you wonder if Green Bay was playing a mental game in their own heads. Surely they weren't, but watching Clinton-Dix not really give effort to get around Witten suggested that they knew that if they couldn't stop Elliott on that 4th Down, maybe their best chance to win was getting Aaron Rodgers the ball back as soon as they possibly could. In other words, if you can't stop them, let them score quickly. 20 years ago they did it in Super Bowl 32 with all different players and coaches, and anyone who follows Green Bay was thinking that very thing yesterday.

    Should Prescott have considered getting to the 1-yard line and purposely falling short of the goal-line to eliminate any Green Bay chance at a response? Let's be clear: I am not sure any team in the history of the sport has tried this while trailing. Brian Westbrook did it at Texas Stadium in 2007, but that was with his team leading, 10-6. Was it crazy to consider it? Could Green Bay have stopped the Cowboys four times from the 1-yard line? And if you don't get the ball into the end zone, does Jason Garrett get fired for his QB's decision?

    Prescott scored to give the Cowboys a 31-28 lead - as any football player surely would have there - but, we will always wonder if the only way to win this game would have been to "pull a Westbrook" and understand that not only did you have to score, but you also had to leave no chance for a response. He went in virtually untouched and now it fell to the defense to save the game as they kicked the ball back to Green Bay with 1:13 to play.

    Last January, Rodgers had 2 timeouts and 0:35 to play in a game that was tied 31-31. This time, he gets 1:13 and 1 timeout against a defense that doesn't have Sean Lee - a point that has been made exceedingly clear through all of this is that Lee is without question the most indispensable member of the Dallas defense.

    In that game last January, there was a moment where Jeff Heath has Rodgers for a blindside sack and has a chance to get the ball. He does not. Rodgers escapes disaster and eventually makes the play to win the game.

    In this game, there will also be that moment where Dallas was right on top of him and somehow he pulled another escape act to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. But, first, on the initial four snaps of the drive, the Packers find 14 yards to Davante Adams on the left sideline, 14 yards to Martellus Bennett back to the right, and 15 yards is gained on a handoff to Green Bay's 3rd RB Aaron Jones who was anonymous in his NFL career until Sunday afternoon.

    Those 43 yards in four plays carried them all the way to the Dallas 32 yard line with :39 to play. They were already in field goal range if you assume Mason Crosby was in any shape to kick a field goal today (one thing that really had changed from January 15th).

    But, after an incompletion and a short run, Green Bay now sat at a 3rd and 8 at the 30 yard line. This is the play that will stick in your memories for a bit.

    The Cowboys are going to roll out the "deacon" package where they are in 2-deep, man under, with 3 rushers and a QB spy LB. The 2 LBs that are on the field are Anthony Hitchens and Justin Durant. One of them is to pick up Aaron Jones and the other is to keep Aaron Rodgers from breaking contain. 3 pass rushers are the best the Cowboys have - Demarcus Lawrence, David Irving, and Benson Mayowa from left to right.

    The Packers will double-team Lawrence - which takes the right tackle and right guard - leaving Irving in a 1-on-1 with center Corey Linsley and Mayowa against Lane Taylor (who is their left guard playing left tackle for the 2nd game of his career). The left guard is responsible for a blitzing LB who appears to be Hitchens, but when Aaron Jones slides out of the pocket into a route, Hitchens goes with him. The problem with that is Durant is doing the same thing. The Cowboys have 2 LBs who play both positions regularly and on this occasion it appears both seem to be thinking they have the same responsibility as each other. Both are on the RB and neither are spying the guy with the ball and the reputation - Rodgers.

    As the play develops, Mayowa is winning against Taylor and as Rodgers steps up in the pocket, Mayowa gets both hands on the QB at the 38-yard line. But, Rodgers is able to power through that and head to the left sideline. David Irving who has tremendous mobility for a man his size is now on top of Rodgers' path and dives to get his legs from a close proximity at the 33-yard line. Somehow, Rodgers eludes him, too. Since there are no LBs close an the secondary is in man coverage, he has a lot of space down the sideline and finally stops the clock and the play at the 12 yard line with 0:21 to play. It is a fresh set of downs and that might have been the last chance to stop him as the ending from here felt a bit inevitable.

    The Packers then run consecutive back shoulder fades to Adams against promising rookie Jourdan Lewis. As solid as the young Lewis is, he is still 5'10 and the Packers knew to isolate him for a rather unstoppable concept if properly executed. The first attempt was not a great throw. The second one was perfect and Adams caught it in a spot where Lewis could do almost nothing. The only way to stop that situation is generally to halt them further up the field. Green Bay is the gold standard in the red zone and ball placement from their QB is the top reason why.

    Green Bay wins again, 35-31. They won in the playoffs, 34-31. The Rams won last week, 35-30. If you are wondering if the Cowboys offense can protect its defense, the answers here are pretty clear. In fact, thanks to football writer Scott Kacsmar we have this ominous statistic to chew on: Since 2010, the Cowboys are only 15-10 in home games in which they score at least 30 points. 10 losses is double that of any other team in the NFL over that span. The league wins 89% of the time over that span. New England is 40-2, Green Bay is 28-1, Denver is 24-2, and Seattle is 21-2. Basically, nobody ever loses home games win scoring 30 points besides the Jason Garrett-era Dallas Cowboys. They have lost 10 times in 25 chances.

    We certainly blamed Tony Romo for that and, today, I have blamed Dak Prescott's decision making a bit for this loss. Neither were perfect, and unfortunately, because the franchise has had such a hard time building championship defense, they have had to be to win regularly as the Cowboys QB1.

    This is just the latest example of the opponent being one score better.
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  2. #2
    Teh Acester Texas Ace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iamtdg View Post
    So, here is 2nd and 2 with 1:24 to go. Prescott's biggest decision blunder is to look at the Packers in pre-snap and diagnose what he sees as a call that is an automatic in the Dallas offense. You see a corner on his own - this time Davon House (a man released by the Jacksonville Jaguars in March and was re-signed by his original Green Bay team shortly thereafter) - trying to handle Dez Bryant in the red zone. This is a read that the QB sees only occasionally since most opponents don't try it anymore, but when you do see it the alarms go off inside the head of a QB. Tony Romo saw the same thing at Lambeau Field when Sam Shields was trying to do the same thing back in January of 2015 and now Prescott saw Davon House on Dez Bryant all alone.

    You always go to this throw. It is 100% the correct read in a vacuum. Except, that decision was incorrect here.

    If you go to that read, Bryant on House, you have a number of potential outcomes. The best one is a Touchdown - which is great to give the Cowboys the lead, but now you give the Packers way too much time to respond from what would be a 3-point deficit based on lessons learned last January. Another not-so-great outcome is an incomplete pass which gives Green Bay a timeout they didn't have to spare.

    Dak Prescott almost always makes the right decision. But, here, you have to ignore your meetings and your instincts and you have to play the game in front of you. In other words, it is automatic, unless you are playing against the clock. On 2nd and 2, you run the ball and keep the clock moving. You cannot allow the Packers to keep their timeout and the remaining time in the game. The QB did not know his situation well enough at this early stage of his career.
    And again, this still falls on the coaches.

    Just like I said it did in week 1 when we passed 3 straight times against the Giants from the 3 yard line, and just like I said many times during the Romo era.

    A HC worth a damn is going to recognize and understand the moment and tell his QB what needs to be done in that particular instance.

    But as usual, Jason Garrett lacks situational awareness and therefore a run/pass option is called on play where there should be no option.

    Almost every single QB alive is going to throw the ball in that scenario because they're the freaking QB! Just like if you gave the RB the power to make that decision, he's going to choose to run the ball.

    So I don't know how many times this has to happen and bite us in the ass before Garrett gets a clue. Wait.....I already know the answer to that. It's NEVER going to change because just as time management issues have bitten him in the ass time and time again, he's never learned to approach the situation differently the next time around so I wouldn't expect for him to eliminate the RPO in a scenario like this going forward.

    Jason Garrett is the most clueless buffoon of a HC that I have ever seen. The exact same thing can happen to him 20 times in a row and yet he won't be any better or more prepared for it when it happens the 21st time.

    He's an imbecile that gives us no chance to win big and that is not going to change....EVER.
    2013 DCC Fantasy Football Champeen

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  4. #3
    Senior Member pdom's Avatar
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    That third to last paragraph with the 15-10 stat is brutal. 10 losses is double any other team and the league average is 89% vs our 60%.

    Brutal.

  5. #4
    Senior Member p1_'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdom View Post
    That third to last paragraph with the 15-10 stat is brutal. 10 losses is double any other team and the league average is 89% vs our 60%.

    Brutal.
    Since 2010, the Cowboys are only 15-10 in home games in which they score at least 30 points. 10 losses is double that of any other team in the NFL over that span. The league wins 89% of the time over that span. New England is 40-2, Green Bay is 28-1, Denver is 24-2, and Seattle is 21-2. Basically, nobody ever loses home games win scoring 30 points besides the Jason Garrett-era Dallas Cowboys. They have lost 10 times in 25 chances.
    Romo's gone. Dak is the new boss.

  6. #5
    Senior Member pdom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Texas Ace View Post
    Almost every single QB alive is going to throw the ball in that scenario because they're the freaking QB! Just like if you gave the RB the power to make that decision, he's going to choose to run the ball.
    well...Garrett was a QB, so there you go.

    Quarterbacks gonna quarter under center, in the huddle or with a headset on.

  7. #6
    Teh Acester Texas Ace's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by p1_ View Post
    Since 2010, the Cowboys are only 15-10 in home games in which they score at least 30 points. 10 losses is double that of any other team in the NFL over that span. The league wins 89% of the time over that span. New England is 40-2, Green Bay is 28-1, Denver is 24-2, and Seattle is 21-2. Basically, nobody ever loses home games win scoring 30 points besides the Jason Garrett-era Dallas Cowboys. They have lost 10 times in 25 chances.
    That is unacceptable.

    A lot of that is defense for sure, but some of that is Garrett's retarded history with abandoning the run.

    That 2013 game vs Green Bay is a game we absolutely would have won had we run the ball more, even despite a leaky defense.
    2013 DCC Fantasy Football Champeen

  8. #7
    Senior Member pdom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Texas Ace View Post
    That is unacceptable.

    A lot of that is defense for sure, but some of that is Garrett's retarded history with abandoning the run.

    Clock Bowl I is a game we absolutely would have won had we run the ball more, even despite a leaky defense.
    FIFY

  9. #8
    Senior Member pdom's Avatar
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    Said it before and I'll say it again...

    Whether it's the game overall or on a single drive/play, have we ever, ever complained about running the ball too much?

    Pass-happiness is probably 75% of the DCC's post history, so thank you for that, I guess.

  10. #9
    One-armed Knife Sharpener Iamtdg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by pdom View Post
    Said it before and I'll say it again...

    Whether it's the game overall or on a single drive/play, have we ever, ever complained about running the ball too much?

    Pass-happiness is probably 75% of the DCC's post history, so thank you for that, I guess.
    We have smart fans here. That has been proven time and time again. This group knows what it is talking about.
    2016 DCC LOTY Fantasy Football Champion

  11. #10
    Senior Member pdom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iamtdg View Post
    We have smart fans here. That has been proven time and time again. This group knows what it is talking about.
    W/o pass-happiness complaints, all we'd have are Schmittys titties and Bipo's memes. You wouldn't get anymore $2.46 donations from me for that.

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