While I have not yet concluded my film study for the 2009 season, I wanted to take the time to talk about a formation (and recurring play out of this formation) I noticed the Cowboys running more and more as the season progressed: Double Tight Right (or Left) Strong (or I-formation) Right (or Left).
The differences between the side, or whether it is Strong or I-formation, are negligible (strong just means the fullback is shaded slightly more strong side, toward the double tight ends).
Through 13 weeks, the Cowboys ran this formation 90 times. The breakdown is shown below.
Incredibly, they ran the same play (a strong side dive) 66 of those times (73.3 percent). Of the 24 remaining plays, 14 were runs to the weakside (often tosses outside).
I understand it is important to set teams up for plays later in the game, or even later in the season, but running the exact same play 73.3 percent of the time out of a certain formation seems a bit excessive.
Any "excessive" label, however, is of course reliant on how effective the play turned out to be. If teams were truly noticing this trend on film and adjusting their defenses accordingly, we would expect the average yards per carry on the dive play from this formation to fall as the year proceeded.
Not surprisingly, this is just the trend that becomes evident after analyzing the film. In Dallas’ first five games they ran up the middle on the strong side out of the formation 19 times for 149 yards (7.8 yards per carry).
It is reasonable to believe teams did not yet catch on to the trend until after Week 5 at Kansas City because, in the first four weeks of the season, the team lined up in the formation just five times per game.
In the next eight games, however, that 7.8 yard average dropped to 5.0 yards per carry (45 carries for 223 yards). Still a solid number, but a lot less impressive when taking into account that 113 of those yards came against an inept Oakland team.
In the other seven games, the Cowboys ran a strong side dive out of Double Tight Strong/I formation 34 times for 110 yards, an average yards per carry of just 3.2.
While the totals against Oakland obviously still count to the team’s total, the fact that so many of these late-season yards came against one opponent seems to suggest Oakland was the exception. In fact, the Cowboys did not run for more than 30 yards per game using the play in any of the other games through Week 14.
Even more astonishing than the incredibly high percentage of dive plays coming out of this Double Tight formation is the fact that the Cowboys motioned into this formation 40 of the 90 plays—and on 34 of these 40 plays, they ran up the middle strong side (always in the "1" or "2" hole, depending on the side the tight ends were lined up on).
Thus, 85 percent of the time when the Cowboys motioned into Double Tight Right/Left Strong/I Right/Left, they ran the same exact play. If the specific formation was Double Tight Left I Left, for example, then they ran up the "1" hole (between Kosier and Gurode).
While teams obviously could not completely sell out against the run, knowing that there is an extremely good chance a team will run in a certain hole allows players to cheat a bit to that area, yet still be aware of the possibility for playaction. The diminished results that this play yielded as the season progressed are a testament to this idea.
Within a week I will conclude my film study and report the final results of this breakdown, along with a wealth of other interesting observations and statistics.