Cowboys vs. Lions: Week 11 Post-Film Study Notes

Jonathan BalesAnalyst INovember 22, 2010

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 21:  The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders perform before the Cowboys take on the Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium on November 21, 2010 in Arlington, Texas.  The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-19. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I posted a lot of interesting notes on the Cowboys-Lions game last night.

Below are some observations and statistics I gathered after reviewing the game film...

  • Dallas ran 12 red-zone plays: seven runs for 27 yards and five passes for four yards (including a sack for -8 yards) and two touchdowns. I’ve loved Jason Garrett’s red zone play-calling thus far in 2010. A while back, I suggested that he call more passes between the opponent’s 10 and 20-yard lines, and more runs inside the 10-yard line (particularly on first down). He’s doing just that and it’s working well.
  • You may have noticed the Cowboys have run a lot less three-receiver sets of late. Last week, they implemented only 14, and this week it was only 16. This decrease is due to a variety of factors, not least of which is attempting to provide protection for Jon Kitna. Martellus Bennett is a tremendous blocker (better than even Marc Colombo, I’d say), and his receiving skills force defenses to honor him in the passing game.
  • Part of the decrease in three (and four) receiver formations is also due to Dez Bryant’s presence in base personnel packages. He’s earned the right to be on the field for the majority of snaps, and now Garrett isn’t forced to put three receivers on the field to get Bryant involved. I’m not afraid to admit I have a bit of a man-crush on him.
  • The lack of receivers has also resulted in less shotgun snaps (or perhaps vice versa). Through Week 10, the Cowboys were in shotgun on a ridiculous 47.3 percent of all snaps. This week, however, Dallas used shotgun on only 13-of-54 offensive plays (24.1 percent). This comes just a week after using shotgun at the same rate in their win over the Giants. Garrett must have recently realized how much more successful Kitna is under center as opposed to in shotgun.
  • The Cowboys motioned 16 times, including on 10 of the first 18 plays. They gained only 85 total yards on the 16 plays (5.31 yards-per-play).
  • Kitna checked out of three plays on Sunday. All of them were passes and they totaled four yards. That sounds poor, but two of them were touchdowns (Bryant’s touchdown and Austin’s first touchdown).
  • In my notes from yesterday, I mentioned I liked a play that didn’t work for Dallas. They had lined Marion Barber up at fullback and motioned Felix Jones to tailback from the slot (in my notes I mistakingly said it was Bryant). When they’ve done this in the past, they’ve usually handed the ball to Barber on a dive. When that doesn’t happen, they’ll pitch it out to Jones. Well, they faked both this week, and may have found themselves another touchdown had Jason Witten and Marc Colombo blocked better. Both guys whiffed on their defender (the same guy, I might add).
  • Speaking of Colombohe was absolutely horrible. I knew he was bad, but after I reviewed the film, I realized he was even worse than I thought. I credited him with yielding 1.5 sacks, and he also got nailed for a false start and a holding penalty. I think it is time for Sam Young.
  • Kitna has spread the ball around quite well since becoming the starter (in terms of placement of passes). Take a look at the distribution below:



  • You can see that the distribution of throws for Kitna has been nearly identical to the left, middle and right portions of the field. You can also see that he’s been incredibly accurate over the middle of the field, while the highest percentage of his ‘off-target’ passes have come when throwing to the right side of the field. Compare these numbers to those of Romo in 2009:


  • Kitna has obviously been more erratic this season than Romo was in 2009, but not bad for a backup. By the way, Kitna threw a season-low four off-target passes on Sunday against the Lions.
  • The Cowboys ran four draws for 44 yards. But they all came late in the contest.
  • The ‘Boys ran quite a few play-action passes throughout the game (eight), and I’m happy to report they threw the ball downfield following those looks. Five of the eight passes traveled over 10 yards, and three of them went 15-plus.
  • It was a big screen game for Dallas as well. They attempted six of them for 46 yards. The targets were Jones (three times), Choice (twice), and Bryant (once).
  • Roy Williams got into the action early, hauling in two passes for 20 yards on the first drive. He wasn’t even targeted the rest of the game, though. Meanwhile, Chris Gronkowski was targeted three times.
  • Of the 28 times Dallas dropped back to pass, Witten was in a route on 18 of them (64.3 percent). That’s a good rate.
  • Bryant did a really nice job of blocking on run plays. He’s a complete player, and his effort on each play is phenomenal.
  • On the fourth-quarter screen pass to Jones that went for 25 yards, Kyle Kosier got away with a blatant block-in-the-back. He missed his guy and pushed him in the back right in front of the ball, so I’m not sure how it was overlooked.
  • The naked bootleg fourth-down play on which Kitna ran for a 29-yard touchdown was a thing of beauty, but I think Garrett should have saved it. Clearly, no one expects Kitna to keep the ball, particularly from a formation (Double Tight I) in which the Cowboys nearly always hand the ball off to the running back. Perhaps Garrett didn’t have as much confidence in it at the time, but it sure would be nice to have that play in your back pocket for a crucial fourth-down play in the future.
  • I’m not understanding why, in the last two teams the ‘Boys have played, have decided not to blitz them much. The Giants sat back and let Kitna pick them apart last week, and the Lions did basically the same today. I counted only 12 blitzes all day from Detroit. They did disguise them well, showing blitz pre-snap on only three of those 12 plays, but you’d think teams would recognize the Cowboys’ offensive line has trouble against blitzes, stunts and twists and react accordingly.

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