Five Plays That Helped The Cowboys Miss Super Bowl Expectations in 2008

Andy SimpsonAnalyst IMay 12, 2009

PHILADELPHIA - DECEMBER 28:  Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys makes a catch against the Philadelphia Eagles on December 28, 2008 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Dallas fell short of their Super Bowl expectations in 2008.  (Many teams have aspirations, but few teams face expectations.)   

After finishing second in scoring offense in 2007, the Dallas Cowboys fell back to 18th last season.  The defense dropped from 13th in scoring to 20th in scoring.

At least they weren't the Detroit Lions.

While injuries limited the offense at times, many fans and experts (if you consider the wide receiver core experts) questioned the play-calling.

So, what worked best for the Cowboys in 2008?  Here are five quick answers.

1. Five yard Curl Route to Jason Witten

Witten usually lined up in a "Pro" formation to the right side of the offense, which was on Tony Romo's right.  Virtually every time Dallas had a big third down conversion, Romo could roll right and find Witten.

2. Twelve-15 yard Crossing Pattern to Terrell Owens

Jason Garrett could be criticized most for his stubbornness to not run this pattern more often.  When Owens lined up in the slot in three-receiver sets, he could avoid the jam (his biggest Achilles heel) and catch the ball over the middle at top speed.

3. The Counter-Draw/Counter-Trap with Marion Barber

Dallas usually ran this play out of the Shotgun.  This play opened up for Dallas in the second half of games, usually after Barber and the huge offensive line had pounded right at the opponent's defensive line in the first half.

4. Quick Screen to Martellus Bennett

As Bennett emerged as a receiver, the Cowboys created favorable match-ups by using two-tight end sets with Bennett and Witten.  The Cowboys had two plays over 20 yards by hitting Bennett on a quick screen in the second level (linebackers) of the defense.

5. Inside Linebacker Blitz

The defense of Wade Phillips deserved some credit in this list.  Out of their base 3-4, Dallas would send nose tackle Jay Ratliff and one of the inside linebackers, Bradie James or Zach Thomas, on a "twist" stunt.  James barely missed the Pro Bowl with 116 tackles and eight sacks, much of that coming while being featured in this look.

With the exception of the Crossing Route to Owens, Dallas must build on these five successful plays to push their way back into the playoffs in 2009.

If you think of any plays or stats that would add to this, please comment below!


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