Cowboys Defense Learning to Bend Without Breaking

After the Cowboys defense failed to make the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos punt on 13 possessions, they made Washington’s offense punt 3 times on 13 possessions. The Cowboys punted 5 times on 11 possessions. Washington managed 433 total yards gaining 246 yards passing and 216 yards rushing. The Cowboys defense was credited for being improved because the 433 yards are deceiving.

Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kyle Wilber (51) recovers a fumble by Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (not pictured) in the fourth quarter at AT

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Cover-2 (Tampa 2) style defense is a bend but don’t break defense. It’s designed to give up small plays and tighten up in the red zone. When it works, offenses will have a lot of yards, but few points.

Griffin’s 246 passing yards is acceptable and ranked him 16th out of 30 starting quarterbacks in week 6. Griffin’s quarterback rating was 58.3, 27th of 30 quarterbacks. The lack of passing touchdowns indicates Kiffin’s defense is moving in the right direction.

Allowing 216 rushing yards on 33 attempts (6.5 yards per attempt) is concerning for the Cowboys defense. The number looks better when you factor Griffin accounted for 77 yards on 9 carries (8.6 yards per attempt). Removing Griffin’s stats brings the number to a more acceptable 139 yards rushing, which doesn’t include Griffin’s designed running plays. Stopping the running back is the defense’s primary responsibility, except when the quarterback is a running threat. In week 6, Griffin led all quarterbacks in rushing yards over Seattle’s Russell Wilson (61 yards) and Oakland’s Terrelle Pryor (60 yards).

Sep 22, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin on the filed prior to the game against the St. Louis Rams at AT

The Cowboys managed to contain Griffin’s rushing plays without designating a LB as a QB spy or allowing Washington to dictate the defensive coverage. The Cowboys were also able to blend both man and zone coverage. Zone coverage allows defenders to keep an eye on mobile quarterbacks. Cowboys will face Pryor in week 13 and a mobile quarterback system when they face the Eagles in next week.

Offensively, the Cowboys numbers are distorted. When your special teams and defense performs well, the offense will win the field position battle. The Cowboys offense marched 80 yards for a touchdown on their first possession. Thanks to a spectacular return by Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys needed to travel 15 yards for their second touchdown. The final short touchdown resulted from a sack/fumble recovery by Kyle Wilber on Washington’s 3 yard line. It’s hard to accumulate large offensive stats when your field position is excellent.

Oct 13, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) returns a punt in the scone quarter of the game against the Washington Redskins at AT

The troublesome side is how the Cowboys offense stalled in the third quarter. They had two drives of three plays each that totaled -5 yards. Romo led the Cowboys on a nine play, 49 yard drive that resulted in a field goal. That drive consisted of nine passing plays which had me worried, but they managed to return to the running game in the fourth quarter.

The numbers may indicate that the Cowboys weren’t successful running the ball. They managed 48 yards on 19 carries (2.5 yards per attempt). When you run the ball to kill the clock or punch a short run into the end zone, stats will deceive you.

#Go Cowboys

Topics: Dallas Cowboys

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  • SmartThinking

    Kiffin’s and Marinali’s defensive schemes are so much better and more suited to the type of players currently on the Dallas defense. If JJ Wilcox or Kyle Wilber, or George Selvie had to work inside the smoke and mirrors Ryan defense from last year, I hate to think what it would look like. These guys should be congratulated for how far they’ve already brought a bunch off no-names this year.

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