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Game Notes

How Cowboys Used Scissors To Create Big Plays From Tight Ends

Kevin Brady

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Cowboys Headlines - A Reminder To The World: Jason Witten Is An All-Time Great

One area in which the 8-6 Dallas Cowboys have faced a ton of criticism this season is with their passing game. Even without Ezekiel Elliott, the running game has given the offense *enough* most weeks. Failure to deliver through the air plagued Dallas greatly during their three game losing skid, however.

While it wasn't always pretty Sunday Night in Oakland, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys made enough plays over the top of the Raiders defense to pull out a key victory. One play in particular aided them heavily early one, creating two deep receptions to tight ends. One of which set up the game's first touchdown.

How did the Cowboys execute these big plays? One word - Scissors.

The scissors concept is pretty simple to grasp. The inside receiver runs a corner route while the outside receiver crosses him and runs a post route. The route combination quite literally forms a scissor, hence the name. This is a half-field read for the quarterback and his progression goes from post to corner most often.

Typically, this route combination is ideal verse 2-high. In this instance the outside receiver's release will hold the cornerback, leaving the safety (who is responsible for the deep half of the field) to defend both the corner route and post route in his zone.

dalvsoak jason witten - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

The first time the Cowboys went to this route concept, however, the Raiders rotated down to a cover 3 look. At first Oakland showed two-deep, but the near safety rolled down towards the line of scrimmage pre-snap. This left cover three behind him, and Dak Prescott was able to pick apart the secondary.

At this point in the play you can see the cornerback at the top of the screen flip his hips and run with Terrance Williams. The safety is rolling towards the middle of the field as he is responsible for the deep-middle, leaving that far corner in quite the bind.

 1

A few moments later we see Jason Witten break off his route towards the sideline. Typically, scissors is taught for the inside receiver to cross underneath the post route, and considering the cushion being afforded here it appears to make a lot of sense.

The far cornerback should peel off of Williams and work back towards Witten, as he is responsible for that deep-third of the field. This would leave the deep safety to account for Williams across the middle. Instead he sticks with Beasley and the linebacker underneath fails to get enough depth to affect Prescott's read whatsoever.

So since the safety doesn't get the post, the corner doesn't peel off and get to Witten, and the linebacker isn't able to get enough depth in his zone (in Madden, we call what he needs to do a "purple zone"), Prescott finds Witten for an easy completion down the field.

dalvsoak james hanna - Streamable

Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.

Just two possessions later the Cowboys come back to scissors concept, this time on the opposite side of the field. James Hanna is lined up inline, and with Terrance Williams being the only wide-out on the field, I'm sure Oakland was expecting a run play.

Oakland is sitting in cover 3 again this time, and the failure of the playside cornerback to peel off the post route once again does them in. Still, credit must be given to the Cowboys coaching staff for recognizing this area of vulnerability in the Raiders' defense and exploiting it during the game.

Also, credit Dak Prescott for not simply attacking what may have seemed like a one-on-one chance to Dez Bryant and instead remaining patient in his half-field read until Witten cleared underneath Beasley for the easy completion.



Die-hard Cowboys fan from the Northeast, so you know I am here to defend the 'boys whenever necessary. Began writing for a WordPress Cowboys Blog, and am currently a college student. Lets get going.

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3 Comments
  • oneputter

    in the first video, scissors route, that sure looks like 83 as the Z WR not 11.

    in the throw to 84, although a completion, that ball needs to get there quicker to allow hanna to make a play after the catch. i know it’s off PA but dak kinda takes his time to deliver the pass. ball should be out before 84 makes his break.

    dak needs to work on this, his route anticipation, as it’s pretty obvious who is going to be open once the CB runs with 83.

  • ICCJ2020

    Dak needs to hit the receivers earlier, it is something that I thought he would have worked on this last off-season. I think he is so focused on not throwing interceptions that he waits too long.

    • https://kevinrobertbrady.wordpress.com Kevin Brady

      Dak’s not really an anticipation thrower. This may come, it may not. But good to remember he’s only in year two. Thanks for reading!

Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Dak’s 1st Loss at Redskins Leaves Cowboys Losers Before Bye

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Dak's 1st Loss at Redskins Leaves Cowboys Losers Before Bye

The Dallas Cowboys went in to Washington losers of their last three road games this season, in position to change that behind Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott's previously undefeated record against the Redskins. In the end, the ball was ultimately taken out of their hands as the Cowboys played for overtime, watching their effort come up short again with Brett Maher's miss from 52-yards out.

As was the case two weeks ago in Houston, the Cowboys multitude of errors have been focused into one play, with L.P. Ladouceur becoming the scapegoat for his penalty that pushed back the Cowboys final field goal attempt. With an unmanageable 14 days before their next game, the real issues inside this Cowboys team have plenty of time to surface, as enough were on display Sunday for Dallas to miss out on another shot at the division lead.

Here's a look at my initial notes from this Cowboys loss, sending them into their bye week at 3-4 and 1-1 in the NFC East.

  • This was yet another game where the Cowboys dealt with the ups and downs of rookie Left Guard Connor Williams.

On the same drive that Prescott left the field to be checked in the medical tent following a big hit out of bounds, Michael Gallup was able to provide a spark with a 22-yard gain on a perfect strike from Dak.

Williams helped make the play possible by holding off a bull rush from Daron Payne. The Redskins feature both Payne and his former Alabama teammate Jonathan Allen at defensive tackle. They ensured the Cowboys would get nothing going on the ground in this game.

Five plays later, Williams would be called for a chop block that put Dallas behind the chains. The drive stalled and the Cowboys punted, which was a much better result compared to Prescott's attempt at overcoming Williams' holding penalty in the fourth quarter.

Erasing a first down to Cole Beasley, Prescott ran into pressure in his own end zone on third and long, inexcusably fumbling the ball for an easy Redskins recovery and touchdown.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

Y'all are really going to make me do this... okay. Here we go. https://t.co/awNm55TxnH

  • Michael Gallup finally scored his first career touchdown, and has to be asking himself if they can really be so easy, as he ran wide open down the left sideline to score from 49-yards out.

Gallup sold his route brilliantly, getting his defender to bite hard on the stop route before releasing over the top. Even with some pressure in his face, Prescott delivered a perfect pass that allowed Gallup to walk in.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

I truly love me some @michael13gallup. https://t.co/KEjh9BDUPS

Give credit to the receivers around Gallup for setting up this play. Allen Hurns caught five passes, his most in a game for the Cowboys, many of them coming on the same route that Gallup faked before running vertical.

The Cowboys have deserved criticism for their lack of route designs on the outside, but when they execute well enough to win as they did here, it's easier to see the trust that remains in this team for Scott Linehan as their play caller.

It's unfortunate we didn't get to see Prescott throw at least two more passes down the stretch. Beasley was having his way with a depleted Washington secondary, and with a timeout in their pocket the Cowboys could have worked the middle of the field to attempt a winning touchdown.

Instead, their tying field goal attempt left them with plenty to think about over the bye, including if the kick would have been good from 47-yards out.

  • The Cowboys red zone defense stood tall once again, keeping the Redskins out of the end zone both times, including at the start of the third quarter thanks to a DeMarcus Lawrence stop on Adrian Peterson.

There were plenty of plays in this game where the Cowboys made Peterson look a few years younger, but the timeliness of DeMarcus Lawrence's splash plays against the run were all they needed to get the Redskins off the field in big spots.

It's not often we talk about a defensive end being clutch, but that's exactly the type of player the Cowboys have in their franchise left end.

Instead of going up 14-7 and forcing a Cowboys three-and-out on the next series, the Redskins 10-7 advantage would stand through the third quarter. These three points came on a 21-yard Hopkins field goal, set up by Lawrence screaming off the edge on third and a yard to plant Peterson for a loss of two.

  • This play may get lost in the shuffle when breaking down the Cowboys miscues for a whole extra week, but one that will stick with me for a while is Prescott's missed swing pass to Elliott.

As Tony Romo was keen to point out on the call of this game, Prescott left plenty of throws on the field, including one to Gallup on his decisive fumble. Where most of these missed chances were passes Prescott didn't pull the trigger on, the one he did against the blitz that resulted in an incomplete pass to Elliott was stunning.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

How does this happen? Seriously. How? HOWWWWW?!?! https://t.co/40V9Jx5EEP

The Redskins had scored their first touchdown of this game by throwing to their running back against the blitz, and the Cowboys could have been set up to do the same if Elliott catches this ball on first down.

The clock was a factor at this point, as the Cowboys took another 20 seconds to score on a third down rush by Prescott. The Redskins failed to take much time off the clock on their next series, with Alex Smith going out of bounds on third down.

The Cowboys' final drive began with 1:09 remaining, and it's anyone's guess as to how the game would have ended if they had just a few more seconds to manage.

  • The Cowboys were without Tavon Austin, taking away their outside threat in the running game, and turned to Cornerback Jourdan Lewis to handle their only jet sweep of the game.

The Cowboys knew Lewis better than most teams in the 2017 Draft, the cornerback out of Michigan that never carried the ball in college. The Cowboys had a few options in replacing Austin if they wanted his speed threat to remain in the game, instead doing away with most of these plays.

Instead of Deonte Thompson, Rod Smith, or even Beasley handling this role, the Cowboys ran one jet sweep to Lewis for seven yards.

Cowboys Nation on Twitter

So I'd wondered if we might see Zeke as the jet motion/sweep guy with Rod Smith at RB sometime. But CB Jourdan Lewis? Interesting. Creative. I like it. https://t.co/KC3pZL1glI

Lewis has been getting more involved in Kris Richard's defense, and it was certainly different to see him used on offense for the first time.

  • The Cowboys welcomed back Sean Lee in this game and proceeded to allow over 100 rushing yards for the first time since week three - Lee's last game prior to Sunday.

In no way are the Cowboys a better defense without Lee, but they would be wise to spend a significant portion of time over the bye week figuring out their linebacker rotation with Lee, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch.

Vander Esch was the Cowboys leading tackler coming into this game, and a huge reason why this defense held the Lions, Texans, and Jaguars in check without Lee. Playing 21 snaps against the Redskins to Lee's 38, there were snaps where LVE was noticeably missing.

The Cowboys have allowed at least 100 yards on the ground 72 times since Lee's arrival in 2010, playing to a 23-49 record in these games. In the 63 games they've held teams under 100 rushing yards, the Cowboys are 48-15.

This makes getting to the bottom of how Adrian Peterson was able to go for 99 yards at 4.1 yards per carry a key for this Cowboys defense by week eight - where they'll attempt to keep an offense that can hopefully find answers of their own in yet another game, this time on Monday Night Football against the Titans.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The feeling that the Cowboys have already missed on enough opportunities to contend in the NFC East this year will be hard to shake as the Cowboys return to Dallas on Tuesday at 3-4. This won't stop these players and coaches from doing everything they can to get back to .500 and remain in the hunt at 4-4.

In a league where fortune favors the bold to go above eight wins, the Cowboys will have to wait even longer than their 14 days between games to prove they're not another 8-8 Jason Garrett team. With poor coaching decisions and a quarterback incapable of overcoming them, the Cowboys remain in the midst of an identity crisis at week eight, thanks in large part to the left upright at FedEx Field.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Dak’s 1st Loss at Redskins Leaves Cowboys Losers Before Bye" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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Game Notes

L.P. Ladouceur Insists “Nothing Different” on FG Attempt

John Williams

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Cowboys Blog - Long Snapper L.P. Ladouceur Is Greatest 91 In Dallas Cowboys History

There were other plays that certainly had as much of an impact on the outcome of the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday. However, sequence of events surrounding L.P. Ladouceur and the game-tying field goal attempt are front and center.

Prior to Brett Maher's game-tying 52 yard field goal attempt clanged off of the left upright as time expired, backlash on social media had already begun to spread about the so-called "snap infraction" that moved the Dallas Cowboys from what would have been a 47 yard field goal attempt to the 52 yarder that Maher pulled.

Five yards closer and Maher gets that kick through the uprights and the Dallas Cowboys go to overtime with a chance to take the division lead. It didn't and the Cowboys fell to 3-4, now a game and a half behind the Washington Redskins as the Cowboys head into the bye.

After the game, many of us were watching the snap and trying to figure out what exactly he did wrong to warrant the penalty. According to L.P. Ladouceur, he did nothing wrong and was adamant about that in the rare post game interview.

“I just adjusted down so I could put my hands on the bottom of it so I could snap it in the right direction. Exact same thing I’ve been doing for 14 years … I’m not even trying to get him offside. I know the situation. Just too bad.” 

L.P.Ladouceur - via Todd Archer, ESPN.com

It was a rare "miscue" for the 14 year veteran deep snapper. Seriously, I can't remember a time when this call was made on a deep snapper or when Ladouceur had a bad snap. He's been excellent. If deep snappers could get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, L.P. would be a first ballot Hall of Famer. He's been that good.

As Cowboys Nation attempted to make sense of the call, the NFL Officials Twitter account had an explanation of the penalty call after the game, which may give you more understanding, or more frustration.

NFL Officiating on Twitter

The illegal ball movement by the center in #DALvsWAS causes the defense to come across the neutral zone and contact a lineman." -AL https://t.co/Cv8Ugwb99p

Their argument was that Ladouceur moved the ball in his snap and that is an "illegal ball movement." It was that movement which caused the defender to come into the neutral zone and make contact with the offensive lineman.

I'll have to admit, watching deep snapper All-22 film is not something I'm going to find myself doing and so, we'll lean on Mike Garafolo here.

Mike Garafolo on Twitter

Just watched a few of L.P. Ladouceur's snaps in recent weeks. He moves the ball a lot at times. Nothing out of the ordinary here. The difference could be that nobody jumped on previous snaps. https://t.co/kc10gtMJ11

If what Garafolo says is true, that L.P. Ladouceur does move the ball a lot on his snaps, then how come he hasn't been called for it before. Mike could be right in that he hasn't been called for this before because no one has ever jumped offsides when he moved before. Regardless, the call has me wondering one of two things as to why they called it all of a sudden. 1) Either the officials don't usually see the ball movement or 2) they don't care. And both leave me a bit frustrated.

If they don't typically see the ball movement, then that means they didn't see the movement on Sunday and relied on the movement of the interior defensive lineman jumping offsides to make the call. To me, that is a problem. The officials need to be the ones making the call in these situations, especially a game-tying field goal attempt where five yards can make a huge difference. A defender is always going to act like he got drawn offsides. It's the officials job to make that call. Not the defense's.

If they don't typically care what long snappers are doing with the football prior to the snap, then why did they call it this time? A long snapper, like a kicker and punter, has a routine they go through prior to the snap to get their mind and body right. There's zero chance after 14 years in a game-tying situation that L.P. Ladouceur changed his approach to snapping on this particular field goal try.

The NFL Officiating body of the NFL says what he did is a penalty. Ladouceur says that's how he's always snapped.

So it begs the question, "why now?"

If that's always been a penalty and he's always snapped it like that, why did they pick that time in that situation to make that call. It may have been the right call, but it was a ticky-tack call and it inserted the officials into the outcome of the football game. Yes, the Dallas Cowboys killed themselves with a lot of penalties in really bad situations on Sunday. Like the Connor Williams hold to negate the Cole Beasley first down reception prior to the Ryan Kerrigan strip of Dak Prescott that led to a touchdown. However, you never want a penalty to decide a game.

On Sunday, the officiating crew asserted themselves to call a penalty on a play they either didn't see or didn't care about in L.P. Ladouceur's 14 year career to date. And while, Maher still could have -- and should have -- made that kick, there's no denying that the penalty had an impact on the game.

You never want to point to officiating as the reason your team loses a game, because there are always calls that go against either team that you could argue were bad calls. Unfortunately, this bad call pushed Brett Maher's field goal attempt back five yards, which had a direct impact on the game.

It may have been a penalty, it was a weak call at a really bad time for the Dallas Cowboys. With only nine games remaining in the 2018 NFL season, that call certainly hurt their chances of making the playoffs.

It's just another in a long line of officiating decisions that has hurt the Dallas Cowboys and that act is getting old.



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Game Notes

3 Stars from Cowboys Loss to the Redskins

John Williams

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Cowboys Roster: Dallas Made Right Decisions on Unproven Skill Players

Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. Win. Loss. That's where we stand after seven games with the Dallas Cowboys alternating home wins and road losses and through nearly half the schedule en route to their 3-4 record.

It was a disappointing loss after a defensive effort that held the Washington Redskins to 13 points on the day. The offense had some good moments, but the road inconsistency and penalties killed throughout the NFC East matchup. The Dallas Cowboys playoff chances took a substantial hit with the loss. With only nine games left in the season, the Cowboys are probably going to have to go 7-2 to make the playoffs.

It's not impossible they could get on a run, but it certainly looks bleak.

Before we move forward, let's look back and highlight this week's 3 Stars of the game.

First Star

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Redskins

There were several players that gave the Dallas Cowboys offensive line fits on Sunday, but Ryan Kerrigan's strip-sack of Dak Prescott in the fourth quarter was the difference in the football game.

The Cowboys were trailing by three and after being backed up because of a holding penalty on Cowboys' Left Guard Connor Williams. Dallas was facing a 3rd and 14 at their own 10 yard line. Dak Prescott had good initial protection, but held the ball too long allowing Kerrigan to get to him, strip the ball, and Preston Smith recovered in the end zone to put the Redskins up by 10 with less than five minutes to play.

Kerrigan finished the game with five tackles (4 solo), two sacks, one tackle for loss, a pass deflection, the forced fumble, and two quarterback hits. It was a strong day for one of the longtime Redskins greats.

Second Star

Adrian Peterson, Washington Redskins

The Washington Redskins didn't really have a lot of offensive weapons at their disposal aside from Tight End Jordan Reed and Running Back Adrian Peterson. Adrian Peterson had a good game against a stout Dallas Cowboys run defense, which kept the Cowboys defense off-balance most of the afternoon.

His 22 carries for 99 yards may not be the best game ever, but his ability to hit some big runs early and run with consistency early in the game put the Redskins ahead of the chains. On a day when the Redskins were down three of the top four receiving targets, Peterson needed to be effective for Washington to have a chance. He was a big reason the Redskins put up the 13 points on offense that they did.

Peterson ran hard "All Day" and made life difficult for the Dallas Cowboys defense.

Third Star

Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys

After last week's performance, I wrote a piece predicting that a breakout game was imminent for rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup.

He delivered the best game of his career Sunday afternoon against the Washington Redskins hauling in three receptions on five targets for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Gallup's touchdown reception was a beautiful double move that left the Redskins corner in the dust on his way to his first career touchdown. It was a huge play at the end of the first half that put the Dallas Cowboys on the board. They hadn't really gotten much going prior to that drive. It was a nice step forward for Gallup who has been making strides since some early season struggles.

The Dallas Cowboys have needed someone to step up on the outside to take some of the pressure off of Cole Beasley in the slot and Ezekiel Elliott and the running game. With another solid performance under his belt, Gallup is proving that he is a starter for the Dallas Cowboys now and in the future.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Who were your 3 Stars of the game in the Cowboys disappointing loss Sunday?



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