When the Dallas Cowboys played the Washington Redskins in week seven this year, it was really clear what the Cowboys would have to do defensively to slow down the Redskins. For the most part they were successful. They didn't allow Alex Smith to beat them with his legs and they didn't allow big plays in the passing game. The one area where they struggled was in the run game against the eternal Adrian Peterson.
His stat line, 24 carries for 99 yards, isn't all that impressive when you take it at face value, but he was effective in keeping the Redskins in favorable down and distances and even broke several runs for big plays against the Cowboys top five ranked run defense.
Looking at the chart below provided by Next Gen Stats and NFL. com, you can see where Adrian Peterson did most of his damage during the Cowboys week seven loss.
When the Redskins ran Peterson between the tackles, the Cowboys were generally there to prevent him from going for big gains. He ground out the dirty yards as he only had one carry go for five yards when running between the tackles. .
Per Pro Football Focus, Peterson carried the ball off tackle or to the interior 15 times and only gained 32 yards, including one run for 20 yards. That one run for 20 yards was technically off tackle as the center and guard pulled to the outside and Peterson ran to the inside of the pulling guard, as you'll see below. So on the 14 other carries, Peterson gained 12 yards when running off tackle or to the interior. When he and the Redskins wide, Peterson gained 67 yards on 9 carries.
Some of what Adrian Peterson was able to accomplish was a nice play call at the right time against a favorable defense. However, much of Peterson's success against the Cowboys came because of Adrian Peterson the future hall of fame running back.
Let's look at some of the game film to see where Adrian Peterson had his success.
On this first play, the Cowboys have the play snuffed out and there's no where for Adrian Peterson to go. He's attempting to get to the outside, but Jeff Heath holds up Vernon Davis to set the edge and the defensive line and linebackers have filled their gap assignments expertly. Adrian Peterson being the veteran that he is, sees that the Cowboys have played the run well, but have left a lot of room for him to cut back. As he makes his cut to go against the play, you see that there's a ton of room to the backside of the play. After DeMarcus Lawrence jumps the offensive lineman to try to make the play on the backside, he's caught out of position and Peterson has nothing but space in front of him. All he has to do is give Kavon Frazier a slight hesitation move and he has the speed to get around him for more yards.
Here the Cowboys get good penetration from their defensive line and the linebackers have the play pursued well, but because the defensive line has crashed up field, there's a lot of room for Peterson to cut back inside after Jaylon Smith cuts off his outside run. Jeff Heath and Xavier Woods are slow to rally to Peterson and several missed tackles later, Peterson has another nice gain.
This run is a really nice play design against a weak front to the play side. You can see that Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch are shading to the weak side of the formation and Heath is down in the box to help against the tight end. The Redskins pull the center and the guard at the snap and they have simple assignments taking on Jeff Heath and Byron Jones on the outside. Both defensive tackles work the A gap and are out of the play immediately and Taco Charlton gets caught rushing inside and isn't able to effect the play at the point of attack. Leighton Vander Esch looks like he read pass and began to drop into coverage, but it puts him playing catch up on the play and the Redskins have a big gain on the ground.
The Redskins had a nice game plan for the Dallas Cowboys run defense. They were able to get to the perimeter for several big gains to control the game. The Cowboys defense had a nice day in general, holding the Washington Redskins to 13 points on the day, but these big plays by Peterson and the Redskins offensive line killed the Cowboys.
The Dallas Cowboys will need to be more disciplined in their pursuit so they aren't over-running plays and allowing Adrian Peterson to work back to wide open spaces. He's a great runner who has always had excellent vision. The back side pursuit will need to be there to keep Peterson from gashing them for big runs again on Thanksgiving Day. With first place on the line this Thursday, I expect the Cowboys defense to correct some of the things that went wrong in the first game and find a way to limit the damage done by Adrian Peterson and the Redskins offensive line.
Cowboys, Colts Week 15 Injury Report
The Dallas Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a win this week, while the Indianapolis Colts are fighting to stay alive in the AFC wild card race. Only one team can accomplish their goal, and both have some big names on the Week 15 injury report.
We'll begin with the visiting Cowboys, who could be getting at least one star player back while another is already confirmed to miss the game.
- TE Geoff Swaim (wrist) - OUT
- G Zack Martin (knee) - OUT
- DL David Irving (ankle) - OUT
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - Questionable
- WR Lance Lenoir (illness) - Questionable
- OT Tyron Smith (neck) - Questionable
- DE Randy Gregory (personal) - Questionable
- LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
Yes, sadly, Zack Martin will be out tomorrow. The good news is that Connor Williams got the entire week to practice with the starters at right guard. You can read much more about this situation and it's impact on the game here, courtesy of our own Sean Martin.
Also ruled out, as they have been for a while now, are TE Geoff Swaim and DL David Irving. Swaim is still recovering from wrist surgery but has not been placed on injured reserve, so the team must feel he could be back for the playoffs. Irving could return as soon as next week.
Speaking of returns, Sean Lee may be back on the field this Sunday. It's unknown yet how he'll rotate with Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, but Dallas has the luxury of working him in slowly thanks to the play of their young duo.
Tavon Austin could also return this week, creating another new offensive wrinkle. Austin has been injured since the Jacksonville game and has yet to play since the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper. Not only could Tavon do some interesting things in the offense, but he should bring some additional sizzle to special teams.
While appearing on the injury report, Randy Gregory missed practice this week for "family reasons" according to Jason Garrett. He could still play tomorrow.
- G Mark Glowinski (ankle) - OUT
- LB Skai Moore (neck) - OUT
- S Mike Mitchell (calf) - OUT
- WR T.Y. Hilton (ankle) - Questionable
- TE Ryan Hewitt (ribs) - Questionable
- S Clayton Geathers (knee) - Questionable
The big name here is Hilton, the star receiver who missed all practice this week with an ankle injury. Indianapolis has not ruled him out, wanting to give Andrew Luck's favorite target every opportunity to play. But it's not looking good, and a bad ankle could limit Hilton's effectiveness even if he goes.
Also hurt among the passing options is starting TE Ryan Hewitt, but he did practice full on Friday and should go. Not playing, however, is starting right guard Mark Glowinski. That means third-year player Evan Boehm should start, who just joined the team in October.
Indy's hurting at safety this week. Not only did starter Clayton Geathers miss the whole week of practice, but veteran backup Mike Mitchell is already ruled out. The Colts would have to rely on undrafted rookie George Odum if neither plays.
Fun fact before we go; former Cowboy Jihad Ward was picked up by the Colts after Dallas included him in their roster cuts to start the season. However, he landed on injured reserve back in October so won't get a chance at revenge.
Zack Martin Out, Connor Williams In at Right Guard for Cowboys at Colts
The Dallas Cowboys offensive line depth will be tested as they play for a chance to clinch the NFC East on Sunday at the Indianapolis Colts. Suffering a knee injury last week against the Eagles, Right Guard Zack Martin will not be able to play. In missing his first career start, rookie Connor Williams rightfully returns to the starting lineup as Martin's replacement.
The 50th overall pick from this year's AT&T Stadium hosted Draft has started eight games this season at left guard. Williams' last start happens to be in the last game Dallas lost, a week nine defeat to the Tennessee Titans. This opened the door for Xavier Su'a-Filo to become something of a sensation for Cowboys Nation as the starting left guard throughout the team's current five game win streak.
Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin has been ruled out of Sunday's game with a sprained knee. Rookie Connor Williams will start in his place.
Zack Martin being unavailable is hardly how Marc Colombo wants to prepare for the Cowboys first road game since week 11. Having both Su'a-Filo and Williams in the lineup will be valuable for the Cowboys moving forward though, as Williams could earn his job at left guard back from the right side.
While he won't nearly be expected to play at the level of Martin, Williams looked poised coming off the bench against the Eagles and helping the Cowboys offense score their final three touchdowns. Williams was on the field for all three of Amari Cooper's scores, as Dallas rushed for 34 yards on 11 carries with him in the game.
Williams flashed some of the traits that made him a top left tackle prospect out of college, flowing to the second level with ease and creating movement with quick feet at the point of attack. The Cowboys have forced him to remain game ready despite losing his starting position by finding a few emergency snaps for him in recent weeks, as well as special teams looks. The team has every reason to believe Williams is an ascending young player still.
The same cannot be said of Su'a-Filo, who simply has to focus on continuing to hold up at left guard again this week. With each passing win, Su'a-Filo's LG spot has become more of a liability in a Cowboys offense in need of a jump-start late in this 2018 season.
Consistent offensive line play is one of the few things that's clearly hurting the Cowboys as contenders in the NFC behind a stellar defense and game breaking wide receiver.
The Cowboys won't be at full strength against the eighth best rushing defense and 15th ranked passing defense in yards per game. With three separate chances to clinch the NFC East starting at the Colts and extending until the end of the regular season, the Cowboys stand to learn all they need to know about the offensive line that will start in the playoffs.
Martin, who's elevated his game to a new level this season despite this lingering knee injury, should be on track to return when the Cowboys come home to play the Buccaneers in week 16.
#INDvsDAL: How The Game May Be Decided In The Red Zone
In many ways the Dallas Cowboys offense has found their stride in recent weeks. Over this five game win streak they have "found their identity" playing ball control offense and trusting their quarterback to make big throws when needed most. Of course the defense has been the star most weeks, but this offense should not be slept on either.
This doesn't mean the offense has been without their fair share of struggles, however, particularly in the red zone. Struggles that the numbers say could cost the Cowboys this weeks' game in Indianapolis if they don't get it cleaned up.
In terms of red zone offensive efficiency the Cowboys have been downright horrendous. In fact, they are dead-last in the league in success rate inside the 10 yard line, last in first-and-goal success rate, and 21st in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
There's no sugar-coating those numbers, they are bad. Especially when you consider that this team has arguably the league's best running back and a quarterback with the size and athleticism you might expect from a linebacker.
For as bad as the Cowboys are inside the red zone, the Colts are equally as good. Indianapolis is top 10 in terms of success rate inside the 10, at the goal line, and in first-and-goal success rate. They are also 11th in success rate between the 11 and 20 yard lines.
Despite not having the individual running back the Cowboys have, the Colts offensive line and skill players as a whole set them up a bit better when the field is shortened. Tight end Eric Ebron has been rather incredible in terms of production this season, catching 12 touchdowns on 58 receptions. Andrew Luck is also a more accurate quarterback than Dak Prescott, though Prescott should be a much more dangerous red zone threat than he currently is.
I am working on the Cowboys 32nd ranked Goal-to-Go offensive numbers. They have run 35 of their 59 total plays out of Shotgun-11 Personnel. In those 35 plays, the average gain per snap is....12 INCHES. I am not kidding. They could out-gain that by running QB sneaks. I am amazed.
Of course, some of the Cowboys red zone struggles can be pinned on offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan has failed to scheme open the "easy" red zone touchdowns we see so often around the league. As pointed out by Bob Sturm on Twitter this week, the Cowboys' personnel groupings and play calls when in goal-to-go situations have been questionable to say the least. But while blame does fall on the coaches' shoulders, the players need to execute better as well.
Games in the NFL often come down to just a handful of plays, and red zone efficiency plays a key role in deciding the outcome of close games every week. If this is once again the case on Sunday, based on past performance, the Dallas Cowboys could be in trouble against the efficient Colts.
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