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Grading The Game: Cowboys 6, Buccaneers 10

Tommy Simon

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Cowboys Blog - Grading the Bucs Game

Heartbreaking. Didn’t last week start the same? For that matter, hasn’t the last four weeks been the same story? The same result? The same formula? The Boys jump to a lead, falter in the fourth, have a shot, but can’t get a stop or make a play when it matters. I am ready for a new byline.

It was another heart breaking loss that this time sealed the fate of the Boys. Unless Tony Romo can come back and win seven in a row, which should win him the MVP if he does, then the Boy's playoff chances are shot. The Philadelphia Eagles or the New York Giants will surely get to nine wins, so the Boys would have to be near perfect.

For those of you who think Romo being back is going to magically resolve all of the issues the Boys have and he will single-handedly turn a 0-7 team into a 7-0 team (or even 6-1), let me be the first to wake you up from your dream. Good teams do not lose seven games in a row. I do not care how many injuries they have. When Brady went down, the Patriots went 11-5. Good teams find ways to win. But the Cowboys find ways to lose. Romo will help, but this is a .500 to .600 team with him - right now. There are just too many other issues that need to be addressed.

Let’s take the Bucs game, specifically, and look at some specific reasons that the Boys lost:

Dez, Dez, And Dez – If you're going to cry for the ball, then make the play when they throw it to you. Dez Bryant had three chances to make a play and he dropped the ball and/or did not even try to make the play on the ball. His crying to the refs is getting worse and it is becoming a distraction to himself. He is more worried about the calls than making the play. And his route running is getting worse. He relies on his power and strength, but he needs to learn to run routes to create space as well.

I personally do not see him as a top 5 receiver right now. I can think of eight or nine receivers I would take over him. We can have that debate later. The difference in this game was the Bucs number one receiver, Mike Evans, had a couple of drops too but came back and made plays when they needed him to; Dez did not. That is the difference.

The Cowboys Did Not Adjust – I thought the Bucs would play deep safeties and not load the box. Play conservatively. But their game plan was to load up the box to stop the run and they blitzed more than I have seen.

They played Sterling Moore on Dez one-on-one and the Boys did not test him. They should have thrown it to Dez every time there was a single coverage on Tampa’s corners. But the game plan never changed. They never adjusted.  They never came out of their conservative game plan and went at the corners. How can you let a team cover Dez one on one and not go after that - repeatedly? Especially when you know how bad the corners are. Look at how the Bucs used Evans. They went to him time and time again when the Boys played single high safety. The difference in this game was the Bucs adjusted and went to their big time receiver and the Boys did not.

Cassel Did Not Audible To Favorable Plays – An example is when the Boys were backed up near the goal line. The Bucs showed eight in the box. They had single coverage on Dez to the outside, the Boys have an inside run called. Cassel had to see the alignment (or he should not be starting), but rather than audible out, he runs right into the blitz and the Boys almost took a safety.

All day long there were chances to audible to single coverage plays. But Cassel seemed afraid to audible out. Jameis Winston - a rookie - seemed to do better to audible out of a bad play call than Cassel. This was a big difference in the game.

In The First Half, Cassel Did Not Give Dez Opportunities To Make Plays - Now, see point one, when Dez did get chances to make plays he did not come through. But Cassel had several opportunities in the first half to hit Dez either on long plays or in the end zone, but he threw it long or out of bounds rather than give Dez an opportunity to make plays. Contrast this with Winston, who gave his receivers every opportunity to make the plays.

Fortunately, the Dallas secondary was up to task most of the day. But, Cassel failed to do the same with Dez. He overthrew him rather than put it up short and let Dez jump for the ball. Did he not see the “Hail Mary” catch Dez made last week? Why throw a ball out of bounds when Dez has Sterling Moore on him in the end zone? The game could have been much different had Cassel trusted Dez as much as Winston trusted his guys.

You can tell the mindset of Winston was to win the game while Cassel was trying not to lose the game. That is until the last two passes to Dez when he threw it to Dez expecting Dez to deliver. He finally did the right thing, though Dez disappointed (See point one on why the Boys lost).

Yes, the ball could have been inside more, but I do not have a problem with the decision to try Dez on a safety. I just wished he would have done the same earlier in the game.

The Cowboys Offensive Line Struggled Creating Seams For The Running Lane – The run game for the Cowboys could have been better. While the Bucs were more aggressive stacking the box than I expected, the Boy's line could have controlled them better. I thought this was the worst day for the line since the Patriots game.

Darren McFadden Missed Opportunities – McFadden had his worst day since the Patriots game as well. While there were not many running lanes throughout the game, there were times when they opened and he was slow to attack. A couple of outside runs could have been big gainers had he not hesitated and attacked the outside.

There Was No Offensive Creativity – The game plan was vanilla. There was no creativity. Cole Beasley was a non-factor, Lucky Whitehead had only two plays called for him. There were no drags, no screens, no picks; pretty much nothing but vanilla plays.

No Pass Rush – The Boys are still struggling to put pressure on the QB. But for a couple of plays, Winston had all day to look at his receivers. What was thought to be a positon of strength at the start of the season has turned into a position of weakness this year.

The Cowboys Linebackers Are Ineffective At Blitzing - If you want to understand why I say this, go back and look at the LBs for the Bucs and how they blitz as compared to the Cowboys. The Boys LBs run up and once there is a blocker, they stop. They do not have the will or determination to get to the QB.

Blitzing the LBs was almost a waste. Yes, Rolando McClain hit the QB twice. But one was on a delay where there was no chance of getting home in time and the second was a blown blocking assignment. If you really want to understand why I say this, go back and look at how often the Boys blitzed this game (more than most) and how ineffective the LBs were on the majority of blitzes. Then look at the Bucs LBs blitz and how effective they were. It was a huge difference in the game.

McClain Vs. Alexander – If you really want to understand how important a middle LB is in this scheme, look at Quan Alexander for the Bucs. He was everywhere. The rookie outplayed McClain in all aspects. Blitzing, stopping the run, pass defense. Alexander played like I was hoping McClain would this year. Alexander was a force. It's a big difference in why the Boys lost this game. In fact, I would say Alexander was the MVP for this game for the Bucs.

Meanwhile, McClain was just another player. The quality of the middle LB play was a big reason why the Bucs won and the Boys lost.

With that said, let’s get to the grades for the units this week.


Offense

Quarterbacks: Grade D

Cassel played not to lose the game, rather than playing to win it. He had Dez one-on-one most of the day and did not try to take advantage. He had Dez in the end zone one-on-one with Sterling Moore and he throws it out of bounds. He has Moore covering Dez on a fly and he throws it 10 yards long. He had chances and just didn't try to make them.

Cassel was gunshy and it cost the Boys opportunities. There were many plays that Cassel could have audibled to single coverage on Dez and he simply did not take advantage.

Running Back: Grade C-

While there were not as many running lanes in the Bucs game, McFadden was also not as decisive in this game. I feel like McFadden needs initial success to trust what he is seeing. If the defense is having success, he becomes hesitant. The Boys need more from him. He has to hit the hole more decisively. Patience is good, but hesitating is not. There is a big difference.

Offensive Line: Grade D+

The O-line is always the hardest to grade. The Buc's defensive line is good and caused havoc. This is made worse by the fact they have very good linebackers and hit their gaps aggressively. But that said, the line did not create the running lanes that they have been. Now McFadden did not hit some holes that were there quickly enough, so they were not as bad as the yardage says they were. Their pass blocking was only satisfactory as well. So I gave them a D for run blocking and a C for pass blocking.

I did think there were some bright spots. The rookie, La'el Collins, held up very well against a tough match-up. Doug Free struggled on a few plays, but he is looking healthier. But overall the Boys will need more from them if they are going to make a run.

Receivers: Grade C-

Believe it or not, Terrance Williams had a better day than Dez. Cassel used him on "ins" which is where he is most effective. I would have liked to see him on a few drags too, but at least Cassel has developed some timing with him on the 15 to 18 "in" route. I gave Williams a B grade for this game.

Dez did not have a good game. Partially because he was not given chances when he was one-on-one. But later, when he was given chances, he came up short. Overall, you have to give Dez a D for his drops and for not attempting to make a play on the last play in the end zone.

I can’t really grade Beasley or Whitehead because they were not used. So you have to say they get a D because they did not influence the game at all.

Street did make a good catch, but as most of the year, he has had minimal impact in games.

Tight Ends: Grade C+

This grade was more about Cassel not using them than their performance. Jason Witten was open a lot. Gavin Escobar was used on one seam but they never went back to it. There was so much opportunity, but Cassel and the play calling failed to take advantage. I thought the Boys would run a seam and drag underneath from the 12 personnel, but it never materialized. I thought this was a game that Witten and Escobar could have had big games. It was a lost opportunity.

Blocking was certainly above average and should rate a B grade. So overall, the TEs get a C+ for the day.


Defense

Defensive Ends: Grade C+

It's hard to grade the Boys defense. Especially, the ends. They did their job limiting the Bucs to 13 points. So they grade at least a C. But there are still a few areas that need to be improved. The pass rush is the primary area. They did create a couple of sacks but Winston had time most plays. I gave a D + grade on the pass rush. I'm not sure where Randy Gregory was, did he even play? Where is the impact this group was supposed to make? It is an average group at best, and the biggest disappointment of the year.

It was obvious that the Bucs wanted to run the ball and the Boys did a masterful job at stopping that. So they get an A grade for their play against the run. Overall, that averages out to C+.

Defensive Tackles: Grade B

The DTs had a good game against the rush. They were physical at the point of attack. Hard not to give them a higher grade, but we are yet to see the pass rush we were expecting from Tyrone Crawford. He had a sack but it was because of pressure from the DEs.

Overall, the Bucs run game was shut down and so you have to give the DTs a pretty high grade for being physical at the point of attack.

One another note, I thought we would see more of the rookie David Irving at the three-technique. I want to go back and count how many plays he played at the three-tech.

Linebackers: Grade B-

I thought the LBs had a pretty good day. I graded Anthony Hitchens as a solid B+. Hitchens was around the ball all day and he held up in coverage against the running backs. Something the Cowboys have failed to do for most of the season. Hitchens is better as a Will linebacker than he is as the Mike linebacker.

I graded Rolando McClain with a C. McClain made some plays, but he did look like he was gassed again a few times during the game. Part of my grade on McClain is probably influenced by what Quan Alexander did for the Bucs. When you see how effective he was for the Bucs, you can’t really give McClain more than a satisfactory grade. Alexander impacted the game, McClain really did not. Alexander seemed like he was involved in every play, McClain was involved in some. When you compare the two, it is easy to see what the Boys are missing in a middle LB.

Corners: Grade B+

Morris Claiborne was turned around on a few routes and had his worst game of the year. Even then, he did have decent coverage most of the day and had a couple of pass defenses. I graded him in the C- range.

I thought Brandon Carr had his best day of the year. He allowed a few passes to Evans, but he had tight coverage even on the completions. I like Carr matched up with big physical receivers. He is at his best. I gave Carr a B+ for the afternoon.

Byron Jones did a good job when he came in for Claiborne. He is the best Cowboys defender at this point. He was able to carry his receiver all over the field and was good in press coverage. Jones received a B+ for his corner play.

Tyler Patmon played the slot and did a solid job of covering a tight match-up. I gave Patmon a B- for his day.

Overall I gave the corners a B grade as a unit because they did not give Winston many easy reads nor a lot of space to make throws.

Safeties: Grade B+

Barry Church had his usual day supporting the run. He did have a couple of blown assignments on the TE in coverage. Overall, he provided a solid day and I graded him in the C+/B- range.

I thought Jones did a great job when he was in at safety. He has more range than any other safety. It also looked like he broke on routes better than any other safety. Add that to his ability to cover and it gives the Boys a lot more flexibility. Unfortunately, when Claiborne went out, it forced Jones to move to corner. I graded Jones as an A- when he played safety.

Jeff Heath got two picks, so you have to grade him high. But both picks were deflections and then he turned around and had an obvious holding penalty that cost the Boys the game. Hard to grade the whole game without being tainted positively or negatively by those plays. Overall, I gave him a grade in the range of a B-.

JJ Wilcox had containment on the touchdown by Winston and got caught up inside again. I have to go back and look at all the plays JJ was in center field but my initial reaction was he had no impact except negative. I will say what I said last week. He is not good in coverage, he does not have range, he takes bad angles on deep balls and when he is the last defender, and he cannot remain assignment-sound when he has containment. The experiment has failed. Why not use White or someone who can make an impact from time to time? Or at least put in someone who can do their assignment?


Special Teams

Cover Teams: Grade B

Good coverage all day

Return Teams: Grade B

Beasley had a good return that impacted field position. Overall a decent day.



Tommy Simon is an entrepreneur, writer, speaker and sports enthusiast. He is currently CEO of TechBAA, an investor and board member of TPC Technical and CommunitesFIrst, and acting CFO for ALS Communities. In addition to investing and advising companies, Tommy is also a Sales Management coach and is working with companies as a Fractional CMO/CSO. Tommy is a life long football player, coach and Cowboy fan. He currently coaches and sponsors several 7 on 7 teams. He manages/coaches an adult flag football team that is the top team in Florida one of the highest ranked teams in the country. Tommy's hobbies include international travel, fantasy football, reading, and engaging in intelligent political discourse. He is married to a wonderful women for 18 years; which is the best thing he has ever accomplished. He has a dog that is the best dog ever. He also has 9 siblings and roughly 30 nieces and nephews. For more information about tommy, or to request him to speak, please contact him at info@techbaa.com

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Game Notes

Jason Garrett’s Decision Making Stands Out in Playoff Loss

John Williams

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Are the Dallas Cowboys Distancing Themselves from HC Jason Garrett? 2

The 2018 NFL season has come to an end for the Dallas Cowboys. The Los Angeles Rams were simply the better team on Saturday night in the Coliseum and it showed in the 30-22 loss. While it was a disappointing performance, there were several things to take away from the game to give us reason for optimism moving forward. Connor Williams played well against Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh on the interior, Dak Prescott kept the team in the game despite little help from the running game, and Head Coach Jason Garrett perhaps coached his best game from a management point of view.

After the first drive, this game had one of those, if the Dallas Cowboys have to punt, it's likely going to be a loss feels. The defense's inability to force more than one punt or create a turnover was going to make it really difficult for the offense to keep up, and yet at the end of the game, the Cowboys were within a score and had a shot to win. Dak Prescott deserves a lot of credit for that, but so does Jason Garrett.

Here's why.

4th and 1's

Jason Garrett has long been viewed as a conservative coach in the NFL, and this season he didn't do much to help his reputation, but that game on Saturday should change some of that perception. On a night where it looked like his defense didn't have it, he called the game he needed to maximize his team's possessions.

On the opening drive of the game for the offense, the Cowboys got to the Rams 49 yard line, but faced a 4th and 1. Garrett didn't waste any time going for it and the Cowboys were able to convert on Ezekiel Elliott's five yard run. A Marcus Peters' unneccessary roughness penalty gave the Cowboys an extra 15 yards and the Cowboys scored on the next play on Amari Cooper's 29 yard catch and run to give the Dallas Cowboys the lead.

It would be their only lead of the night.

Again, in the second half, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1, this time it was at the Rams 41 yard line and this time, the Cowboys were down 23-7. This was not nearly as difficult a decision as the Cowboys were in catch up mode and needed to get a score to bring the game within striking distance, and they did just that. Again, Elliott picked up five yards when the Cowboys needed one and Elliott capped off th drive with a one yard touchdown run after Michael Gallup's long reception on a broken play.

At the Rams 35 yard line and the game within reach, the Cowboys went for it again on fourth down, but this time were stopped short of the first down marker when Ndamukong Suh made an excellent play to prevent Elliott from picking up the yard. On the play, you can see Suh start to Joe Looney's left, which forced Elliott to go to Looney's right and Suh followed Elliott into the hole. There was much Looney could do as Suh had the necessary leverage to make the play. It was absolutely the right call to go for it in that situation, but the Cowboys went to the jumbo formation-Elliott inside run one too many times. It was clear where the ball was going to go in that situation, and they were stuffed.

On what turned out to be the final drive of the season for the Dallas Cowboys, they needed to score and score rather quickly to have a chance to get the ball back one more time. The offense scored, but took a little too much time doing so as the drive took just over five minutes off the game clock. Again, on the drive, they were faced with a fourth and 1, but this time they used Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott on a speed option to the right and they were able to convert and eventually get the touchdown.

For the game, the Dallas Cowboys went three for four on fourth down attempts.

Point After Decisions

In the middle of the third quarter, the Dallas Cowboys scored to make it 23-13. Generally in the NFL, teams don't go for two until they have to go. Knowing that possessions were going to be few and far between the Cowboys were likely going to have to score on every possession the rest of the game, Garrett went for two and the Cowboys converted to make it an eight point game.

Then after the Dallas Cowboys scored to make the game 30-21, there was much discussion on social media on whether the Cowboys should have gone for two there or just kicked the extra point, which was a bit surprising.

To me, it was simple. Kick the extra point to make it 30-22 and hope your defense gets you the ball back and you can score again. If you go for two in that situation and don't make it, the game is essentially over with just over two minutes remaining. Taking the extra point kept you in the game, even if it was still only a slight chance to pull out a win.

Declining Penalties

With about 3:20 to go in the third quarter, the Dallas Cowboys defense faced a third and two situation around midfield against the Rams. They were able to force Rams Quarterback Jared Goff into a hurried throw and he overthrew Josh Reynolds in the flat for what would have been a first down.

On the play there were two penalties, offensive holding and offensive pass interference and Jason Garrett declined the penalties.

To me it was one of the boldest coaching decisions has made in his career on something that seemed very innocuous.

Sean McVay and the Rams were having their way with the Dallas Cowboys defense as Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson gashed their way to over 100 yards rushing each. With the Rams facing a fourth and two on the Dallas Cowboys side of the 50 yard line, most people thought the Rams would go for it there and completely steal the soul of the Dallas Cowboys.

Johnny Hekker did his best to get the Dallas Cowboys to think he was going to run a fake, but the Cowboys never panicked and stayed onside as the punter attempted to game them.

It was a huge call in that situation. If Garrett accepts the penalties, the Rams would have faced a third and 12 at their own 43 yard line, but would have had another opportunity to convert the first down and extend the drive.

I really liked the call, because it put McVay in a difficult position himself. If the were to go for it and fail to convert on fourth down, the Cowboys would have gotten the ball at about midfield with a chance to tie the game.

Kicking Deep vs Onside Kick

With the new rules governing kickoffs, mainly that teams have to keep a amount of players on each side of the kicker, onside kicks have become less and less successful in today's NFL. Even before the rule changes, recovering an onside kick was less than a 50/50 proposition.

Kicking deep was really the only decision to make. The hope is that your defense is able to get a stop and the Cowboys would get the ball back with decent field position.

And it nearly worked.

The Dallas Cowboys run defense came up big on first and second down, holding the Rams running game to three yards setting up a third and seven. Just as everyone was expecting the Rams to throw it, they ran a play action with a naked bootleg that left Jared Goff all alone on the outside with a ton of room to run, and zero Cowboys in position to prevent him from picking up the first down.

Ball game.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

On Saturday, Ian Rapoport from NFL Network, reported the Cowboys were looking to extend for Jason Garrett this offseason. It should come as no surprise as he helped orchestrate an impressive turnaround from 3-5 to 10-6 and NFC East champions all while fielding one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Jason Garrett has grown a lot as an NFL head coach and in the playoff loss, made excellent decisions to keep the Cowboys in the game. He's going to be around here for a long time and there should be a lot of optimism heading into 2019 that the Cowboys can make some strides.



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Game Notes

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly From Cowboys Divisional Round Loss

Brian Martin

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The Good, Bad, and Ugly From Cowboys Divisional Round Loss

Well Cowboys Nation, the Dallas Cowboys 2018 season had to come to an end at some point. Not many of us would have predicted earlier in the season that it would've come at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Round, but that's what happened and it's kind of bittersweet.

I don't know how you feel today, but I don't find myself all that upset the Dallas Cowboys season is officially over. Yes, I would've loved to see them completely dominate the LA Rams and advance in the playoffs, but I'm surprisingly really pleased with the way this team played this season. We have to remember that this is a young team and this is hopefully just the beginning of something great.

Today, I want to share with you some of the positives and negatives from the Cowboys game against the Rams Saturday night. This of course will be the last edition of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for the Dallas Cowboys 2018-2019 season.

The Good

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Finding the positive after a loss isn't always the easiest thing to accomplish. The Dallas Cowboys didn't particularly play their best football Saturday against the Rams, which makes it even more difficult. But for me, the good has to be the resiliency and grittiness the Cowboys played with in LA.

I don't think anyone would argue that the LA Rams pretty much dominated the entire game Saturday. They put the Cowboys on their heels pretty much from the get-go, which took them out of their game. Dallas was never really able to establish their running game and couldn't get the Rams offense off the field. They've been able to pretty much do that against all their opponents this season, but just fell flat at the wrong time.

Despite getting manhandled, the Dallas Cowboys continued to fight back and never quit. They could've easily rolled over and given up, but they didn't. I think that really speaks volumes to the kind of players Dallas has on the roster. This is a really talented young team with a bright future ahead of themselves.

The Bad

C. J. Anderson

Los Angeles Rams RB C. J. Anderson (Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports)

Anyone who watched the game Saturday night pretty much knows what goes in this category. The bad for me and probably everybody else is how the Dallas Cowboys defense was gashed by the Los Angeles Rams rushing attack. C. J. Anderson and Todd Gurley absolutely dominated on the ground, leading their team to victory.

I knew the Rams rushing attack would give the Cowboys defense problems, but I never imagined they would rush for nearly 300 yards and multiple touchdowns. C. J. Anderson and Todd Gurley may be the ones earning all the praise with their performances, but they definitely wouldn't have found as much success as they did if not for their offensive line.

Dallas' front seven has been really good against the run all season. They only allowed a couple of 100 yard rushers this season (Chris Carson, Marlon Mack) until Anderson and Gurley both rushed for over 100 Saturday night. Unfortunately, the Cowboys DL just got overpowered by the Rams OL and it definitely impacted the outcome of the game.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

What was pegged to be a matchup between two of the best running backs in the NFL, Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott, ended up being pretty much a one-man show. That is why the ugly Saturday night for the Dallas Cowboys in my opinion was their rushing attack.

We all know the Cowboys offensive blueprint is to establish the running game to help control the clock and game speed. That unfortunately never materialized Saturday night against the Rams, a team by the way that was giving up 5.1 yards rushing to opposing running backs. It was supposed to be a matchup that favored Zeke and Dallas' ground game.

I'll give credit where credit is due though. The Rams defensive line stepped up their game and didn't allow Zeke to get any kind of momentum going in the running game. They gave the Cowboys OL all they could handle and pretty much made their offensive attack one-dimensional. They wanted to put the game in Dak Prescott's hands and for the most part accomplished what they set out to do.

What is your good, bad, and ugly for the Dallas Cowboys against the LA Rams?



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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Run Defense, 4th Down Decision End Season in Los Angeles

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Cowboys Run Defense, 4th Down Decision End Season in Los Angeles

The last round of the Dallas Cowboys fight in 2018 came at the hands of a hungry Los Angeles Rams team, ending their season in the Divisional Round behind 273 rushing yards. Effectively, the third seed in the NFC beat the Cowboys at their own game with the bye week to prepare. The fallout from this loss won't be fully realized until the sting is gone, but sweeping changes aren't expected in Dallas after a resurrection from 3-5 saw the Cowboys within a few plays of the NFC Championship Game.

How those plays were made and what the Rams did to execute a near flawless game plan is the subject of this final Sean's Scout of the season.

  • The Rams' success on the ground against Richard's defense was stunning for a lot of reasons, none more so than the way Linebackers Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith struggled to react and fight off blocks.

The Cowboys issues at linebacker were a result of their front four getting blown off the ball all game by LA's offensive line. I wrote in my final game preview piece about how the Cowboys needed to win the line of scrimmage on both sides, losing with their own offense when the game was in the balance and never putting up a fight on the defensive line.

To the Rams' credit, even the simple things Sean McVay's team executes are done with an attention to detail that makes them very difficult to contain. The Rams did a great job scheming blockers to the second level, where Smith and Vander Esch were handled to the point of playing tentatively and taking poor angles.

In what could be his final game with the Cowboys or the end of his career, Sean Lee played 21 snaps, one shy of his week 17 total when the Cowboys played the Giants with the division already wrapped up. Getting caught in a game they couldn't possibly win against the better team at home, the Cowboys defense had no answers for Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson.

  • Dak Prescott's "in the grasp" call when he scrambled into La'el Collins' arms on third down was a bad look for the officials, but also an injured Cole Beasley, who was late working his route back to Prescott and into his line of vision. 

If Beasley was at full strength, he's likely able to stop his vertical route sooner and give Prescott an easy throw underneath as he rolled to the right. Left with nowhere to go, Dak had the play blown dead after Right Tackle La'el Collins wrapped his arms around Prescott while scrambling.

With the way the Rams came out on offense, it became clear that every Cowboys possession would be of dire importance. Losing one on a strange call like this was a blow Dallas never had a chance to recover from.

  • Lost in the Cowboys turnover on downs in the fourth quarter, the final time they touched the ball within a score, is the incredible third down throw Prescott made on the run to Noah Brown. 

To give his offense a chance on fourth and short, Prescott delivered a strike to Brown on the sideline for 13 yards. Without being able to set his feet, Prescott felt the pressure well and put the ball where only Brown could secure it falling out of bounds.

It's unfortunate the next play became the defining moment of the season for Dallas. Deciding to attack the strength of the Rams' defense, Aaron Donald, Ndamukong Suh, and Michael Brockers were ready for an Elliott rushing attempt right up the middle out of 12 personnel.

Not only was Center Joe Looney beat on the play, but Collins lost leverage and was beat across the face to further clutter the middle of the field for Elliott to be stopped short. Making matters even worse, the Rams came out and attacked the Cowboys defense by flashing the misdirection plays that worked all night.

In just 12 plays, Anderson scored his second touchdown to all but put the game away for LA. The Cowboys would use Prescott's legs much too late on the ensuing drive, getting into the end zone but failing to get the ball back.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

As mentioned, this won't be an offseason of drastic change for the Cowboys. Bowing out in the divisional round for the second time in three seasons, adjustments to both the coaching staff and roster are needed for this team to take the next step.

For a team that looked nothing like a postseason contender for much of the regular season, the Cowboys improbable run of close wins came to an end against the Rams - determined to not lose their first playoff game in consecutive seasons.

They won't be happy with the result, but the Cowboys should be proud of their final outcome on this year.

As always, I'd like to thank Cowboys Nation for reading another season of Sean's Scout. Win or lose you make this job fun.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Run Defense, 4th Down Decision End Season in Los Angeles" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



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