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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Chargers Spoil Thanksgiving By Removing Morris, Targeting Young CBs

Sean Martin

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The fall of 1961. No, this is not the start of some Thanksgiving history lesson. This was the last time that the Dallas Cowboys - founded in 1960 - lost three consecutive games by 20 or more points until now.

Thanksgiving 2017 started off well for the Cowboys, as a Vikings win in Detroit against the Lions set up a prime opportunity for Dallas to get back on track favorably in the NFC Wild Card race.

Instead, the return of LT Tyron Smith and K Dan Bailey did nothing to stop the Cowboys' collapse on this lost season. With the Chargers turning a 3-0 halftime lead into a 28-6 Turkey Day victory, the 5-6 Cowboys left a ton to be desired on the field in week twelve.

Here are a few notes on the game in my post game Sean's Scout.

Sean's Scout: Cowboys Growing Pains Spoil Thanksgiving Vs Chargers

  • It is simply a shame that Alfred Morris only carried the ball nine times in this game, gaining 36 yards on the afternoon. 

The Cowboys were having success running the ball right at the Chargers' premier bookend pass rushers in Melvin Ingram at RDE and Joey Bosa at LDE early in this game. Unfortunately, the confidence level in this offense putting up big numbers and points is so low that Scott Linehan became desperate trying to get ahead. Los Angeles took a 16-0 lead before the Cowboys finally scored, effectively taking Alfred Morris out of the game.

The absence of Ezekiel Elliott is rapidly becoming less of an excuse for the Cowboys' lackluster offensive performances, as Alfred Morris continues to prove why he was brought here as a veteran with the zone-running experience that allows plays to develop with his patience and vision.

  • Defensively, the Cowboys' linebackers struggled once again without their leader Sean Lee, but I thought Justin Durant had a few encouraging moments. 

Coming off of one of his most impressive performances on the season, MIKE LB Jaylon Smith was able to take on a limited role again in this game - with Justin Durant emerging to take on a bigger workload in the middle.

The veteran Durant is no longer the physical player against the run with sideline to sideline range that he once was, but he was able to find ways to be effective in pass coverage. This Dallas defense once again did everything they could to keep the Cowboys alive for as long as possible, and early on a big part of this was Durant taking away underneath throws and moving well doing so.

With the way the Cowboys pass rush was neutralized, Durant likely limited even more explosive plays from a LA offense that eventually erupted to clinch the game.

  • Give Philip Rivers a ton of credit for throwing at rookie CB Jourdan Lewis, a player that can be beat at the catch point when targeted. 

Throws against the Cowboys' third round pick out of Michigan have been few and far between this season. At just 5'10", Lewis is beatable at the catch point - particularly against a quarterback like Rivers that has never shied away from ripping passes into tight windows where only his receiver can make a play.

Working Keenan Allen against Lewis, Rivers and Allen were able to beat Lewis both in the air and across the field as Allen's quick-twitch speed proved to be too much for the rookie to handle without adequate safety help.

This was a humbling game for a player that's likely been the Dallas Cowboys' best draft pick of 2017 thus far.

  • The most concerning part about Anthony Brown's regression is the difficulty he's having executing the simple things that helped him play so well in 2016. 

On LA's last offensive touchdown of the game, Brown was beat in two ways that we simply never expected to see following his rookie season. First, Allen was able to accelerate right past Brown and create separation at the pylon.

No longer able to run with even the fastest of WRs, Brown did his best to recover and look back for the ball, but his attempt at shooting his hands between Allen's at the catch point was way too early. Allen elevated in stride to secure a smooth touchdown, as the Cowboys secondary had an overall miserable day.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

The Cowboys will be in action on Thursday once again next week, returning to NFC East play at 5-6 against the Washington Redskins at home.

Losers of three straight, this Cowboys team feels years removed from the one that gutted out a win in Washington four week ago - and Ezekiel Elliott is far from the only problem in Dallas.

I hope that, despite another Cowboys loss, you all enjoyed Thanksgiving with the people who matter most to you as well as this edition of Sean's Scout!

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Chargers Spoil Thanksgiving By Removing Morris, Targeting Young CBs" in the comments below. You can also email me at Sean.Martin@InsideTheStar.com, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!



Born January 28th, 1996- Cowboys Super Bowl XXX. Point Boro Panther, Montclair State Red Hawk, and most importantly a proud member of Cowboys Nation! I host "Upon Further Review" on 90.3 WMSC FM and wmscradio.com every Friday from 1-4 PM ET. Twitter: @SeanMartinNFL.

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9 Comments

9 Comments

  1. oneputter

    November 24, 2017 at 8:25 am

    this team is bad. i mean we look no better than the giants, browns, 49ers or even the colts.

    we have the worst secondary in the league. jones and heath should not be starters in this league. 30 has one good season and he thinks he’s “primetime” and forgets how to play technique.

    the qb is not seeing the field and honestly i don’t think he will figure that part out since he’s not been able to, to this point.

    these coordinators are complete garbage. they need to go.

    2017 is over

    • Matthew Harrell

      November 24, 2017 at 9:34 am

      The coordinators aren’t bad. The QB is. If we had a good QB, people would be talking about what a goo OC Linehan is. Marinelli too, as his defense would look much better when playing with a leaf instead of no pints from the offense

      • Sean Martin

        Sean Martin

        November 24, 2017 at 10:30 am

        You’re still not even a full year removed from having an OC and QB that everybody was praising constantly

        • oneputter

          November 24, 2017 at 11:38 am

          back then our game plan was small, dak was not given the control he has now, where is makes his own calls at the LOS. he routinely does this and calls into the wrong play.

          scale back the offense, take away his LOS control, and stay away from sponsorship. last year he did none of this and this year that’s all he does…..where is is focus?!

      • oneputter

        November 24, 2017 at 11:32 am

        the coordinators are bad. we rarely throw over the middle, we don’t incorporate all of our wr’s, we call short routes on 3rd and longs, the route concept is complete trash.

        we need deep to intermediate crossing routes, we need a TE going up the seam, to clear things out, we can no longer have witten go 5-7 yds and sitting.

        as for defense, we run the same stunt over and over. we hardly blitz, when we do its the same darn corner blitz and just about every team, fan, knows what’s coming and they light us up.

        yes the coordinators are bad.

        • Sean Martin

          Sean Martin

          November 25, 2017 at 10:05 pm

          The coordinators deserve criticism, and you’re spot on about one need for the offense in a middle of field threat. The Cowboys’ hope is that Rico Gathers will pay off to be this player at TE.

  2. Matthew Harrell

    November 24, 2017 at 9:32 am

    Know who does shy away from ripping balls into tight windows? Prescott.

    • Sean Martin

      Sean Martin

      November 24, 2017 at 10:30 am

      Good eye

    • oneputter

      November 24, 2017 at 11:34 am

      i completely agree here, wr’s have been open, they are open on their breaks more often than not, yet dak does not know how or can’t see/anticipate the opening. yes it’s on him but it’s also on his coordinator/coach to point this out in film study.

      rip the ball in there instead of having happy feet in the pocket.

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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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