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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Evaluating Dak Prescott As a Play Action Passer Against the Lions

Sean Martin

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Sean's Scout: Evaluating Dak Prescott As Play-Action Passer Against the Lions

The Dallas Cowboys returned home from Seattle after a week three loss to the Seahawks, and brought with them the clouds of gloom that would need to be left in the Pacific Northwest in order to save the season at AT&T Stadium against the Lions.

With the promise of new "wrinkles" on offense from Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, it was actually the Cowboys execution on plays that have worked since Dak Prescott's rookie season that made the difference in this win.

Ezekiel Elliott was as involved as he's ever been, carrying the ball 25 times, catching it another four, and setting up the Cowboys play action game well. As a play action passer, Prescott was 7-10 for two touchdowns against the Lions.

I went back to the game tape to study why Prescott and the Cowboys were so effective in the play action game. Here is what I found in this latest edition of Sean's Scout.

PA1

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This PA pass resulted in rookie Wide Receiver Michael Gallup's best play of the season. As I wrote in my breakdown of the Lions secondary coming into this game, this was a defense playing much more single high under new Head Coach Matt Patricia.

This alignment put a lot of burden on Detroit's linebackers. Sitting on short to intermediate routes opened up the Cowboys downfield passing attack, which Prescott took advantage of with some precision throws. One of his three incomplete passes on PA should have been another touchdown to Tavon Austin, who dropped the ball at the front pylon.

PA2

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On the first play to Gallup, Cole Beasley does a great job running his post route out of the slot. His ability to get up on the safety makes him late to help on Gallup - who makes an equally great catch over his defender.

PA3

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This next play is one the Lions defended very well. Prescott's first read after carrying out his fake to Elliott is for Tight End Geoff Swaim. The Lions passed up Swaim on his deep crossing route perfectly, forcing Prescott to look to the outside.

Not taking advantage of space in the pocket to step up into, Prescott fires the ball without much of a window to Gallup, who's unable to come back to the inaccurate pass.

PA4

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This next clip is a perfectly executed screen pass that Elliott takes the distance. Throwing screens against a team that plays nearly exclusively man coverage is a good approach, and something the Cowboys will always be prepared to turn into big plays thanks to their offensive line.

It's the play of Zack Martin and Joe Looney out in space that convoy Elliott to the end zone, but the action on the fake jet sweep to Cole Beasley that keeps the Lions honest. Before the ball is even snapped, Beasley draws a defender off the side of the field that Elliott slips to, and the receiver at the bottom of the screen forces the cornerback to turn his back to the play behind him.

When I mention that the Cowboys reverted to plays that were a staple of their offense in 2016, this simple but effective screen game is certainly a throwback to much better times for the Cowboys offense.

PA5

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Prescott does a much better job managing the pocket on this next completion, again going to Elliott. The Lions take away any of the deeper options in this progression, as Austin is forced into the boundary defender carrying the go route up the field.

The linebacker trailing Austin is late to drop into coverage because of the play fake to Elliott, who quickly frees himself in the flat to turn this play into a positive.

PA6

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Geoff Swaim's touchdown was more about a great route combination from both him and Fullback Jamize Olawale, but the backfield action with Elliott is what allows for such a wide open throw.

Off the line, Swaim takes a fantastic angle, making it hard for any defender to go with him. Olawale sells his route into the flat well, running vertically first to appear as a lead blocker for Elliott. This action takes another defender away from Swaim, leaving just the safety that locks onto Elliott as a distant option to pick him up.

The Cowboys would love to see their tight ends get more involved in the passing game, and targeting them with play action is a great way to accomplish this. Prescott was able to do just that on a signature bootleg play much earlier in the game, leading to another big play from Swaim that we'll take a look at next.

PA10

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When this play is working for the Cowboys offense, it is a great sign that they're firing on all cylinders and executing across the board. A depleted offensive line and injuries at wide receiver turned this bootleg play into a scramble drill almost every time a year ago for Prescott, but that wasn't the case early against the Lions.

Watch the patience from Swaim to notice his defender slowly flowing towards Elliott. If Swaim sprints out of this cut and into the linebacker, he likely gives Prescott less of a target to throw to. By sitting under the defender and slowly working out to the flat, Swaim ends up with plenty of room to run after the catch.

 

PA7

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The next two plays we'll look at are both completions to Cole Beasley. While Beasley still has to beat his defender to receive this pass in stride from Prescott, he's given much more space to work with after the play fake.

All three Lions linebackers concede the middle of the field as Prescott carries out a delayed fake, with the fullback motion making this look like a trap run. Prescott is looking Beasley's way the whole time, expecting him to get to his spot and delivering an accurate ball on time to move the chains.

PA8

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Running a similar route off the line here, Beasley has to deal with the high safety as he comes across the field. Playing Cole's route well until he breaks it back to the outside, Prescott hooks up with his favorite target to convert a huge first down.

Subtly, Prescott was able to look Allen Hurns' way as he settles into the pocket just long enough to get the safety leaning that way, creating an even bigger window to fit the ball to Beasley with room to run after the catch.

PA9

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This last play was not a well executed one for the Cowboys offense. This time, Swaim does not take a good angle coming from left to right, running up the field into Gallup. If he's able to stay flat, even with Prescott under fire from the snap, he may have been in position to score his second touchdown of the game.

Elliott's speed to sprint out of the backfield also gives away that Prescott is keeping this ball, yet it's not until after Dak releases it that Elliott uncovers himself.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

Dak Prescott went on to complete a total of 17 passes on 27 attempts, gradually bringing the Cowboys offense back to form with an efficient game sparked by Ezekiel Elliott.

The Cowboys letting their best play maker turn loose came at the perfect time, as they finished the first quarter of the season 2-2 despite looking lost on offense at times. Being an effective play action team moving forward could see the Cowboys not only remedy these woes but snap off a winning streak similar to that of two year's ago.

With no team taking early control of the NFC East, that may be all it takes for Prescott and Elliott to prove the Cowboys are here to stay.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Evaluating Dak Prescott As a Play Action Passer Against the Lions" 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.

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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Game Notes

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins

Brian Martin

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly for Cowboys Against Redskins 5

Well, here we are again. The Dallas Cowboys lose another close game, but this time it might hurt a little bit more since it was to the division rival the Washington Redskins. This was definitely a game that could've gone either way since neither team played well, but in the end things just happened to go the Redskins way this time.

One or two things going just a little differently for the Cowboys likely would've been enough to secure the victory Sunday afternoon and I'm not even talking about Brett Maher's missed field goal. For instance, what if Quarterback Dak Prescott would've taken the safety instead of fumbling and letting the Redskins defense score a TD. That mistake it definitely hurt!

I could sit here and play the "what if" game with you all day, but we have nearly two weeks to do just that since the Cowboys are now on their bye week. Today, I want to share with you The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly from the first of two meetings between these two teams. Enjoy!

The Good

Michael Gallup

Dallas Cowboys WR Michael Gallup

In yet another sloppy performance on the road, there was very little good to take away from the first meeting of the 2018 season between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins. I think the one thing I will remember the most, in a positive way, from this matchup is Wide Receiver Michael Gallup's long touchdown pass from Quarterback Dak Prescott.

Michael Gallup continues to make plays when given the opportunity. In another offense with a better play caller and maybe even a better QB, Gallup would likely be in the running for Offensive Rookie of the Year, but has failed to make much of an impact with the Cowboys so far. Hopefully that will change after the bye week though.

If I'm the Cowboys coaching staff, I'm going to find ways to get Michael Gallup more involved in the passing game coming out off the bye week. Other than Cole Beasley, he is the only one who is having much of an impact and definitely needs to see more targets. I would make that a top priority moving forward.

The Bad

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

There is so much that I could put in this section, but I think the worst thing that happened Sunday afternoon when the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Redskins was the fact that we will have nearly 2 weeks of having to listen and talk about it. For me, that is the bad!

Yes, you read that right. Now that the Cowboys are heading into their bye week, we have two entire weeks to dissect and analyze everything that has gone right or wrong this year, especially what happened against the Redskins since it's the freshest in our minds.

This was definitely a tough loss, and one that could come back and hurt the Cowboys when it comes to playoff seeding at the end of the season. Too many mental mistakes and penalties definitely assisted in the letdown, but in the end they just weren't good enough to win on the road. That's absolutely something that needs to change since they haven't won a road game all season.

The Ugly

Ezekiel Elliott

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott

I'm going to have to go with both the offense and defense for the Dallas Cowboys as the ugly against the Redskins Sunday afternoon. Neither unit really played all that well, even though they both probably played well enough to win the game if just a few things would've gone just a little bit differently.

On the offensive side of the ball the Cowboys couldn't get anything going for nearly the entire game. The Redskins did an excellent job of bottling up Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott couldn't get anything going in the passing game until the fourth quarter. They did have a few big plays called back due to holding penalties, but overall it was a pretty sloppy performance.

Defensively things weren't much better. The Cowboys have been pretty good at stopping the run this season, but for some reason couldn't find an answer of how to stop Adrian Peterson. The defense probably played better than the Cowboys offense, stopping the Redskins in the red zone on several occasions and only giving up one TD, but in the end it just wasn't enough.

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



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