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#SmoothView: Deeper Look Into Giants at Cowboys

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Cowboys Blog - 3 Crazy Cowboys Predictions

As I mentioned on my Smooth View Game Preview of this game, the New York Giants relied on and needed three Dallas Cowboys turnovers in order to keep the game close. Both Defense and Special Teams held up their end, dominating those two phases of the game.

Cowboys Inactives

  • Christine Michael
  • Geoff Swaim
  • Jordan Mills
  • La'el Collins
  • Ken Bishop
  • Davon Coleman
  • Ryan Russell

As projected, Lance Dunbar was the Kick Returner and Cole Beasley was called upon as the Punt Returner. I was slightly shocked that Lucky Whitehead was active. His usage on offense was minimal and his only noticeable play was allowing a blitzing Landon Collins a free shot at Darren McFadden in the backfield after blowing his blocking assignment.

Deciding to only go with three active Defensive Ends was also a surprise as I had seen enough from Ryan Russell to have him backup DeMarcus Lawrence at Left Defensive End. With the injury to Randy Gregory, Russell will have his number called in the upcoming weeks. It will also be interesting to see if a veteran Defensive End is added to the 53.

With the ongoing rumors that a Wide Receiver will indeed be signed to the 53 after the release of Jordan Mills, you have to wonder; will Lucky remain active as the team definitely has the weapons needed if they choose to only keep four Wide Receivers active?


 

Cowboys Offense

They did not have any issues moving the ball. The precise play of Tony Romo and the effectiveness of the running game, at times it seemed they could have dropped 40+ on the Giants defense. The key to their success was the incredible play by the Offensive Line, which provided Romo with a great pocket the entire game.

Here are a few clips showing that from @DraftCowboys on Twitter.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Another first down after Romo goes through his progressions. https://t.co/3QrcYtxLp0

Tyrone Smith and Doug Free were able to force enough depth on their blocks, allowing Romo to climb the pocket and remain comfortable.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Gavin Escobar, he just catches TDs. https://t.co/jU8IRRoye5

Here Romo had all day, which allowed Escobar to come open.

If not for a poor blocking attempt from Joseph Randle, Romo does not take a hit here.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Absolutely zero pressure all game. Romo finds Witten. https://t.co/I7Du5dnQpt

If Romo gets this much time, he has the patience and arm talent to pick apart any defense. I wish they had played a clean game; we would have seen more from the running game, which looked impressive at times with both Randle and McFadden finding some success.

There were some plays where I felt Randle left some meat on the bone that perhaps McFadden would not have.

Even from his limited attempts, I still see more explosiveness and power from McFadden. Randle's fumble early in the first quarter should not be ignored either. Not taking away from Randle's performance after that fact, I just do not feel the Coaching Staff is going to move away from this rotation.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Gaping hole on left side leads to an 8 yard run. https://t.co/2fvipoiNVN

McFadden sees the hole and there's no hesitation at all, he explodes through it.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Randle follows his blocks. https://t.co/lzbscn3d3u

Randle does a good job here at allowing the blocks to develop, he just looks to be a half step slower than McFadden once he sees the hole. Either way, both do a good job once they get to the hole, managing to navigate their way through it.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Speed will beat angles every time. https://t.co/WNEre43qsz

Great example of the explosion from McFadden, he definitely has "helmet to goal post" explosion, basically meaning he can take it the distance anytime he gets in the open field. What also cannot be ignored is how effective Dunbar was as a receiver both out of the backfield and lining up outside. He definitely adds a new wrinkle to this offense, giving them another effective option out of the slot to go along with Beasley.

Giants Free Safety - who really is a Strong Safety that acts as a Free Safety - Landon Collins made some interesting remarks towards Romo going into the game.

“If he’s going to look for key matchups, he’s going to pick on me. . . . I’m a rookie, but I mean, he comes towards my way, and He Won't Be Happy .”

Pretty bold words from Collins who is not known for his coverage skills, which were on full display when the Giants were leading 23-13 with just over five minutes left in the game.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Collins gets caught and Witten gets an easy TD. https://t.co/3TOMYAD2Nm

The clip doesn't show that Witten went in motion with Collins trailing a step behind which allowed this play to be run practically against air.

Sometimes players are better off simply...

Not Talking And Just Playing


 

Cowboys Defense

In actuality, the Defense really only gave up nine points when you look at the drives put together. They played much better than I could have expected against the pass, with the pass rush knocking Eli Manning off his spot for the majority of the game.

Yet what should not be ignored is the quality of play from the secondary.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Claiborne playing OBJ with some aggressive coverage. https://t.co/xR0emgVqBm

This is practically what Beckham saw all night.

The way they were able to keep him in check was a great sign for the Secondary. It was also great to have a healthy Sean Lee as he led the team in tackles and was all over the field.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Great read and react from Sean Lee. https://t.co/IzFtMt7Wag

Just the ability to diagnosis a play, have the awareness to not over run it, and the technique to make the tackle were all on display here. Sean Lee is definitely back and is making plays that Bruce Carter simply would not be in position for.

The biggest concern surrounding this Defense is how will the pressure look with the absence of Gregory as he made Flowers look terrible with his pass rush.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Gregory vs Flowers https://t.co/i4koG22djw

As I also mentioned in my preview for this game, Flowers simply does not have the foot speed to be anything but an average Pass Blocking Left Tackle. The above clip is practically how it went all night for Flowers until they eventually gave him some help.


 

Overall Impressions

The Cowboys offense looks to have become specialized, meaning there are certain players with specific roles. Which after the first game look to be the following.

  • Lance Dunbar - Receiving Running Back/Slot Receiver
  • James Hanna - Point Of Attack Strictly Blocking Tight End
  • Gavin Escobar - Pass Receiving Tight End
  • Joseph Randle & Darren McFadden - Traditional Running Backs

Each of these players seem to have very distinct roles and there may not be much deviation from those roles going forward. This does not really make the team predictable as with each package there are enough other options to not give away a play call or whether it will even be run or pass.

Some may have felt the Cowboys passing attack was too vanilla against the Giants, I strongly disagree as I felt Romo got the team in the correct calls to exploit obvious holes in the Giants defense. If a defense will leave Safeties over the top, I have no issue with going underneath and marching the ball down the field.

The turnovers are something that can and should get cleaned up moving forward, even without Dez Bryant this offense has enough weapons and a Quarterback that can distribute the ball around enough to mitigate his loss.

The running game also gives the Cowboys options as that Offensive Line continued to block extremely well even with the loss of Ronald Leary during the game.

Defensively, I was very impressed. There is something to be said for how this unit played.

If they are able to harass opposing Quarterbacks this well going forward, the Secondary will continue to shine. Replacing Gregory will be a difficult task as he was simply a force on Sunday Night.

Without going into much detail over the Giants decisions at the end of the game, it was clear the vastly undermanned team was also let down by their Coaching Staff. Tom Coughlin and Ben McAdoo simply lost all forms of common sense and Eli was not aware of the situation either.

Once you make those mistakes and give Tony Romo an opportunity to win the game on a final drive, you deserve to lose.

Oh yeah, that final drive. I will just leave you with this masterpiece.

Patrick I'M IN DRAFT MODE Conn on Twitter

Final Drive play 6: Romo to Witten. https://t.co/xDbmpw7LWu



Avid Cowboys fan that will provide analytical analysis to the Draft, Film, and everything related to the team. You can find me @TheRealSmoothG on twitter.

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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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