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Wed., Nov. 22, 2017 9:30 AM to 10:25 AM CST
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Scout's Notebook: Hidden Plays & Impressive Performances From Week 7
FRISCO, Texas -- All tape is useful, but it’s far more entertaining to watch after a win.
The Cowboys got back on the winning track on Sunday, and they did so in impressive fashion. When you beat an opponent, 40-10, in the NFL, it’s a good bet that most of your guys had a solid day.
Here’s my breakdown of what I saw when I re-watched the tape of the win:
- Outstanding execution by the offense line on Ezekiel Elliott’s 25-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Zack Martin and La’el Collins wiped out Reuben Foster and Eric Reid on second level blocks, as Jonathan Cooper made the short pull to trap Tony McDaniel. Elliott saw the hole open up, as Jason Witten turned out Jaquiski Tartt. That puts Elliott up on Jimmie Ward, with just that one defender between him and the end zone. Ward attempted to corral Elliott at the 5-yard line, but he was just too strong to for Ward to bring him down. It was a play that the Cowboys ran several times during the game using both Cooper and Martin as trappers for nice success.
- The Cowboys caught a huge break before the half on DeMarcus Lawrence’s sack/fumble. If Lawrence hadn’t made that play, in all likelihood C.J. Beathard was going to hit Marquise Goodwin, who had beaten Jourdan Lewis badly across the back of the end zone, for a touchdown. Beathard was loading up to let the ball fly just as Lawrence arrived. If the 49ers had gotten the touchdown, it’s a 20-10 game with San Francisco getting the ball to start the second half and the Cowboys protecting a third quarter lead -- which up until this point hasn’t been successful.
- As good as Ezekiel Elliott’s run after catch was on his 72-yard touchdown, it was the ball handling of Dak Prescott that set that play up. Prescott’s two play fakes, first to Elliott and then Ryan Switzer, drew three 49ers out of position and two more just froze in their tracks. It was just that hesitation by the defenders that allowed Zack Martin and Jonathan Cooper to get to the outside to secure their blocks to get Elliott in the open. Once Elliott was there, he picked up a key block from Noah Brown -- who not only blocked Rashard Robinson but Jaquiski Tartt, as well -- to send him on his way to the end zone.
- It might sound strange, but I thought the catch Dez Bryant made on third down and needing four yards was his best of the day. It was a difficult escape from Ahkello Witherspoon, especially when he went wide, then broke inside. To be honest, I thought there was no way that he was going to be able to make the play. Witherspoon was actually in better position than Bryant to get the ball once it left Dak Prescott’s hand. Bryant somehow was able to get his right shoulder inside of Witherspoon and take the ball away from him. If Bryant was a tick late reacting or was lazy on the play, that ball is intercepted. Instead, it was a first down moving the sticks.
- I normally wouldn’t recommend dropping the NFL’s sack leader in coverage, but that’s what Rod Marinelli did -- and he created a turnover. With DeMarcus Lawrence dropping back, it took away C.J. Beathard’s option to George Kittle in the flat. Beathard was forced to pull the ball back and Jaylon Smith was right on top of him before he had a chance to reload to Pierre Garcon on the out. Give Tyrone Crawford and Orlando Scandrick some credit, as well, for taking blockers away from Smith on the blitz.
- The 49ers were committed to attacking both “A” gaps on the quarterback draw by Dak Prescott. That made it easy for Travis Frederick and Jonathan Cooper to take their men right where they wanted to go. Once they were out of the play, all Prescott had to do was cut right off the block of Rod Smith and walk into the end zone for the easy score. Between the quarterback draw, read-option and fades to Dez Bryant, this offense is difficult to defend when it gets inside the 5-yard line.
- Want a key play before a key play? How about Jaylon Smith’s tackle of Carlos Hyde with the 49ers facing 1st-and-Goal right before the half. Kyle Shanahan ran the exact same play with Hyde after he gained 16 yards on the previous carry. San Francisco tackle Joe Staley pulled to his right, but this time instead of Smith catching the block like he did before, he knocked Staley to the ground with his right shoulder and wrapped up Hyde for a two-yard gain. Shanahan then called for a pass on the next play, which resulted in the Lawrence sack/fumble turnover. If Smith hadn’t made that tackle, Shanahan might have run the ball again if he was closer to the goal line. Huge play by Smith to prevent that.
- The 49ers wanted to take a shot down the field and decided to go max protection in order to make that happen. Anthony Brown was matched up with Aldrick Robinson on the outside. Brown ate him and didn’t allow any separation. But Beathard was committed to throwing the ball regardless and loaded up to do so. To his backside, Tyrone Crawford beat Garrett Celek with a swim move, then shoved Carlos Hyde aside on his way to Beathard. Crawford had now beaten two blockers and was on top of Beathard, wrapping him up for the sack before he had a chance to deliver the ball.
- I really thought we were going to see plenty of Keith Smith in this game, especially with how much success the offense had with him on the field running the ball against the Packers. I counted 10 snaps where he was lined up as a true fullback, and the majority of that came with the game in hand. Smith did have a key block on the 45-yard run by Rod Smith, when he was able to kick Eli Harold to the outside, which allowed Smith to tuck right inside of him. Smith also received nice blocks on the edge from La’el Collins and Joe Looney, who was in the game for Zack Martin.
- What a “Next Man Up” job by Jeff Heath in place of Dan Bailey. I had never seen this before in all my years in football, but on his first kickoff, he placed the ball on the 49ers 1-yard line. Raheem Mostert fumbled the ball there and it rolled into the end zone where he had to go retrieve it. Forced to bring it out, he managed to get around Anthony Brown around the 5-yard line, but the man with the next-best shot to tackle him -- none other than Jeff Heath. Mostert was able to get past Heath at the 10 before Kyle Wilber brought him down after a gain of two more yards. That would have been a heck of a story, to kick off and then make the tackle inside the 10-yard line.
- I’m disappointed for Taco Charlton that he wasn’t able to keep his balance to affect C.J. Beathard’s pass on third down, which turned into a 16-yard gain for George Kittle. Charlton got Joe Staley off balance with a wide outside rush to get all his weight on his outside foot. Once Charlton felt that, he spun hard to the inside and had a direct path toward Beathard as he set up in the middle of the pocket. If he could have kept his feet, there was a chance to he could have gotten to Beathard, much like DeMarcus Lawrence did right before the half.
- I learned something Monday that I didn’t know and thanks to Jason Garrett for explaining it to me. To be a completed catch in the field of play, both feet must be on the ground. I was curious why Garrett didn’t challenge Orlando Scandrick’s potential interception early in the game? It appeared that Scandrick’s left foot landed on top on his right one while in the field of play. I would have sworn that was a catch, but Garrett explained that wasn’t the case and without establishing that second foot before going out of bounds it was incomplete.
- Bonus Note: You know you’ve got a great boss when he lets you wear a Bucket Hat on the set of The Pregame Show with your coat and tie. Thank You, Derek Eagleton.