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The Truth On Man Coverage And The Plan For Megatron

Posted Oct 22, 2013


IRVING, Texas – A two-possession road win against a division rival was enough to earn the Cowboys a coveted day off on Monday. 

In lieu of an open players’ locker room, it was Cowboys coach Jason Garrett who handled the wrap up of Sunday’s 17-3 win in Philadelphia before the team moves on to Detroit.

A big part of that discussion was the continued success of the Cowboys’ secondary.  Dallas held Philadelphia’s passing game to a pedestrian 194 yards, and most of that came with the Eagles trailing by two scores in the fourth quarter.

When Nick Foles left the game with an injury at the tail end of the third quarter, he had thrown for just 80 yards.

“We challenge those guys a lot in the game -- the corners outside to cover their guys,” Garrett said. “Each of those guys across the board did a good job, for the most part, in the game, limiting their opportunities to make plays in the passing game.”

The narrative has been the increase in emphasis on man coverage, as Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick combined to limit DeSean Jackson to just 21 yards on the day. The Cowboys’ also nabbed three interceptions on the day – two coming from defensive backs.

“We feel like we have three corners that can match up with anyone in this league right now,” Carr said after the game. “Our thing is to go out there, tighten this coverage up and allow the guys up front to go after the passer.”

Garrett wanted to clarify on Monday afternoon, though, that the Cowboys have used man coverage all season. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 defensive scheme has gained widespread notoriety for its use of zone coverage, though Garrett emphasized the importance of man-to-man defense in the scheme. 

“Typically Tampa Two teams play more single high defense than they play Cover Two. It’s a signature coverage where the Mike linebacker runs deep and they play a two deep shell behind him -- that typically happens on passing downs,” Garrett said. “So Monte is a big guy involved with this defense for a long time. His defense has played a lot of single high defense for a long time. So that’s what we have done. We play single high defense. We play Tampa Two. We play a variety of coverages on first and second down and also on third down.”

The importance of disguising the defense plays a role in why teams decide to switch their coverages. Garrett pointed out Monday that having Carr follow on receiver across the field on every down would serve as a pretty telling sign of whether the defense plans to play man or zone.

“Then you have to get into the realm of ‘OK, we’ll move him over and then we’re going to play zone from that look’ … If they move the guy around, it presents some problems,” he said. “So it has to be a really viable, viable receiver on the other side -- a guy who is really threatening you -- to do that.”

Having said that, Garrett was asked if Lions receiver Calvin Johnson – with his single-season record 1,964 receiving yards in 2012, three Pro Bowl selections and 492 yards this season – was a viable enough threat to merit fulltime man coverage.

Garrett smiled ruefully.

“That’s a fantastic question. We’ll have those discussions here in the next 12 hours,” he said.

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