The Cowboys were able to overcome both mental and physical miscues to take down the Panthers in Week 7.
- The Panthers did a nice job of disguising their defensive intentions. They rarely blitzed; I counted only seven on the Cowboys’ 65 offensive plays (10.8 percent). On seven other occasions, however, Carolina showed a blitz but then backed out, rushing four or fewer defenders. On those plays, all passes, the Cowboys totaled just 38 yards. Overall, I thought the Panthers’ defensive game plan to play a lot of zone coverage with feigned blitz looks was a good one.
- We saw a lot of inside runs from the Cowboys on Sunday. After rushing outside of the tackles 11 times against Baltimore,
Felix Jonesand Phillip Tannercarried the ball toward the edge only seven times against the Panthers, gaining 23 total yards on those plays. None were counters, of which Dallas has still run only two this season. They’ve averaged 7.2 YPC on over 100 counters since 2009.
- Romo was again outstanding on play-action passes, going 3-for-4 for 38 yards. On the season, Romo is 16-for-20 for 250 yards and a touchdown on play-action passes, good for a passer rating of 135.4. Hopefully the Cowboys can take advantage of their play-action passing game against a Giants defense that’s susceptible to yielding big plays through the air.
- Of the Cowboys’ 28 designed running plays, only six (21.4 percent) increased the points they could have been expected to score on that particular drive. In terms of staying ahead of the chains, the first down rushing attack has been successful in just one game all season. On Sunday, the Cowboys ran the ball on 18 of their 28 first down plays (64.3 percent).
- Head coach Jason Garrett has called a near 50/50 split on first down over his play-calling career, but I really think the Cowboys could benefit from opening up the offense in those situations. Defenses still play to defend the pass on first down, but the Cowboys have averaged nearly twice as many yards on first down passes as first down runs since Garrett has been calling plays. Further, Romo has a career first down completion rate of 67.1 percent and he’s been sacked on only 4.6 percent of first down dropbacks, i.e. the risk of a loss or no gain perhaps isn’t as great as you might think.
- As was the case in Baltimore, Romo threw only one pass at least 20 yards in the air, the beautiful 32-yard touchdown strike to
Miles Austin. Romo, who owned the second-highest completion percentage and passer rating on deep passes in 2011, has again been sensational in 2012. His stat line of 10-for-20 for 253 yards, three touchdowns and one interception gives him a deep ball passer rating of 114.6 this year. But, only 9.0 percent of his passes have traveled at least 20 yards. The deep ball passing game starts up front with proper protection, but I think we’re seeing enough from the offensive line to warrant a few more deep looks moving forward.
- Tight end
Jason Wittenstayed in to block on 13.9 percent of the Cowboys’ snaps. On the season, the tight end has blocked on just over 15 percent of passing plays, a rate that is down quite a bit from past seasons. The Cowboys’ pass protection was pretty good on Sunday, though, so there wasn’t much reason to keep Witten from getting into a route.
- The Cowboys used barely any pre-snap motion against Carolina. I counted only two motions in the first half and just six overall (9.2 percent of all plays). Believe it or not, I think that’s a good thing. Over the past few seasons, the Cowboys have increased their expected points more often when they remain in static formations. I’m not entirely sure why that’s the case, although it’s possible that it’s easier for Romo to read the defense with less movement. Thus far in 2012, the Cowboys have motioned on 19.5 percent of their offensive snaps, less than half of their 42.8 motion rate in 2009.