Trying To Run Clock
There was a great deal of focus on the Cowboys final drive with 1:24 on the clock, but the one that I would like to break down was the previous one with 3:27 left in the game.
The Cowboys are in a three point game with the ball on their own 19 yard line and the Lions holding three time outs. Bill Callahan sends "11" personnel on the field with Dwayne Harris in the slot to the right and Terrance Williams outside of him with Dez Bryant on the outside left with Jason Witten in line at the "Y". The Lions saw eight in the box with the safety, cheated to the Harris and Williams side.
At the snap, Bryant attacks Rashean Mathis off the line, then drives hard to the inside. Harris reads the slant and begins to drive on the ball. He is on top of Bryant before the ball even arrives. In the pocket, as Romo was delivering the ball, there is an outstanding blitz pickup by Joseph Randle on Devin Taylor off the edge, which allows Romo to get the ball off. Bryant draws the pass interference call on Mathis which results in a six yard gain. [embedded_ad]
Callahan sticks with his "11" personnel this time flipping Bryant and Williams but keeping Harris in the slot for his blocking. The Lions counter with six in the box with Louis Delmas coming down late. Romo in the shot gun with Randle to his left takes the snap and on the delay, hands the ball to Randle as Mackenzy Bernadeau pulls from his right to left to trap Devin Taylor on the front side. On the back side, Travis Frederick replaces Bernadeau on his block which is Ndamukong Suh as Doug Free hand checks him then bounces to the outside to pick up Willie Young on the edge. As Frederick blocks back, linebacker DeAndre Levy reads the play and shoots through the "A" gap behind the pulling Bernadeau and meets Randle in the backfield for a three yard loss.
Now facing a 2nd – 13 and the clock running with 3:06 left in the game, Callahan stays with his "11" personnel, this time he brings Harris down in motion inside from the slot. Randle is lined up to the right of Romo as he takes the snap. The Lions have seven in the box. Callahan once again goes with the delay, pulling Bernadeau from right to left. On the front side, Witten is able to turn Taylor out, Leary and Smith double Fairley at the point and Bernadeau pulls around to take Levy. Where the play breaks down, is that Smith is late getting off the block and Stephen Tulloch meets Randle in the hole for a gain of one. The Lions use their first time out of the half to stop the clock at 2:38.
3rd – 12, Callahan tries to spread the Lions by moving Witten in a flex position on the right side. Callahan also puts Cole Beasley into the game and instead of putting him in the slot next to Witten, he lines him up on the way to the far right. On the snap, Witten, Williams and Beasley all run vertical routes three yards past the sticks then come back. In the pocket, Romo is looking in the direction of the three receiver side and is sitting in the middle of the pocket. On the rush, Suh is now over Smith and he is able to bull rush him back into Romo's lap. On the other side, Willie Young is able to get a push on Free as well, thus the pocket starts to compress. Romo feeling this takes a step to his right and tries to head in that direction. Both Suh and Young were able to break loose and head in that direction. Romo in a careless maneuver, fires the ball out of bounds instead of getting on the ground, taking the sack and making the Lions have to use their 2nd timeout or carry it down to the two minute warning.
If you are committed to running the ball after the pass interference call against Bryant, then you should have been committed to running the ball on 3rd down and trying to make the Lions use their timeouts or bleed those 24 seconds off the clock until the two minute warning. The Cowboys defense came up with a huge stop on 4th down that gave them the ball back with 1:24 left in the game. In three plays, the Cowboys were only able to knock 22 seconds off the clock, giving the Lions a full minute to work with which was all they needed to win the game.
Bryant's Big Play
The Cowboys started the drive in outstanding field position once again thanks to the return skills of Dwayne Harris. With the ball sitting on the 50 yard line after a two yard Joseph Randle run, and the Cowboys facing a 2nd– 8, Callahan puts his "02" package on the field, which allows them to have an empty backfield. Hanna is lined up as the inline "Y" to the right side with Beasley in the slot and Williams all the way to the outside right. On the left side, is Witten in the slot and Bryant outside of him.
At the snap, Romo turns his attention to the three receiver side as the routes begin to develop. Seeing that he has no options with Hanna, Beasley or Williams, his eyes go back to the left side of the field. Witten runs a route to the outside behind Bryant who is heading up the field. The Lions are in a zone coverage as Witten gets near the sideline but Bryant is in between Mathis and Delmas also heading to the sideline. Romo who has outstanding time in the pocket, is able to make the throw to Bryant with Mathis and Delmas trying to drive on him.
Mathis dives and is inches away from the ball as Bryant reaches behind him and was able to adjust to the ball off his left shoulder. Delmas also dives as Bryant secures the ball and is able to spin back to the outside, keeping his balance by planting his left foot, then exploding up the field. Bryant heads up the sideline keeping the ball in his left hand as DeAndre Levy is reaching to try and stop him at the goal line but Bryant is able to sneak in just inside the pylon for the 50 yard touchdown from Romo to put the Cowboys up 27-17 in the 4th quarter.
There were not many opportunities for Dez Bryant, who had his share of mixed coverages throughout the day but when the protection was able to hold up, there were chances to make plays against this defense and this was one where he made them pay.