Scout's Eye: Breaking Down The Red Zone Turnover, Lawrence's Development, More

IRVING, Texas – My full breakdown of the Cowboys' 28-7 loss at Green Bay after reviewing the tape from Sunday:

  • I am never against trying to get the ball to Dez Bryant in the red zone, but when Matt Cassel sees how open Jason Witten was on that interception, he is going to be sick. The Packers bring pressure with Clay Matthews off the right side, which leaves Witten in the end zone with no defender within five yards of him. Cassel chose to make the more difficult throw to Bryant instead of the simple one that was right in front of him to Witten.
  • There were two short-yardage plays called in this game where La'el Collins was unable to sustain his block and it affected the result of the play. The first one happened on the goal line when defensive tackle Mike Pennel was able to spin off him and tackle Darren McFadden for a negative play. The next one was a more difficult block where he and Tyron Smith were attempting to secure defensive end Letroy Guion. Smith tried to stay with Guion as long as he could but had to release to the second level. Guion was able to get underneath Collins and force his way up the field. Robert Turbin could have helped Collins by trying to cut the ball back inside but he couldn't get his left foot in the ground fast enough to make the move.
  • If the missed tackle by Tyrone Crawford on Aaron Rodgers' key 11-yard scramble wasn't enough, Sean Lee was in position to help him out on the play but he slipped on the wet field when he tried to adjust back to Rodgers. There is no doubt that if Lee would have been able to maintain his balance he would have been able to track Rodgers down and the Cowboys would get off the field.
  • Jason Garrett in his postgame press conference mentioned a particular play in the game where he thought that a route could have been run a little deeper to get a first down. I believe the one he is referencing was the pass to Terrance Williams in the fourth quarter that was three yards short. On tape, Williams is nowhere near the sticks and when he comes back for the ball, the official is not able to give him the forward progress to even challenge it or give Garrett the option to even consider going for it.
  • The Wisconsin homecoming for Travis Frederick was not what he had hoped for on the scoreboard, but I thought he accounted for himself well. It is never easy to have to deal with nose tackle B.J. Raji the entire game, but Frederick was up to the challenge. Of the successful running plays that the Cowboys had in this game, Frederick was able to snatch Raji several times. In doing so it kept him from being a factor in controlling the line of scrimmage. Frederick played him with power and balance which threw Raji off his game. There was a time where a player like B.J. Raji would have given Frederick fits, but each time he has had to play with a man on his nose he has made nice improvements.
  • I counted four different versions of screens that the Packers' offense ran in this game. The one to fullback John Kuhn might have been the most creative in the red zone that went for 14 yards. Kuhn is able to slide right to left in front of Aaron Rodgers, then turns to look for the ball. Rodgers holds the ball long enough to allow David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang to get out in front to lead the play. They get the kick-out block on Barry Church, then seal Sean Lee and Rolando McClain to the inside which allows Kuhn an alley toward the goal line. It is not often that you see a screen with a fullback involved, but in this case it was a nice design and well executed.
  • DeMarcus Lawrence has now had three sacks in his last two games. His rush around offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga for a sack before half was outstanding technique and athletic ability on his part. Lawrence showed an explosive first step that got him to the corner and once he had Bulaga leaning forward, he was able to capture it. In a game where Aaron Rodgers was sliding forward in the pocket, Lawrence was on him before he even had a chance to execute that move. We are starting to see this from Lawrence more and more with his ability to finish plays.
  • On the Matt Cassel sack to start the fourth quarter, the Cowboys have six blockers to handle five rushers. That sixth blocker was Robert Turbin. It appears the offensive line has sorted out the rushers they were responsible for and proceed to do just that. Clay Matthews comes on blitz from where would be the "B" gap. Instead of stepping up and meeting him in the hole, Turbin shifted to the outside and is working with Doug Free on Julius Peppers. Both Free and Turbin realize there is a problem and try to adjust back inside to take Matthews, but it's too late and he is able to sack Cassel to force a Dallas punt.
  • The 4th-and-4 pass Scott Linehan tried to Darren McFadden in the fourth quarter was a play that was wide open earlier in the game. On that play in the second quarter, it was 3rd-and-7 and instead of hitting McFadden then, Cassel hits Jason Witten but comes up a yard short. There was no doubt it was a play they went back to once they saw it on the sideline, but Cassel was unable to put the throw out in front of McFadden to give him a chance at the reception. The play had a chance both times it was called, but Linehan came up empty in both cases.
  • When I see Dez Bryant jumping for balls that he could easily have snatched with his feet on the ground or passes getting to his body, I become concerned. Bryant owned up to his poor performance, but we have seen him struggle in other games to catch the ball cleanly – the Tampa game comes to mind. For as talented as Bryant is, I believe that he's no different than a great hitter in baseball – he is just going through a little slump. I wrote postgame, I believe he is fighting the ball and what has been so natural to him during his career has got him thinking a little bit. I wouldn't say it's the pressure but more to do with his confidence. Bryant has always been a 'bad-ball' catcher, able to catch just about anything thrown his way, which is what has always made him so special. Once you see him getting back to making those types of plays, you will know that he is back.
  • During the game I thought Rolando McClain got trapped inside on the swing pass to James Starks that resulted in a touchdown. It checking out the tape, it appears that Starks should have been picked up by Tyler Patmon in coverage. It's a zone coverage and Randall Cobb's route should have been passed to Sean Lee which means that Patmon needs to take the swing route. McClain then becomes the hole player in the defense. From my seat in the press box I thought they were in man coverage, but that wasn't the case at all – McClain was correct in his assignment and Patmon was not.
  • Jason Garrett has already named Matt Cassel as his starter for the New York Jets on Saturday.
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