Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  By BOB STURM  |  Last updated 10/23/13
When you play a team after listening to the media for theentire week tell you they are reinventing the way offense is played in themodern NFL and then hold them to an embarrassing low levels of points and yardson Sunday, you cannot have too much to complain about when considering theperformance of the defense. In fact, if you enter thegame after announcing the reality that Jay Ratliff is no longer employed here,Anthony Spencer is done for the year (and likely his run in Dallas), DeMarcus Warewill join you in Philadelphia - but only in street clothes - and the Cowboyswill play with at least 2 defensive linemen who 7 days earlier were not even onthe roster, you really should consider presenting the team with a victoryMonday bonus day off. The Cowboys did a fantastic jobof defense on Sunday, although the post-narrative has surely surrounded theinept play of Nick Foles. Foles was lousy, but he entered the game inpretty strong form and therefore one should not be too reluctant to present theCowboys with just a little bit of credit for making him play as badly as hedid. This is not golf, where all mistakes go to the player who madethem. This is a sport where the defense finds out what you are uncomfortabledoing, and then forces you do prove that you can get out of that mess or yourhumiliation will continue all day. And for Foles, itdid. Until he left the game after a sack from George Selvie andJarius Wynn. Then, Matt Barkley entered the game and distributedfootballs to 3 members of the Cowboys defense (and a 4th that was called back)in just 1 quarter of football. Again, don't be afraidto give this defense its credit, even if you are having a hard time explainingit or planning on it continuing. I fight that all of the time,because in following the Dallas Cowboys over the last stretch of time, we havebeen conditioned to two things 1) the reserves cannot be counted onaccomplishing much and 2) too many reserves playing as attrition continues willultimately lead to the demise of the team's playoff hopes. But, past performance is not indicative of future results, so let's tryto ignore that looming feeling that these injuries will ultimately lead to acrash with the defensive line and try to enjoy the present results that tell usthis defensive line's performance is maybe the story of the season through 7weeks. Which leads me to Rod Marinelli and MonteKiffin and the difference that they make - not just with their rhetoric andresumes, but rather the film. The Marinelli claims are that hisdefensive line is relentless, tireless, and determined to play through thewhistle. That is all well and good in July, but can he take thatmessage and apply it to replacement level NFL players and make it appear onfilm? I am sure it starts with selecting players thatmatch the profile of player he is looking for. I am sure the playershe brings in are either "high motor" players to begin with or theyare put on notice bright and early that "this is how we do it here, and ifyou want to be here, then this is how you will do it." Then,peer pressure takes over and the entire group hold each-other accountable onthe practice field, film room, and ultimately they bring it to the stadium onSunday. We will not take a snap off. We will fly to theball. We will not assume someone else is going to make this play.We will Finish Everything. And how do weknow this is the message in the room? Well, easy. It is inthe defensive linemen manual from the 1999 Tampa Bay Buccaneers - a teamcoached by Kiffin and Marinelli. One of them likely put this on paperand here it is: Looks good onpaper. Looks better on film. Let's give youa few fantastic examples from Sunday: And before wedive into both plays, I want to offer 2 things - 1) it looks like all 4 playersare busting their tails the entire snap - but George Selvie is flat-out absurdin his relentless pursuit and 2) Jason Hatcher is not on the field in eithercase. He is a fantastic player and the idea that they don't rely onhim to carry them through this, but rather continue to rotate is reallysomething to get excited about. Play 1 - 1Q - 1:00 -21226 Here is a screenright to McCoy. When LeSean catches the ball, he isn't thrilled abouthis options right, so he decides to cut back and ends up losing more yardagebecause he is corralled by Selvie and Brandon Carr. But, on the gifbelow, just enjoy all 4 guys deciding that this guy isn't going anywhere.They are relentless and tireless against one of the more difficultguys in the league to track down. Doesn't mean they can't go 100until he is down. Watch how 92-Wynn falls in his pursuit but thenpops right up. This looks like 4 guys determined to impress theirbosses by playing at their maximum effort levels. Do not conserveenergy because we will rotate you out when you need a rest. Play 2 - 3Q -:03 - 3rdGoal8 This play is thesame 4 linemen, considerably later in the game. In fact, this isright after the interception that Romo threw, so the game can changedramatically if the Eagles can cut it to 10-7. Again, note thetireless efforts from 92-Wynn and 99-Selvie in particular. There isno question Foles has too much time on this play and should get rid of theball. But, when you rush just 4, your coverage with 7 behind you ismuch more sound and there should be fewer preferable options for the QB to find. Clearly, Foles can't find anything and he knows hedoesn't want to take points off the board with a silly throw (see Barkley,Matt) and ends up eating it and getting knocked out of the game in the process.Jarius Wynn in particular looks like a guy who knows this could behis last chance to be in the NFL and is going to play as hard as he can to takeadvantage of this golden opportunity. Finish Everything. Finishevery pass rush - Never give in. You have to love howit is moving from the page the film. WEEK 7at Philadelphia First,areminder of what a splash playis: What is a splash play? Well, forpurposes of this blog I believe a splash play will include the following: Asack, a pressure that forces a bad throw, and big hit on the QB, and a battedball that may lead to an interception opportunity. Again, you can see how thisleads to subjectivity, but a subjective breakdown is better than no breakdownat all, I have decided. In addition, a splash play will include tackles forloss, a big hit for a short gain, or a stop which is an open field tackle wherea player is pulled down on 3rd down short of the marker because of anexceptional effort from a defender. An interception is clearly a splash play,but so is a defended pass that required a great effort. A major hit in thesecondary could be a splash play, but I believe that the outcome of the playwill determine that. Sorry, defensive backs, but standing over a guy who justcaught a 15 yard pass because you think you hit him hard will not generallypass the test on this blog. So, stop doingit. I am trying to be careful about handing outtoo many splash plays per game. I am trying to be picky, but too extreme ineither direction. When I log a splash play, I will put time of the game on thechart so that if you want to review the same game and challenge my ruling, youare welcome to do so. Also, if multiple players deserve recognition on a singleplay, we will try to see that aswell. Basically, we are trying to assign a value to making plays onthe defense. We don't want to just see sacks and interceptions. We want to seebroader definitions of splash plays to assign credit to those who help theCowboys get off the field in important situations. These rankings will notdeduct for negative plays at this point. There are simply too many occasionswhere we are guessing, and for now, I want to avoid that for this particularidea.A splash play is a play that makes a majordifference in the game. And by keeping it all season long, we will see whichdefenders are play makers and which are simply warm bodies. We already have ourthoughts on both categories, but let's see if we can dig a bit deeper andactually have numbers to back up our claims. Hereare the final results for 2011andhereare the final results for 2012. I am reallyimpressed with the splash plays from the secondary in the last 2 weeks, too.In particular, Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick are looking betterand better. And the safety play is evident each week, as well. Q-TimeDDYdPlayerPlay1-14:36110O29SelvieSack1-13:53310O29CarterBig3D Pressure1-3:54210O22ScandrickPassDefended1-3:50310O22WilberBigQB Pressure 1-1:32110O28ScandrickTackleFor Loss1-1:00211O27SelvieCarrTackleFor Loss2-12:32110O42HatcherRunStuff 2-8:11110O26LeeTackleFor Loss2-0:55110O38HatcherSack2-0:2221D42ClaibornePassDefended3-8:5626O24HatcherHoldingDrawn3-2:46110D30WilcoxPassDefended3-0:0339D9SelvieWynnSack3-0:06110D30CarrTackleFor Loss4-7:1436D37LeeInterception4-4:5428O5ScandrickPassDefended4-4:13310O29ChurchInterception4-1:51110D36CarrPassDefended4-1:04110D12CarrInterception 2013 SEASON TOTALS These season totals are very interesting. Leeis likely to lead the team, but George Selvie is continuing his pace and isgetting to the point where it might be time to talk with his agent aboutsecuring his services past this season. And although I need toelaborate on this soon, let me just say it here: it is sure nice to have 2safeties who can make a play. PlayerSplashesLee17Selvie 15.5Hatcher14.5Church11Carr10.5Ware10Carter7.5Claiborne6Wilber5Scandrick5Hayden 3.5Allen3.5 E. Jones3Wilcox2Durant1.5Sims1Rayford1Nevis1Wynn.5TeamTotals119 =========== Pass RushBlitzingREPORT This segment of the defensive studyis simply to find out how well the Cowboys are doing at getting pressure on theopposing QB. We have spent a good part of the offseason talking aboutMonte Kiffin's philosophy that, like so many of the great 4-3 schemes, is basedon using blitz as a weapon, not a necessity. If you use the blitz asan ambush weapon that is always threatened but only used at the perfect times,you can often get free runs at the QB. If, on the other hand, youmust use the blitz because your normal pressure is not getting it done, thenthe offense usually is waiting for you and prepared - so even 6 rushers don'taccomplish much. Here, we look at the big plays for(Explosives are plays 20 yards and longer) and the big plays against each week(Sacks and Interceptions) and see what role (if any) was played by thedefensive coordinator. I don't want to say thisportion of our study is becoming outdated, but the Cowboys almost never blitzand all of these plays were with the standard 4-man rush that they areemploying 81 of the time. EXPLOSIVE PLAYSALLOWED Q-TimeDDYdPlayRushers4-2:52210O12Barkleyto Cooper, 2644-2:0035O43Barkleyto Ertz, 214 SACKS AND INTERCEPTIONS Q-TimeDDYdPlayRushers1-14:36110O29SelvieSack42-0:55110O38HatcherSack43-0:0339D9 WynnSelvie Sack 4 4-7:1436D37LeeInterception44-4:13310O29Church Interception44-1:04110D12Carr Interception 4 PASSING CHART Red (Incomplete), Black (Interception), Blue (Complete), andYellow (Touchdown) Tim made a chart for each QB Folesand Barkley so you could see just how poor Foles really was - but, of course,Barkley had 3 picks in 1 Quarter, so let's not think he had it all figured out,either. Pass RushersAgainst Philadelphia Eagles- 51 pass rushblitzsituations: PassRushers3 Rush4Rush5 Rush6Rush Short (0-5 Yds ToGo)0100Second Level (5-10 Yds ToGo)01740Open Field (10 Yds ToGo)0000Totals01840 PassRushers3 Rush4 Rush5Rush6 Rush Short(0-5 Yds ToGo)0100Second Level (5-10 Yds ToGo)0720Open Field (10 Yds ToGo)0300Totals01120 PassRushers3 Rush4Rush5 Rush6Rush Short (0-5 Yds ToGo)0420Second Level (5-10 Yds ToGo)0720Open Field (10 Yds ToGo)0100Totals01240 And, here are the full season numbersto date: Pass Rushers3Rush4 Rush5Rush6 Rush7 Rush 1st Down5 -3118 - 8316 -113 - 202nd Down1 - 187- 908 -8003rd Down3 - 355- 6714 - 178 -92 - 2 4thDown1 - 165 -83000Totals10 -3265 - 8138 -1111 - 32 - 3 The game by game pressure numbers sent by theCowboys: Wk 1 - NYG: 749 - 14 Wk 2 - KC: 1043 - 23 Wk 3 - STL: 1157 -19 Wk 4 - SD: 443 - 9 Wk 5 - DEN: 642 -14 Wk 6 - WAS: 845 - 18 Wk 7 - PHI: 1051- 19 2013 Totals: 56330-16.9 2012 Totals: 134551-24.3 SUMMARY:There is no way to color this performance other thanfantastic. They shut down an offensive machine and as we said onMonday, it was enjoyable to see KiffinMarinelli get their revenge against ChipKelly. I am sure it is not the last laugh in this match-up, but it isone day where they can demonstrate again that past performance means nothing inthis sport. The pass defense was sound (mostly) and the run defense wasmagnificent. After Peyton Manning completed his clinic, it was goingto be interesting to see how the mentality of the Cowboys defense was going tobe affected. 2 weeks later, after making the Redskins and Eaglesattacks look rather pedestrian, they can feel good about going to Detroit witha chance at 5-3 at the halfway point. But, make no mistake, Detroit is abetter offense than those last two and have a QB who doesn't lack confidence,nor weapons. That will be another great test, but for now, thisdefense should feel good about itself. Tactically, there is a lot todiscuss about this defense, but it is a very simple sport sometimes that wecomplicate. And if you can get your team to maximize its effort atall times, that can be the small difference in success or failure at thislevel.
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