Found November 08, 2013 on Fox Sports Southwest:
This week, the Xs and Os study will focus on the rare 90-yard Cowboys drive. This, as of right now, is the longest drive of the season from a yardage standpoint - Dallas' previous long drive of the year was the 87-yard drive, also in the 4th Quarter, that gave them a 48-41 lead over Denver - and also, maybe the most vital drive of the year based on what was at stake. And that drive, while open for debate, put a game in the Cowboys' win column, and kept optimism somewhat alive for a divisional crown and a playoff berth. Surely, a loss to Minnesota and a very difficult game in New Orleans might have put them at 4-6 at the bye week. Even in a lousy division, that would have made just getting back to 8-8 a tough haul. Now, thanks to a 9-play, 90-yard drive that had to be successful, they are still in a spot where they are in control of their own fate. What makes the drive more impressive to me is that they were down 23-20 when it started. Years of NFL research show us that when a team is down 4, they play with aggression to score a touchdown. But, when they are down 3, they often settle for a FG by getting far more conservative once they arrive in field goal range. Home teams often think they can get the game to over-time and "take their chances." The fact that they remained in attack mode and were willing to trust their offense not to do anything silly and risk the tie for the sake of the win, speaks loudly on their behalf. Yes, it was only the Vikings and yes, that defense can't stop very many, but the Cowboys needed 90 yards and a touchdown, and they got it done. Let's examine the drive: Play 1 11010 2:44 3underneathright to Witten 11 FD Starting with Romo standing in the shadow of his own goalpost, the Cowboys put in the Shotgun 01 crew, with 4 WRs (Harris, Beasley, Williams, Bryant, and TE Witten). This means lots of 5 man protections, with Witten staying in to make it 6 if Romo audibles. On this first play, the Cowboys line up with the 3 targets on the right (2 on the left) and throw a pass underneath at the line of scrimmage to Witten with Harris and Williams out wide blocking down the field for Witten who races behind them. This is the bread and butter play of any spread attack, with the throw basically targeting the TE racing down the 10 yard-line and then he cuts up field with a convoy. The Vikings open with just rushing 3, and asking their DT 97-Everson Griffen to drop into coverage against Witten if 82 runs the hookcurl, but since he doesn't, Witten is unaccounted for and gets a very easy 11 yards and a first down. Romo had the ball gone in 1.05 seconds, so protection is not an issue. Play 2 110212:18 4 Harris on hook 6 Here, on a new 1st Down, the Cowboys have Harris and Beasley sit down on companion routes to 5 yards down the field, with Witten running a seam route to clear out the linebackers and give them space. Romo can read deep to shallow with Witten on the seam, Bryant on the dig, and then Harris on the short stop. Doug Free is struggling with 96-Bryan Robison at RT on this pass rush and Romo feels it and unloads in 2.28 seconds. Harris catches and tries to get a little more yardage and is stopped by 50-Erin Henderson at the 27 for a gain of 6, as the clock ticks down to the 2-minute warning. Play 3 24272:00 3 left to Beasley 18 This is what I really like to see here on the first play after the 2-minute warning. The concept on this play is the the 3 inside receivers are going to all sit in the zone at a similar shallow depth (Harris, Witten, and Beasley) and Romo is going to hit the open receiver and quickly eat up yardage (at least enough for a new first down with ease). This play, the Vikings start sugaring the double A-gap blitz with their two inside LBs. This is something that gives the Cowboys fits as it is basically the Vikings 2 LBs 52-Greenway and 50-Henderson bluffing (maybe, but you don't know for sure until the snap) that they are blitzing off each of Travis Frederick's shoulders. The good news is that they are usually also responsible for the shallow zones, so especially to the edge receivers, you can get Cole Beasley to his mark before Greenway can get back to him. That is where Romo goes, in about 2.00 seconds and the ball is out. Then, Beasley shows his great elusiveness and gets the ball to the 45 by getting past Greenway and moving up the field until Henderson and 34-Sendejo corral him. Play 4 110451:35 6 INC to Williams Drop The clock continues to run and although they have moved the ball 35 yards, they still are not to midfield. This time, the Vikings have decided the 3 man rush is not working, so they show blitz and then bring 6 as the Cowboys leave Witten in to block. Romo takes 1.78 to release the ball quickly and decisively out to Terrance Williams on the right flank at the 1st Down marker. It is the right read, but Cole Beasley was available in the middle without much cover either had he had time to look over the blitz. Instead, Williams with a very poor drop of the ball on the sidelines in front of 24-AJ Jefferson who was full of confidence from his interception on the last drive, and the good news is that the clock stops at 1:30. Play 5 210451:30 5 slant in to Dez 34 FD This is great work here. The Vikings show a 6 man rush but only bring 5 (Greenway peels off and takes the middle zone). Meanwhile, on the left, Beasley and Bryant work with a nice route combination that is sold by a Romo pump to Beasley underneath and because of the way this drive has gone so far - with Romo throwing to the safe underneath options, everyone on the Vikings defense is worried about Beasley. This leaves a real opportunity to Dez Bryant on a square-in at 10 yards right behind the out by Beasley, and then Dez splits the safeties and is off to the races. Witten stayed in again for pass protection and the ball is away again at 1.86. As you notice, the ball is hardly in Romo's hands for 2 seconds on this drive. Quick hitting stuff right down the field. And, when one guy can break a tackle, there is lots of yardage after the catch - another big attribute of S01 with spreading out your defense and then making them tackle well after short, high-percentage passes. Play 6 11021 1:01 4 stunt out to Beasley 9 0:55 Now, with the Cowboys at the 21-yard line, you can see how they are now quite in rhythm and have confidence with 1:01 to go. This is where they can either get conservative and take the Field Goal, or they can continue to act like they are on the attack and are going to make them prove they can defend. This is the great truth of the slot receiver in this league - and the Cowboys appear to have a nice one that they have developed in Beasley - that no matter how good a LB may be, he is not going to run with a tiny, elusive WR underneath. The Cowboys see 52-Greenway lined up over Beasley, and Romo is instantly going to go there. 1.83 seconds before the out to Beasley is gone and despite the Vikings deciding to throw end-tackle stunts at the Cowboys protection, they are not getting close. On the last 4 plays, the Vikings have rushed 3, then 6, then 5, then 4. Nothing is slowing the Cowboys offense down finally. Where has this been all day? Gain of 9 and now they are at the 12. Play 7 2112 0:55 3 down to Witten 5 FD The Cowboys go back to the same play that started this drive, except over on the left rather than the right. This is the TE horizontal route behind the 2 blocking WRs and try to get the convoy going down the sideline. It does not look as smooth, but Witten does move the chains and gets the ball down to the 7 yard line on a pass that takes 1.34 and is as high percentage as it gets. The Cowboys then take their 2nd timeout and now prepare to get 7 points with 4 shots at it and plenty of time. Both times they have run this, the Vikings have called their DT - 93-Williams to drop into Witten's hookcurl spot, but each time the Cowboys have seemed to know it and sent Witten wide. Would love to know how they sniffed it out because those drops by DTs on that route can lead to the most untimely of turnovers if the QB doesn't see it. Romo is seeing just about everything on this drive. Play 8 1G7 0:47 3 INC OB as Romo avoids the rush 0:42 Here is a play where things could have gone wrong. The Vikings again show a massive blitz, but then were bluffing. But, in doing so, they pretty much took the entire Cowboys OL out of the play aside from Tyron Smith on Jared Allen and then isolating Jason Witten on Robison. By bluffing and bailing, the Vikings are trying to trick Romo into a short pass to Beasley that isn't open. But, they also have Free out of position to help Witten and once Romo pump fakes to buy time, Robison nearly blind sides him after wearing out Witten on an edge rush (don't expect your TE to handle that for that long against a good pass rusher). This was 4.07 with the ball for Romo, and it nearly cost him. But, he got out of trouble and was able to send the ball out of bounds rather than throw it into trouble. Play 9 2G7 0:42 4 Romo steps up and Touchdown to Harris 7 yards And now, the final play of the drive. Romo has 3 on the right and 2 on the left in a stack with Beasley and Bryant attracting attention on that short side. This appears to be a combo read for Romo with Witten running the up and out and Harris back underneath against a 3 over 2 defense. This means that the linebacker goes with Witten and then Harris takes the nickel corner 35-Marcus Sherels behind him and whichever draws the safety is going to send Romo to the other guy. Witten draws the safety and you can see Romo waiting and then when Harris cuts back inside, he steps up and finds him. This is happening as the coverage is closing in, so Romo needs all 2.78 to keep this play alive and give it a second to work. But, it does, and then Harris does a great job of finding a crack between his man and Greenway at the goal-line. Spread em out and slice em up. Where was this all day? They went into S01 for the entire drive which left Romo with an empty backfield and then worked it like a charm. That is a 2-minute drill to frame and remember. Video for the full drive is here: Romo drive from Bob Arnold on Vimeo.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Report: Dez Bryant may have herniated disk in his back

Tweet Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant may have his questionable moments from time to time, but in the process he has established himself as one of the NFL’s best. Although he has played great this season, Fox Sports Southwest is reporting that Bryant may have a disk problem in his back that has been limiting him in practice and in games lately...

Somebody is stealing Sean Lee's socks, underwear

Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee made an interesting revelation when he joined The Ben & Skin show. Apparently, somebody keeps stealing his socks and underwear after the games. "I haven't gotten to the bottom of it yet," he said. "I don't know if it's a prank or the equipment guys cleaning up. It's not funny either way. It's a long ride home. Let...

Cowboys player's family sues club

The family of a Dallas Cowboys practice squad player killed in a drunken-driving crash is suing the nightclub that served him and the car's driver. Jerry Brown's family filed suit last week in a Dallas County court against Beamers Private Club of Dallas. The suit alleges the club served "large sums of alcohol" to Josh Brent, the former Cowboys player driving in...

How concerning is Dez Bryant's back?

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant did not practice on Wednesday. His back was tight. In the locker room after practice, Bryant said there was no doubt that he would play Sunday against the New Orleans Saints. The rest of the organization has that feeling, too. The day off was just a precaution. But what about the future? Bryant turned 25 on Monday. A 25-year-old with back...

Report: Dez Bryant may have a herniated or bulging disc in his back

According to Mike Fisher of FOX Sports Southwest,  Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant may have a herniated or bulging disc in his back. Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant participated on a limited basis in practice on Thursday while continuing to vow to play Sunday night in New Orleans. But sources close to the Cowboys standout tell FOX Sports Southwest that there are concerns...

Dominating as a player and maturing as a man, Cowboys star Dez Bryant will shred the Saints

Still battling a bummed back, electric Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant will play on Sunday night when Dallas visits the Saints in New Orleans. Thankfully, reports now indicate that Bryant isn’t dealing with a bulging or herniated disc and plans to compete through the pain. “I feel good and I’m playing on Sunday,” said Bryant, 25, who Dallas took 24th overall in 2010 out...

Cowboys WR Bryant may have disc problem in back

Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant participated on a limited basis in practice on Thursday while continuing to vow to play Sunday night in New Orleans. But sources close to the Cowboys standout tell FOX Sports Southwest that there are concerns he is suffering from a bulging or herniated disc in his back and that measures being taken to treat the ailment go far beyond "precautionary...

Cowboys’ Dez Bryant may have a herniated disc

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant sat out of practice Wednesday and was limited in Thursday’s session with a back issue. That issue may be more serious than it was originally perceived. The Cowboys claim that Bryant’s limited participation in practice this week was precautionary. However, Fox Sports Southwest reports Bryant may be suffering from a bulging or herniated disc...

DEZ BRYANT’S FLAUNT MAGAZINE FASHION SHOOT

Dez Bryant’s passion for the game has been evident both on-field and on the sidelines in the last few weeks. The Dallas Cowboys receiver recently opened up to Flaunt magazine, for an interview that tackles this topic among others. Within the piece, he discusses subjects ranging from his upbringing to his harsh critics. On his NFL Draft day: “The whole draft process, it was crazy...

Sore Back Won’t Stop Dez Bryant

  Dallas Cowboys star receiver Dez Bryant has had more than a few issues with his back over the years, dating back to his sophomore year at Oklahoma State. Last year, in the NFC East title game against the Washington Redskins, Dez was forced off the field in blinding pain. The Cowboys lost the game, and Dez left FedEx Field in a wheelchair. The back spasms plagued Bryant...

Madden Ranks Sean Lee

Rankings courtesy of Playerratingspro.com: Let’s be honest, we all play Madden. Even if you aren’t very skilled behind an Xbox or Playstation controller very much these days, it is highly likely that you have played one game of Madded NFL once in the past 20 years. Madden is the highest selling game almost EA’s line of video games. It’s also the most popular American...

Dez Bryant may not have actually paid $54,896 tab as a rookie

When word surfaced that Miami Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was allegedly forced to pay $15,000 for a team trip to Las Vegas, one person who likely felt no sympathy for the former Stanford star is Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. During his rookie season, Bryant supposedly had to treat his veteran teammates to […]

Cowboys could be without Jason Hatcher against Saints

The Dallas Cowboys could be without DT Jason Hatcher for Sunday nights game against the New Orleans Saints. Hatcher was limited in practice on Friday and his status has been questionable all week with a neck injury. This loss of Hatcher would be a big blow to a Cowboys line tasked with stopping Drew Brees and the Saints offense in Week 10. More Hatcher: "I've been playing...

Photo Trivia: Cowboys Rocked by the Saints in 2006

I asked this in a post from yesterday, but here is more about the unknown fullback who scored three times against the Cowboys in 2006. The Saints would eventually head to the NFC Championship Game in 2006 thanks to stars such as Drew Brees, Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, and Marques Colston. The Cowboys had to figure out how to slow down these skill player to have any chance to beat...

A Younger Look

Who is Dallas number one young player this year. Fans have been impressed with the new weapons that have been added to the offense this year. The rookie list this year includeTerrance Williams, Gavin Escobar, Travis Frederick, Everett Dawkins, Jakar Hamilton, Jeff Heath, DeVonte Holloman, Cameron Lawrence, Joseph Randle, Cesar Rayford, B.W. Webb, and J.J, Wilcox. Like Benjamin Button...
NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.