I know many Dallas Cowboys fans are not particularly interested in hearing positive thoughts on offensive coordinator Kellen Moore after the offense wasted a fourth-quarter 14-point lead for the first time in franchise history against the Green Bay Packers last weekend.
But I’ve got to tell you, there is some good to talk about.
Yes. You’re right. You can’t start the game with consecutive three-and-outs, turn the ball over twice in the first half, and go scoreless in the last four drives of the game. That’s not how you win ballgames.
But a lot of it, not all, was execution. The Cowboys’ offense displayed some very nice play designs and wrinkles (including a very fun one in pass protection) that deserve to be looked at and recognized. After all, fans want more than just senseless hot-take debates.
Let’s dive in.
Cowboys checkmate rival in pass pro
Shoutout to The Athletic’s Nate Tice for pointing this out on Twitter. The Cowboys saw the Packers walk up two linebackers to the line of scrimmage for a “double mug pressure” which puts stress in the A gaps between center and guards.
The Packers are playing a “pick your poison” game here as the Cowboys’ center and quarterback are forced to choose which linebacker to slide toward. Green Bay’s plan is to blitz with the opposite defender.
But what if the Cowboys bluff and point toward the center they’re sliding against? CHESS. You can see the play below.
Packers are running a double mug pressure that reads the Center's point. Whichever LB the Center points at, the *other* LB will then blitz.— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) November 17, 2022
Check out the Cowboys utilizing a fake point (and Dak confirming with Pollard). Biadasz points to #7, but then slides the other way. pic.twitter.com/RzGCWDV23p
Later in the game, the Packers showed the same look defensively having adjusted. But the Cowboys stayed one step ahead and blocked “traditionally” this time. You know Kellen Moore and OL Joe Philbin had to be smiling on the sidelines about beating Green Bay in their own game.
Scheme Lamb open!
Do you remember when we repeatedly yelled that at the screen after the loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1? Throughout the season, Moore has done just that with the Cowboys’ receiver on more than one occasion.
Sunday was no exception. Ironically, both interceptions from the weekend are examples of this.
In the first one (above), Dalton Schultz runs a route designed to pull coverage to him and into the end zone while Lamb runs a route underneath him. The tight end’s route is disrupted and he ends up running a flatter route than desired. The result is a lot of traffic where Dak Prescott is throwing the ball, as it’s a pass that requires anticipation.
Execution shouldn’t take away from play design, though. Even if it’s an issue that must be addressed. We’re aiming to be fair here.
The second pick was a “middle field read” route in which Lamb and Prescott have the option to attack the defense two ways depending on how the defense plays the middle of the field.
In this instance, since there was a safety positioned there, Lamb had to cross the safety’s face but misread it, leaving the safety in a prime position to make the interception. You can read an in-depth breakdown of that route here.
MOFC – Lamb supposed to cross the safety's face pic.twitter.com/tkkCGXHuW6— Mauricio Rodríguez (@MauNFL) November 16, 2022
One of the most common complaints about the loss to the Packers has been about the play-calling in overtime. Facing third-and-three from Green Bay’s 35-yard line, the Cowboys opted to throw the football instead of running it.
After an incomplete pass, the question has been “why not run it instead if you were going to treat it as four-down territory?”
That is an extremely valid point. Sometimes, keeping it simple is the way to go.
However, I can’t help but notice the Cowboys did exactly that twice in the game before the overtime sequence. In four-down territory, Moore had already called runs in short-yardage situations and followed it up with QB sneaks. Both of these happened in the second quarter.
During the first quarter, Prescott moved the chains on a read-option keeper in third-and-short. This is just to say, Moore had a point in wanting to break the tendency by going to the air.
And in order to play devil’s advocate, I have to point out that if it weren’t for an uncalled DPI, Prescott probably connects with CeeDee to move the chains on that third-and-three play.
Moore continues to show good and bad, pretty and ugly. But a lot of positives were lost because of a poor result on Sunday. It’s encouraging to think the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator is showing solid play design and winning specific chess battles.
Featured image via Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK
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