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13 Dec 2007

EPC: How to Cover Terrell Owens

by Michael David Smith

Something quite surprising happened in the first half of Sunday's Lions-Cowboys game: The Cowboys ran 28 offensive plays, and not one of them was a pass to Terrell Owens.

In the second half Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw four passes to Owens, who caught three of them, but for only 21 yards -- and one of those passes would have been called back if the Lions hadn't declined an offensive pass interference penalty on Owens.

Considering that Owens entered the game averaging six catches for 104 yards a game, and was
first in the league in DPAR and second in the league in DVOA, that's quite an accomplishment by the Lions' defense, even if it did come in a 28-27 loss. In his press conference after the game, Lions coach Rod Marinelli was asked how his defense held Owens in check.

"The Cover-2, as always," Marinelli answered. "You give up other stuff -- like to the tight end."

The tight end, of course, was Jason Witten, who caught 15 of the 18 passes Romo threw to him, for 138 yards. And since Witten had such a great game and the Cowboys beat the Lions, it might seem like the Lions' defensive game plan of shutting down Owens didn't work -- it only transferred some of the yards that ordinarily would have gone to Owens over to Witten instead. But the fact remains that the Lions managed to stay competitive in a game against a much better team, and they managed to neutralize the Cowboys' best offensive player. How did they do it?

To find out, I watched the tape of Cowboys-Lions, with a close look at what the Lions did to rein in Owens. It wasn't quite as simple as "the Cover-2, as always."

Or at least, it wasn't the same as the Lions' usual variation of the Cover-2 (a phrase that has been overused and misused so often that it's hardly worth using at all anymore). For most of this season, the Lions have been lousy against No. 1 receivers. And for most of this season, Owens has been dominant. What changed Sunday?

For starters, the Lions were adding a lot of man-under to their Cover-2, and the cornerbacks were staying with Owens even when he ran routes that would ordinarily cause them to pass Owens off to the safeties. The Lions' cornerbacks also wisely kept Owens in front of them, and they didn't try to jam him at the line of scrimmage. Earlier this season, when we examined the Washington Redskins' game plan and how not to cover Owens, we noted that jamming Owens at the line of scrimmage is unwise because he's just too strong to get slowed down with a shove from a cornerback. The Lions' cornerbacks understood that.

More significantly, the Lions kept their safeties deep downfield to prevent Owens from getting behind them, and they dropped the linebackers into coverage in the spots near the hashmarks where Owens usually loves to run his routes. Owens is a smart receiver who can find the holes in the defense and adjust his routes accordingly, but the Lions spent all day Sunday making sure there weren't any holes in the defense where Owens was running.

That's what happened on all those plays when Owens wasn't open and Romo therefore didn't throw to him, but what about the plays when Romo did throw to Owens? The first pass thrown Owens' way came on the Cowboys' second play of the third quarter, with Lions cornerback Travis Fisher in man coverage, five yards off the line of scrimmage. Fisher expected Romo to throw to Owens along the right sideline, and so he stood his ground in the spot where Owens wanted to run his route. Owens ran directly into Fisher, pushed off, and got flagged for offensive pass interference before making a four-yard catch. The Lions declined the penalty, so Owens' catch counted, but it was a great play by Fisher, who knew Owens would push off in that situation and set himself up like a basketball player taking a charging foul. If opposing cornerbacks can be confident that the officials will call offensive pass interference –- a big "if," to be sure –- that might be the single best way to play against Owens: Get in his way when he wants to run a curl route and wait for him to shove you.

The next play, however, was the Lions' worst play against Owens. It was third-and-4, and this time both cornerback Keith Smith and safety Gerald Alexander were in coverage, but Smith slipped to the turf when Owens made his cut, and Owens broke Alexander's tackle. The coverage scheme on the play was sound, but sure tackling is imperative when playing against Owens, and the Lions didn't have it on that play. It was ultimately linebacker Ernie Sims who pushed Owens out of bounds after a gain of 13.

Owens' other catch came on a second-and-3, when he lined up on the left sideline, with Smith covering him, lined up two yards off the line of scrimmage. Smith dropped into coverage as if he expected a long pass, but Owens broke off his route just past the first-down marker, leaving himself wide-open. As soon as Romo looked in Owens' direction, Alexander and Sims ran straight to him, and they managed to tackle him for a gain of only four yards. Obviously, no defense wants to give up a four-yard pass on second-and-3, but keeping Owens in front of the defense and making the tackle as soon as he gets the ball is the way to stop him, and the Lions did that effectively.

There was only one play when the Lions' coverage totally broke down against Owens. It was a second-and-6 on the Cowboys' final drive, with Lions cornerback Dovonte Edwards matched up with Owens, who made a nice inside move past Edwards to get open. But Romo threw a little bit behind Owens, who wasn't able to reach back and grab the ball. A perfectly thrown pass could have gone for a long gain, but Romo was just a bit off the mark.

Owens said after the game, "They had two and three guys on me. Sometimes even four." I never saw Owens actually get quadruple-covered, but it was clear that the Lions' first priority was taking Owens out of the game.

The problem with paying so much attention to Owens is that Romo spent all day throwing short passes to his other receivers. Almost all of Witten's catches came on passes caught within a few yards of the line of scrimmage, with the deep safeties giving him a huge space in the middle of the field. But while Witten has been discussed thoroughly this week, he wasn't the only Cowboy who had a big receiving day; Marion Barber had a career-high 10 catches for 61 yards.

The Cowboys exploited the Lions' emphasis on Owens all day long. A perfect example of this came near the end of the first half, when Romo hit Barber with an eight-yard touchdown pass. On the play, Owens lined up wide to the left and ran a route toward the middle of the field. The Detroit secondary gave up the sideline area to follow Owens, and when Barber ran a short route to the left side of the field, the only Lion even close to the play was defensive end Dewayne White. That is, to say the least, a bad matchup for the Lions, and it was an easy touchdown catch for Barber.

In fact, although Witten had the big game, it was actually the passes to Barber on which it was most obvious that the Lions were focusing on Owens. On a first-and-10 late in the third quarter, the Lions rushed four and dropped seven into coverage, and when Owens ran a deep post route, the Lions were so focused on stopping the deep pass that by the time Romo looked to dump the ball off to Barber, linebacker Ernie Sims was almost 10 yards downfield. No other Lion in coverage was within even 15 yards. Barber picked up a very easy eight yards.

Although the middle of the field was open for Barber and Witten all day, all things considered, you'd still have to say the Lions had the right idea in their approach to stopping the Cowboys. Just as the Eagles and Ravens showed that you can at least slow down –- if not stop -- the Patriots' offense by preventing big plays to Randy Moss, the Lions at least managed to play a competitive game against a much better team on Sunday, in large part because they kept Owens in check.

Finally, it must be noted that on several plays, Owens clearly wasn't giving his all, giving up on routes and failing to block downfield after completions to Barber or Witten. Owens said all the right things after the game about just being glad the team won, but his conduct on the field would suggest that if your strategy can take him out of the game early, he might take himself out of the game late. That might be the best reason to employ the Lions' strategy for how to cover Owens.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 13 Dec 2007

67 comments, Last at 19 Dec 2007, 10:08pm by im_no_playa

Comments

1
by B (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 4:58pm

How to cover Owens:
Send sleeping pills to his hotel room the night before the game. (too soon?)
I wonder if the Eagles, who were able to use this strategy against the Patriots, will be successful against the Eagles this week.

2
by Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:12pm

Re: 1

Some would argue that the Eagles have been successful against the Eagles all season.

Whatever they were trying in their first game against Dallas, it wasn't working. TO went 10-174-1 against them.

3
by Temo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:17pm

Nice write up... this just about matches what I noticed when I charted this game this week. I will mention also that on just about every pass to Barber that I charted, I listed "Uncovered" as the defender... that's how open he was all day. The Lions were giving up the flats all day long.

But I will also say that I thought Aikman made a good point near the end of the game after Owens dropped that pass (and he did drop it, even if it was behind him) on the final drive. He said that those little slant routes to Owens were there the whole game, and I agree. I do think if they had really wanted to get Owens involved, using him on those slants would have been possible. I don't think they would have gotten much yardage out it, but it would have kept Owens in the game. I did notice him not running out his routes and not blocking like he usually does as you mentioned. I guess Garret and Sparano were willing to just get what they could with Witten and Barber.

Where I'm dissappointed in all this is that I thought we had some "pop" so to speak at the other receiver positions (read: Crayton). Against a sub-par Lions secondary that had dedicated a lot of resources to stopping Owens, I didn't see the kind of production that I would have expected out of Crayton and Hurd, and really this game told me some of what we have away from Owens on this team.

4
by HT (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:20pm

#1 - Good one, B! Or perhaps the opposing team could send some "male escorts" to Romo's room and make sure Owens knows about it?

5
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:24pm

You would think Owens will be even worse on the field in the playoffs if he is taken out of a game. Everything has been roses so far, but it doesn't take much to send the marriage south. And although the Lions lost and Witten had an amazing game, the analysis is spot on in that a far inferior team was able to make a game of it and almost win.

Now, you would expect the Cowboys to adjust for this too. And if Glenn comes back and can actually play (unlikely, but *if* is the keyword here), I'm not sure what anyone will do.

Owens has said some of the right things this year but I'm not fooled by it. Guys don't change like that over night. Owens is about Owens and that is how it has always been and probably always will be. He has bitten 2 teams already and there is no reason to believe he won't bite the Cowboys sooner than later. He put this same act on in Phily and as soon as he wasn't getting the ball enough (presumably because he was covered) he blew up.

It's easy to say these things when you win, even if your on-field actions show something else. But as soon as they lose a game and Owens makes the comment "I need to get the ball more", it's all over. It will become a distraction and the QB will be in a pickle, like McNabb was.

Owens will always be about Owens. It's his nature.

6
by Temo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:30pm

5. While I understand that people don't change often, the situation in Philly was about money, not his role in the offense. And McNabb should have some blame for his relationship with Owens as well.

However, I do understand that Owens will talk when things are not going well, that's his nature. I expect it. That's the cost of doing business with him.

7
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:35pm

6: Anything is possible. However, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me, right?

Dallas might just be able to get a Super Bowl out of it before the inevitable happens though and I guess that's the risk. and reward in a nutshell.

If they don't do it this year, watch out.

8
by Hank (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:43pm

In the packers game, I'd have to go back and watch, but after Owens knocked his own td pass into the air for an int, he basically shut down. And he had been having a monster game. There was also a recent player's poll in SI that listed TO with the highest percentage of votes that he could be mentally intimidated.
My question is, is TO 2007 any different than the TO of 2005? Or can his environment still dictate who he is and how he plays?

9
by DoubleB (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:47pm

Michael David Smith:

Do you have access to any tape other than what we see on television? Different views (sideline, endzone), intercut film, etc.?

10
by vijay (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 5:50pm

Re #8: That might be true but that play was in the middle of the 4th quarter and there wasn't much time left in the game... I'm not sure him not getting many passes his way is that big a deal at that point.

11
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 6:05pm

Shh!!!!! Don't give away the secrets!!!! LOL

No but seriously that was a great job by the Lions. I don't know why but for some reason the Cowboys don't run slant routes, or barely do. It was actually talked about earlier this year cuz TO finally got to run some. I don't know why they don't use it more. But Nathan, Gleen is actually most likely gonna play. He just started practicing yesterday, and they said he could play vs. Carolina next week.

What I want to know is if Gleen does come back and is anything like his former self, whose got a better receiving core, the 'Boys or the Pats? Lets break it down:

TO=Moss
About equal, maybe slight edge to Pats

Glenn>Stallworth
I think its not really that close, but I guess Glenn might not be as good anymore, so who knows?

Welker>>>Crayton
This ones not close, as Welker is considerably better than Crayton IMO.

Witten>>Watson I also think this ones not that close, but closer than Welker and Crayton maybe.

Barber>Maroney He just is IMO. lol

So I have to say I would give the edge to the 'Boys. But obviously the Pats have a better QB and line. Still pretty cool though.

12
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 6:09pm

8,

yeah but also Romo only threw one incomplete pass after that so its possible he just really didn't even need to find TO, everyone else was open anyway.

13
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 6:12pm

"The Cover-2, as always,” Marinelli answered.

The Lions do seem stubbornly committed to playing with both safeties deep. Based on what I saw, this is in large measure why they got crushed by the Vikings a few weeks ago. I understand their attachment to this scheme, but they have got to be more willing to adjust as situations demand.

14
by Tom (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 6:58pm

clearly coming to the conclusion that taking the defense that you deemed as the blueprint for how to not cover TO, and changing one thing (man under on TO), should be enough to change a defense from the worst possible defensive scheme to cover TO to the best possible defensive scheme to cover TO.

I think its even more clear now that the redskins defensive scheme was not flawed, it was their garbage saftey who was blowing the assignments all night that was the problem.

15
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 6:59pm

RE: #11

This is how I would rank it
TO = Moss
Glenn < Stallworth (Have you seen him play? He isn't putting up numbers because they haven't needed to throw to him-- when they do, he performs in a pinch)
Crayton Watson (Watson is a good receiver, he just doesn't get much work. He had some big drops in the BAL game though)
Barber > Maroney (Maroney is a good receiver, not as great runner. Interesting though, as they were co-RB's in college.)

I would give the edge to the Patriots, only because they have better WR's (outside of TO). Dallas has the better TE/RB combo. And Romo is like Brady, but without as much experience.

16
by Bobman (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 7:24pm

#4 just a strippergram from the Hot Cops and GOB Bluth should be enough.

(that was sort of a recurring joke in "Arrested Development.")(I hate the fact that I feel I have to explain that. Three lousy seasons. I hate you, FOX.)

17
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 7:55pm

Owens didn't melt down with the Eagles until they had a shot at the SB, and lost it because of what Owens saw, in TO-land, as McNabb not being a competitor. That's when he gave up on the Eagles.

So the best thing for Cowboys-haters to hope for is that the Cowboys make it to the SB, but then lose, especially if they lose because of coaching and/or QB mistakes. That will set Owens off for sure. :-)

18
by MJK (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 8:04pm

thestar5,

You can't actually do it like that, because there's no rule that says an offense has to run a 3 WR, 1 RB, 1TE set, or that they have to employ a player that is less strong than another player. In fact, a good coach will run schemes and plays that emphasize his better players and de-emphasize his lesser players.

That is why an offense is as strong as the sum of it's two or three strongest parts, while a defense is as strong as its's weakest parts.

It doesn't necessarily mean anything that Barber is better than Maroney, because if Maroney is bad, the Pats just won't use him that much. Similarly, it doesn't necessarily mean anything that Welker is better than Crayton, because if Crayton is bad, the 'Boys won't use him much, either.

A better way, assuming both coaches are competent, would be to just count the number of tools each offense has:

"Elite Tools"
Cowboys: TO
Pats: Moss

"Very Good Tools"
Cowboys: Witten, Barber
Patriots: Welker

"Competent, above average tools"
Cowboys: Glenn (and Crayton? I don't actually know if he's any good...)
Patriots: Watson, Stallworth, Faulk

So it's about even. In my judgement, the Cowboys have two "tier 2" players to the Pats' one, but the Pats have more above-average playmakers at the skill positions overall and hence can stretch the defense more.

Of course, there's a lot more factors at play. You have to consider the QB and the O-line, which probably favors the Pats, but also the defensive matchups, which probably favor the Cowboys (the Pats big weakness in pass D is passes to TE's and RB's).

Does anyone remember what the Pats did to hold back Owens? I remember he had a good, but not particularly stellar game against them, while Moss tore the Cowboys apart...

19
by Jim (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 8:54pm

Re: Owens meltdown

Remember that Owens signed what's essentially 3 one-year deals with Dallas. Next year is the last one. They can drop him at any time next year with no cap implications beyond '08. (They can also drop him before next year, but I can't see that happening). It's going to be interesting to see if they try to extend his deal...

Re: 18

Numbers from the Dallas-NE game:
Moss: 6-59-1
TO: 6-66-1
I'm not sure how that equates to TO being held back and Moss tearing the Cowboys apart. Welker (11-124-2) and Stallworth (7-136-1) were the ones who tore Dallas apart.

20
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 9:01pm

16:

I agree, it's criminal that show was canceled. It's also a testament to why there is no hope for humanity, or at least America. Apparently America would rather watch "Dancing With the Stars" than "Arrested Development". It's the problem with developing a show where a half brain helps in watching it.

21
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 9:10pm

The dramatic irony of the Cowboys will likely play out I believe. It's interesting anyways.

I don't know why it's not a bigger story, really. I mean, doesn't most everyone agree TO is, as he has been, both the profit and pariah of his teams? The only question being "when?", in regards to his metamorphosis.

Anyways, he's a jerk so I can't cheer for the guy however convenient he may be. The thing that troubles me is Dallas looks to have a good team without him and you might hope he doesn't eventually poison it all.

22
by Temo (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 9:54pm

19. Exactly. And that's the kind of production that Dallas failed to get last week from Crayton/Hurd/Austin last week.

21. Almost every media pundit has been predicting TO's eventual blow up all season. Myself, I don't think it'll happen this season. I could picture next season when he (maybe) heads into the last year of his contract without an extension. And this offense is not nearly as good without TO as it is with him.

23
by Omar (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 10:49pm

correct me if im wrong, but TO didn't really 'blow up' in SF, he just asked to be traded.

and again, correct me if im wrong, but TO didn't 'blow up' in philadelphia. infact, if my memory serves me right, half the eagles sided with TO. it was management that sided with cry-baby McNabb

24
by Pat (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 11:09pm

correct me if im wrong, but TO didn’t really ‘blow up’ in SF, he just asked to be traded.

You're wrong. Owens was frequently making snide comments regarding Mariucci and Garcia pretty much all of the last few years. Afterwards was when he did the Playboy interview suggesting that Garcia was gay.

To remind, in 2000, he did the "dance on the star" celebration in Dallas which got him penalized, fined by the 49ers, and suspended for a week.

He also suggested that Mariucci blew a game versus Chicago because he was trying to help his friend, coach at the time Dick Jauron (which caused Mariucci to blow up at him in the papers), not to mention screaming at offensive coordinators after games. (see here for an article back in the last year he was with the 49ers).

and again, correct me if im wrong, but TO didn’t ‘blow up’ in philadelphia

You're wrong again there. The problems in Philly started when TO didn't show up for training camp. The locker room certainly wasn't divided "for" and "against" Owens. It was divided between those "against" Owens and those who really wanted nothing to do with it.

25
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2007 - 11:59pm

MJK,

You're right. I'm not necessarily saying that it translates to a better offense or anything. I'm just comparing the receiving core's ina vacuum basically. It was just for fun, and me thinking of how good the skill players will be once Glenn comes back if he is close to his former self. Obviously the Pats have the all-together better offense. And I think you're right that Maroney doesn't even get that many snaps, they use Kyle Brady and Gaffney more then him right?

26
by Len (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:23am

Although his skills post-surgery remain to be seen, there is a serious under-appreciation for the role of Terry Glenn in this article and the following posts.

Although I'd argue Owens is a HOF player, last year Glenn was the best receiver on the team, not Owens. He has been their only consistent deep threat. His speed stretches the field. The reason Detroit was able to shrink the Cowboys' game Sunday was because without Owens breaking free, no one else can do that regularly. The promise of Glenn's return is to give an ideal connection of speed (Glenn), possession (Owens) and hands (Crayton), with an elite TE in Witten. Whether that is the reality remains to be seen.

27
by sippican (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:28am

WR is an odd position to play.

It's really not possible to run flat out for hours. Smart WRs know when to do enough but not more than they have to.

A smart WR knows that if he's drawn two men from the defense, or maybe even a third happens to be in his zone, his work is done. He's not getting the ball unless the QB is insane. Moss and Owens get accused of dogging it when they're just accepting reality and not wasting energy flailing around. People begin to expect herculean results on every play. Ain't gonna happen. It's amazing sometimes to see either of them when they smell an opening in the defense. They kill people that make mistakes.

28
by David (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 1:28am

26: If Terry Glenn's absence was the main factor in Owens' reduced production, why haven't we seen that all year?

29
by patriotsgirl (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 2:07am

16, 20: I love this board. Where else will you see a Hot Cops reference on a football board?

Seriously, let's see if we can get GOB Bluth (or, if you insist on that little thing called "reality," Will Arnett) and the Hot Cops (Segway in tow, maybe?) to pay a visit to T.O.

Screw Nicolette Sheridan - I'd pay to see that!

30
by Len (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 2:09am

Good question. And the Lions of all teams were the first to do it.

31
by Staubach12 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 3:37am

Re: # 28--I think the point is that if Glenn comes back healthy and fast, double-teaming Owens will make much less sense. Glenn is significantly faster than Owens, and teams that roll coverage toward Owens would get smoked by Glenn and the long ball.
Glenn was ranked 9th in DPAR last year and 14th in 2005 (before Owens), I think his return would make a huge impact. By the way, Stallworth was ranked 39th in DPAR last year, so I think it's clear who is the better #2 receiver. It's not even close.

32
by doubleipa (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 4:57am

31, et al.

I wish the Packers had made a play to keep Terry Glenn.

I don't think they gave it enough of a chance. With how well and quickly Ted Thompson has retooled the Packers, Driver, Glenn, Jennings, and Jones as the top four would be very frightening.

33
by Jumpin Jahosofat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 9:54am

I cant figure out the cowboys. are they a powerhouse ready to take on new england for it all? Or are they simply a better than average team that alomst lost to the giants and the bills, and survived in detroit because of a missed field goal. how many guys throw 5 interceptions in a game and still win? so just how good are these guys?

34
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 10:23am

33. I think the cowboys are very good, but every team is going to look average compared to the Patriots.

First of all I don't see how they "almost lost" to the giants, both games were over with a few minutes left on the clock.

Second, even super bowl winning teams are expected to have games where they play down to the competition, it's the nature of the NFL. Going 13-3 in this league is considered to be a very good season, and the Cowboys are almost to that record already. But sure, if you compare them to the consistency and regularity of the Pat's dominance this season, they're not going to look as good.
So it's really the pat's dominance that is the exception to the rule, not the Cowboy's.

35
by Theo, Holland (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 11:16am

“They had two and three guys on me. Sometimes even four.”
.
4 pass rushers, 4 guys looking at The Dude or His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.
That would leave 3 guys for the other 5 eligible receivers.
Heck, in the end they were even putting the Left Guard on him!

36
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 11:21am

"Glenn was ranked 9th in DPAR last year and 14th in 2005 (before Owens), I think his return would make a huge impact. By the way, Stallworth was ranked 39th in DPAR last year, so I think it’s clear who is the better #2 receiver. It’s not even close."

Stallworth didn't have knee surgery. The case could definitely be made that Glenn was the better reciever last year, but it can't be made this year until we know hes what he was.

37
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 11:40am

35. To be fair to Owens, the lions played a man on the other WR and left every other route shorter than 10 yards downfield uncovered. So given that on any particular play they had 5 guys guarding downfield passes, and Owens continues to be the Cowboy's primary deep threat, I'd understand why he felt he may have had 4 people guarding him, although that never actually transpired.

38
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:17pm

#16 Lousy seasons? I thought they were excellent. Maybe the reason it got cancelled is because they were lousy?

*wink*

39
by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:22pm

Re: 33, 34

Yes, the Pats are certainly a dominant team, but even they almost lost to the Eagles and should've lost to the Ravens. It happens.

Put it this way. The Patriots have won 3 games by single digits. The Cowboys have won 3 games by single digits, plus they lost to the Patriots.

"Above average" teams don't go 12-1 with 9 double-digit victories. "Powerhouses" do win (and even lose) a few squeakers here and there. But of course, there's room between "powerhouse" and "ready to take on New England for it all".

40
by Marcumzilla (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:31pm

RE: 20

I've thought the same thing several times. I think Mike Judge has a point with Idiocracy.

A very high percentage of my favorite shows are Fox cancellations, largely due to their
stupidity (read: horrid time slots).

41
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:39pm

#13: mawbrew, they don't really have a choice. The CBs are tolerable at best (when healthy) and the LBs constantly struggle to find the right spots to cover underneath. If the safeties aren't deep, they'll get beaten too. (Alexander's just a rookie, but doing a decent job considering he's only starting due to injuries, and Kennedy is, well ...)

Yeah, basically I'm saying that they're getting beat one way or the other, so it might as well be on shorter routes. Sure, it may seem like it didn't work that well, but if you have access to the premium database, you can see that it seemed to work pretty well: Detroit's defensive effort was considerably better than could be expected, good enough that if their special teams weren't atrocious, they would have won. (Not just field goals - kick return coverage too.)

Even the Lions offense looked good to DVOA: certainly it wasn't good enough, because you don't want to settle for field goals against a really good team, but it was better than expected.

42
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:46pm

40. And whoever that Greg Blue guy is, I was very impressed by his play in both the run game and the pass game.

43
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:48pm

I think you need to consider the fact that Dallas played New England and was smoked, half-way through the season with both teams healthy (minus Glenn, who hadn't been healthy all season). Plus, Dallas had homefield advantage (they enjoy a significant homefield advantage no doubt).

Defending Dallas is much like defending New England in that rolling your coverage to the primary receiver leaves open a solid underneath receiver (Witten or Welker).

Someone mentioned that New England is bad against TE and RBs as receivers. I don't think thats really a knock against any team. If you are shutting down the #1 & #2 receivers then yeah, you'll be giving up a little more to the auxiliary receivers. Plus if you look at the stats, NE is not bad against receiving RBs and Dallas, while they are respectable at the corners, are worse than NE defending slot receivers, TEs, and RBs.

44
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 12:54pm

1. Dallas wasn't healthy. We didn't have a starting corner or nose tackle (although Ratliff has since then become good enough to consider losing Ferguson a wash).

2. Dallas has an awful homefield advantage, mostly because the season ticket holders and idiots.

3. The difference between NE's Offense and Dallas's Offense is that NE's "other guys" are significantly better than Dallas's "other guys".

4. I still think Dallas has as good a chance to beat NE as anyone in the league; which is to say not much, but enough that rooting for an upset isn't a hopeless situation.

45
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 1:22pm

"
#

1. Dallas wasn’t healthy. "

Neither was New England. Starting DE was missing (seymour). Staring RB was missing (maroney). Both starting TEs were hurt (Thomas on IR, Watson hurt in the 2nd quarter). Harrison was playing his first real game back, etc.

Dallas wasn't healthy, no, but New England was just as bad. The injuries are nothing but an excuse, and might be a valid contention if the game was close, but it wasn't.

46
by Waverly (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 1:44pm

#43, Temo:

The Playoff Odds report says that Dallas has a 23.4% chance of winning the Super Bowl. New England has only a 31.9% chance.

I don't think you can just scale up those chance to get direct head-to-head chances (or can you?), but it still looks like Dallas has a good chance to beat New England in the Super Bowl. "Good" might mean less than 50%, but clearly greater than (say) 10% that might mean "not much". "Hopeless" would perhaps be less than 1%.

47
by Pete (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 1:53pm

I think taking T.O. out of the game early will hurt his fragile morale so much that his blocking later and routes will be far from their norm (which I believe is better than average). Dallas' TE and RB (Barber) are definitely superior to NE, but NE is at least as good at almost every other position.

I wonder how much TO blocking and running better routes would have helped Dallas. Maybe another field goal or TD?

48
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 2:51pm

44. I think the Pat's super bowl odds are only so low because they have to go through the Colts to even get there... the Colt's DVOA is pretty much the same as the Cowboy's, and probably a little better if you take out some of the injury-plagued games. So the Pats essentially have to "beat the cowboys" twice to win the superbowl. Meanwhile the 'boys only have to go through Green Bay, and while GB is a very good team, they're definitely a step below the boys/colts.

In any case, the team I saw play the Pats, while not as good as the team that we can field in the super bowl, did not look like they had a great chance to beat the Pats... in a rematch I may give the cowboys a 35% shot (an educated guess) to win.

49
by Jim (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 2:59pm

Re: 42

Dallas wasn't healthy at the one most critical spot for that game: CB. Henry was out and Newman was still working his way back. Normally, with Henry starting, Newman plays the slot in the nickel.

Unfortunately, neither of them is still 100%, nor are they likely to be before the end of the season. And the quality drops off a lot after those two. As a result, Dallas is playing a lot less man and a lot more zone coverage than they normally would, which isn't really the strength of the players and is likely to get them killed again by NE's passing game.

50
by Joe T. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 3:23pm

Receivers not named Stallworth or Moss racked up 252 yds of offense. Having the #1 CB out of the game may have contributed to the Pats putting up 48 pts, but it didn't contribute to Dallas only putting up 27 points to NE's 48.

51
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 4:01pm

47, 43, et al,

Yeah I'm not really sure where the "Dallas was healthy for the NE game" came from, but Aaron said it last week too. They definitely were not healthy and I personally think the corners can recover somewhat with the last couple of weeks of the season and the bye.

Also, I don't think its fair to say Dallas got smoked the first time. Maybe in the final score, but not if you were actually watching the game. One of the FO guys even commented that the game was closer than the final score. Dallas had the lead in the 3rd quarter after spotting NE a 14-0 lead. If they come out flat like that again they will definitely lose but if they can play the whole game then who knows. After three quarters they were down by a TD and aroung midfield. They had a 23 yard pass called back by Illegal Shift and then on 4th and one they converted but had it called back by a hold that probably wouldn't have changed the outcome. Also one of the TD's was with like 10 seconds left in the game. I'm not saying they should of won, just that the Pats didn't exactly smoke 'em. I would agree with Temo that the Boys would have like a 35% chance to win.

52
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 5:26pm

Have the Cowboys beaten any good to very good teams this year?

Their tough games were all home, vs NE, GB and Minn (before Minn hit their stride). And we all know how the NE game turned out. By the way, even without the last second score, on a run, by NE's 4th string RB, NE still smoked Dallas by 14 points, AT DALLAS.

Then on the road, they beat two so-so teams by one point each.

As for their own division - please. The NFC east is comprised of teams that are average, at best.

If Dallas plays in the SB vs NE or Indy, 35% chance of victory seems inflated to me.

They are a wonderful team of fantasy football superstars, but on the field, I'm not so sure they are as good as their 12-1 record, or even DVOA, would indicate. Without the benefit of the home crowd, Romo can be - and is - rattled.

53
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 5:30pm

El Duderino - nice work.

54
by Cyrus (not verified) :: Fri, 12/14/2007 - 6:48pm

I think Dallas is as good as their record indicates-- in a normal year, they would be the "favorites" to win the Super Bowl.

This is not a normal year, however, so they have to deal with the Patriots/Colts. The Patriots game was close through 3 quarters, but after that, the Pats pulled away.

And mentioning that the Cowboys had a lead isn't seeing the whole picture. This is the Patriots drives:
TD
Punt
TD
Fumble
TD
Half
Punt
TD
FG
TD
FG
TD

This is Dallas:
Punt
Punt
Punt
FG
TD
Half
TD
Punt
Punt
FG
Int

55
by Temo (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 1:44am

I have no idea how this turned into a "How good is Dallas really" discussion, but so be it. I have nothing further to say on that topic, I think their record and DVOA speaks for it self... not in NE's class, but certainly a step above the rest of the league on the same level as the Colts.

But whatever, it's not a conversation that I find interesting or fruitful.
I will comment, however, that saying Romo can be rattled away from home is laughable. He's had game winning drives on the road twice already this season, even once in a game where he threw 5 interceptions. If doing that on the road in front of one of the best home crowds in the league didn't rattle him, then I'm comfortable that he's at the least no worse than any other quarterback.

56
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 2:24am

52,
Yeah like you said they beat Minn and GB, which were their only chances against the top 10 in DVOA other than NE. (2/3) The Colts had everyone at home except the Jags without Garrard and the Chargers, who they lost to. So they were 3-5. You don't think the 'Boys could win 1 out of 2 on the road, with one game against the Jags with their backup QB??? Sorry, but I have to disagree. Also the Boys have 4 more win against the top 16, the Colts have one. I don't think the schedules make the Boys worse.

"Then on the road, they beat two so-so teams by one point each"

Didn't the Colts have one win by two on the road and one by three at HOME against soso/bad teams. Also I seem to remember the Pats having close wins on the road and at home agains middling teams. I fail to see how this counts against Dallas.

"As for their own division - please. The NFC east is comprised of teams that are average, at best."

Well only Jax is better than any of the teams in the NFC East by DVOA. And NE has NO ONE better than any of the NFC East teams to play in their division. Again, fail to see how this counts against Dallas.

"If Dallas plays in the SB vs NE or Indy, 35% chance of victory seems inflated to me"

NE maybe, maybe. Although the fact that you think the #1 team in the league is likely to beat the possible #2 team more than 2 out of 3 times is a testament to how good NE is, not that Dallas sin't good. I also find it unlikely to be more than this number. But you can't possibly be suggesting they don't even have a 35% chance of beating Indy? Dallas have a better record and DVOA than them!!!! This is just so infuriating, is it just because Indy has been good longer? I just see no other reason to be this bias. NE is the clear number one and Dallas and Indy are a close 2/3 but to suggest one has no chance against the other is assinine.

"They are a wonderful team of fantasy football superstars, but on the field, I’m not so sure they are as good as their 12-1 record, or even DVOA, would indicate. Without the benefit of the home crowd, Romo can be - and is - rattled."

Not sure what the first part means because they have a good line and defense, unless you're just saying they are putting up big numbers. This is in no way only a skill position deep team though. The second part is totally unsubstantiated. The third part is probably the worst. Just, where do you get that idea? He had one horrible game in Buffalo. He hasn't thrown more than one INT i any game this year. Manning had a game on the road where he threw 6 INTS. He also did okay on the road in the playoffs last year in one of the toughest places to play. I just don't say how you draw that conclusion.

54 Cyrus,
I agree they won soundly. I'm just saying I don't think it was a blowout. But I think the key is not falling behind early. They had their defense on the field the whole first half, so tey were completely tired out by the end (hence the decline). And the offense gets desperate when thy are behind as well, which was the causee for the INT IMO. Not to mention I said (earlier post) how one of those punts could easily have been a score. But notce how the Ravens and Eagles were stayed in the game early, and never fell behind by more than a TD. You have to keep the NE D from being rested, keep your D rested, and be able to run the ball. That did both the Boys and the Eagles in. DOn't get me wrong though, I'm not saying its easy. It would take an almost perfect game by Dallas. Just saying the Boys have a shot and Im dead tired f hearing that only the Colts and Pats do.

57
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 2:28am

Ah and I see you agree with me Temo on how ridiculous the notion that Romo gets rattled on the road is. That really is ludicrous. I guess I care a little bit more than you though about the merits of Dallas as you can tell by the length of my prior post. ;)

58
by Temo (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 1:51pm

It's not that I don't care, it's that arguements like this will never convince the other party that they're wrong, and lead to endless threads with little substance. I'd rather talk about say, "hey look at what the lions did to shut down TO, I wonder if other teams will try it and what the cowboys will do to combat it." than say, "Lol, look the cowboys haven't beaten anyone, they sux!!".

59
by Jim (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 1:52pm

Re: 52

Yes, clearly Romo was rattled up in Detroit last week, what with his 35-44-302-2-0 performance, 5th in DPAR for the week, 9-for-9 in the red zone, and leading TD drives in the final minute of each half. And in New York (20-28-247-4-1), and in Philly (20-25-324-3-1), and in Chicago, and in Miami, and leading the game-winning drive in Buffalo. I do appreciate the supporting facts you bring to the discussion.

60
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 5:43pm

Re: 59

The teams you just mentioned are ranked 24, 13, 18, 22, 28 and 15 in pass DVOA, respectively. The 13 is NYG, who still seem to be very beatable through the air, despite where they rank.

The fact that you bring Miami into the conversation is laughable.

Forgive me for not being impressed with that list of average to just-plain-bad pass D's.

As for being rattled - 5 picks vs Buffalo is hardly a solid day. Yes, he led his team to victory based on a fairly abnormal confluence of events, but his decision-making for the majority of that contest was suspect.

That said, he's still doing what he should vs. those teams and he can't choose which teams will be on his schedule. I think he is a good QB, but I'm still not fully sold. That's all.

Besides - I passed over him as my fantasy sleeper, which probably explains the bitter stance.

61
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 7:13pm

60, So one bad game means he gets rattled on the road. I guess Peyton Manning gets rattled on the road too. Seriously, just admit you're wrong.

62
by Jim (not verified) :: Sat, 12/15/2007 - 7:24pm

Re: 60

You can't have it both ways. You said that on the road, "Romo can be - and is - rattled", yet when I point out that he's been great in 5 of 6 road games this season and led two great end-of-game drives in the 6th, you argue that those teams aren't any good. One bad game is evidence that he gets rattled, 5 good games are not evidence that he doesn't. And I suppose Brady's annual 4-INT games and Peyton's 6-INT game don't count either because, um, well, I can't think of a reason.

63
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sun, 12/16/2007 - 11:37pm

61 & 60

Nuff said.

64
by Nicky P (not verified) :: Sun, 12/16/2007 - 11:43pm

Correction...

61 and 62 - nuff said.

65
by Jesus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2007 - 12:39pm

Romo looked pretty darn pedestrian yesterday .. I guess he does get a little rattled!

66
by im_no_playa (not verified) :: Mon, 12/17/2007 - 2:57pm

Any stats on Romo when he has some "girlfriend"-type up in the box watching him? I think Romo got a little rattled .. by Jessica Simpson. Can't believe no one has made this OBVIOUS connection yet!!! :)

67
by im_no_playa (not verified) :: Wed, 12/19/2007 - 10:08pm

Looks like maybe my suggestion is true (click name for link)...