Brandon Carr made two interceptions on Saturday evening in San Diego. That brings the preseason interception total to three for the Cowboys defensive starters. Gerald Sensabaugh made the other interception from the free safety position on the first drive of the Oakland Raiders and Carson Palmer.
Gerald Sensabaugh roamed into the deep portion of the field on his interception. Sensabaugh was providing over the top help for Orlando Scandrick, who was shadowing the Oakland receiver, Ford on the deep left portion of the field.
Since there was a limited view (not the all 22: click here for the best view of the interception [http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2012081351/2012/PRE1/cowboys@raiders#menu=highlights&tab=analyze&analyze=playbyplay]), it was difficult to discern, but it seemed that Sensabaugh was playing as the single safety high. Gerald drifted towards the deep left quadrant of the field shortly after the snap.
Oakland had maximum protection on the play, in a choreographed attempt to take a deep shot. Carr was on the right side of the field locked on the Raiders speedster, Heyward -Bey. Despite the maximum protection, Kenyon Coleman broke through to pressure Palmer.
Not since the days of Darren Woodson, have I seen a Dallas safety make such a decisive move on a deep pass and come up with the big play. It almost seemed as if Gerald eschewed the option to provide help to Carr's side of the field.
Then I read the article Bryan Broaddus penned (http://www.dallascowboys.com/news/article-BryanBroaddus/Broaddus-Second-Thoughts-After-Film-Session-Of-SD-Dal/0d629955-a8e0-4ae9-8dd0-28446b94f1b6). Here is the quote that caught my attention.
"Carr is lined up at the left corner against the speedy Robert Meachem. Rivers takes the snap from the gun and looks down the middle of the field where he sees Gerald Sensabaugh and Barry Church lined in a two deep look. In his pedal, Carr turns his body to play an inside technique and carries Meachem down the field till he gets to Church who has stepped forward. Church passes on Meachem and drives forward to help on inside coverage on tight end Antonio Gates, leaving Carr to handle Meachem by himself."
Could it be that with Carr manning one side of the field, Sensabaugh felt comfortable providing the deep help to Scandrick's man? Church made the same decision in San Diego, electing to double cover an underneath receiver instead of providing help over the top for Carr. Victor Butler's pressure on Rivers forced the quarterback to throw the ball deep without stepping into the pass. Carr, now matched in single coverage on Meachem, took advantage of the errant pass (http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2012081856/2012/PRE2/cowboys@chargers#menu=highlights&tab=recap).
On the play, Morris Claiborne appeared to be getting help from Gerald Sensabaugh. This is the same strategy that the Cowboys employed when Deion Sanders wore the star. Deion would receive occasional help over the top, but would often be matched-up one-on-one against the opponent's receiver on his side of the field.
Interestingly, Brandon Carr invoked Deion's name after the game in regards to that interception. The other defensive piece that fell into place was the pressure applied by the Cowboys when rushing only four defenders on both occasions.
Rob Ryan attempted to increase the pressure through blitzes and schemes to minimize the exposure of the secondary against Vick and Eli. Both quarterbacks dissected the Cowboys defense last season. It became obvious that Dallas needed to get pressure with only four rushers, leaving seven defenders to provide coverage and confusion in the secondary.
With Carr, Church, Sensabaugh, Scandrick, and Claiborne (and perhaps Jenkins) offering an obvious upgrade in downfield coverage, more opportunities to produce pressure may materialize. Conversely, with better pressure provided by fewer rushers, more turnovers may result.
Carr is demonstrating a propensity for making plays on the ball. Claiborne demonstrated this skill last season at LSU. Because of the coverage the cornerbacks can provide, the safeties are better able to play the ball (as witnessed by Sensabaugh's interception, and his presence around the ball on Carr's second, juggling pick in San Diego).
As Garrett emphasizes, and the statistics confirm, collecting more takeaways leads to a greater probability of winning. That is the ultimate measure of the Carr Effect.