It's been remarked on by some pretty smart people already since the Cowboys 2013 season has actually gotten underway - Dallas isn't really playing Monte Kiffin's classic Tampa-2. In fact, over the last few weeks they have moved far from those rigid concepts.
One caveat: I couldn't see the All-22 film yet, so these observations were based on the broadcast of the game. But I think they'll hold true when the All-22 comes out.
One of the things Dallas did in the Eagles game was basically abandon playing three linebackers and went with nickel personnel for almost the entire game. Sean Lee played on 80 defensive snaps or 100% of the total, and Bruce Carter played on 72 snaps, that's 90%. Next up was Ernie Sims who played on 8 snaps (10%) and many of those were late in the fourth quarter. Justin Durant played a total of three defensive snaps. The Cowboys made nickel personnel their base. Brandon Carr played on 100% of the defensive snaps, Orlando Scandrick was in on 99% and Mo Claiborne played on 96%.
But, they didn't abandon seven men in the box. They rotated Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox as pseudo-linebackers, lining up within five yards of the line of scrimmage on a large number of plays. Their presence in the box and sure-tackling was one of the keys that allowed the Cowboys to run nickel personnel as a base without being run out of the stadium by LeSean McCoy.
In the secondary, the Cowboys played a lot of Cover 1 (single safety high) while playing man-to-man, and occasionally zone, underneath it. Dallas put their corners in plenty of press coverage and left them to shut down the Philly receivers in man-to-man. This had the added benefit of letting them set the edge on running plays close to the line instead of having to come up and fight through traffic. It was also key to shutting down the bubble screens and vertical passing game the Eagles use to usually good effect.
The only time I saw the Cowboys play a lot of Cover 2 was in the red zone. Outside of that, it was a ton of man-to-man in press coverage mixed with occasional zone coverage, almost all of it backed by a single high safety.
You have to hand it to Monte Kiffin, he is adapting his defensive principles to the guys he has on defense instead of trying to force them into schemes they are not comfortable with. And check out our own Joey Ickes on Saturday when he was scouting the Eagles offense:
If I was Kiffin, I would play a lot of Cover 1 in this game with Barry Church in the box. With the Eagles in 11 and 10 personnel often, I want to get seven in the box and get guys in the face of the WRs. I want my guys on the outside to be worried about their man and not much else. The DB's are going to have to tackle very well and they will have to play LeSean McCoy with a lot of discipline.
Well, you were right on Joey. It will be interesting to see if Dallas continues this trend moving forward.