Given the nature of Rob Ryan’s dismissal from the Cowboys (blindsided while on vacation; scapegoated for a season full of injuries) the amount of anger that has gone into his game plan is considerable.
Ryan has downplayed all, having graduated from the Dallas Cowboys school of politics, but make no mistake, this is a grudge game of the highest order.
Blitzes of all shapes and sizes are coming.
Also on the menu, faked blitzes with ‘backers dropping into lanes where hot-read throws are likely to occur.
Nothing too surprising about all of that. But what must be understood, is the intensity with which the defensive game will be played by Ryan’s men. Ryan will want to unleash hell on Dallas in front of a large, prime time audience, to prove the severity of their mistake in firing him.
Callahan and Garrett in turn, must pull off an Aikido game plan of the highest order: using the opponent’s aggression and momentum against him.
Now, any knucklehead would conclude that screen passes would come in handy in this situation and that is true, but lets go beyond that a bit.
Dallas hasn’t been a great screen-pass team, despite their supposed intentions as announced each off-season. They have the little bubble screen they like to do with Dwayne Harris, which everyone now sees coming a mile away. They have a few running back screens that tend to yield mediocre results. All in all, they don’t have much.
The Saints, on the other hand, have elevated passes to backs, of all kinds, to an art form. Against Dallas last year, their backs accounted for 172 receiving yards.
Hopefully Callahan and Garrett now see the wisdom of emulating the Saints offense to counter the Saints defense. They didn’t last year, despite the clinic that was put on right in front of them.
The Cowboys will need the most creative and strategic game plan of the year this Sunday.
Two years ago, you will recall that Ryan boasted about going up to Philadelphia and kicking some ass. His game plan was too aggressive and little passes thrown into the holes his blitzes created repeatedly burned him. Dallas got drilled.
Although Ryan has learned to tone down his mouth, his emotional intensity for this game is likely to create similar holes in his defense as he sends multiple blitzes on multiple occasions. Seeing the success that Jim Haslet has had against Romo the past few meetings will no doubt embolden Ryan even further.
The Romo-Callahan-Garrett brain trust has yet to truly punish blitzing teams this year. Romo is gun-shy about firing that first hot-read throw, knowing that teams are dropping guys into that lane. That delay is causing him to go to plan B, which is scramble. This is a very boom-bust proposition that often results in sacks.
Which is why it so long overdue for Dallas to take the initiative and set better traps for these blitzing defenses, rather than passively hoping that Romo can find a clean hot-read lane or escape.
Peyton Manning seems to routinely burn defenses who attempt to blitz. Haslet and the Redskins had success against him for about two quarters before he figured them out. In the second half he scored 38 points against Haslet’s men.
Ultimately, this game will tell us a great deal about where Jason Garrett is as a head coach. Is he going to have the solutions ready for the problems Ryan is going to bring? Like any aggressive attacker, Ryan will over extend himself with his blitzes. In Aikido, this is the invitation for the master to calmly redirect the opponents charge and take full control of the situation.
Garrett has been at the helm for some time now, it’s time to see some mastery in the heat of battle.