FanPost

"I Lied" - I Agree. A proper look at the pass Defense.

This post is a rebuttal to the "I Lied" Fanpost from The Real Dirk Gently. Click here if you'd like to view it or review it. I believe that post makes many incorrect and unsubstantiated claims. Simply making a mistake or two is not what I'm talking about here. I also think the author behaved very poorly when people mostly politely and mildly challenged his dubious claims. I also think it's disappointing that posts that contain so many factual errors, unproven and incorrect theories and a belligerent author are given piles of Recommends. I realize in advance a post like this will probably go over like a lead balloon nowadays but I feel compelled to proceed anyway. Truth and accuracy in our posts, comments and analysis are crucial. Without them the blog is just a bunch of people spouting half-truths and myths while talking past each other.

A quote from the "I Lied" Fanpost:

When Dallas went up by 17, with 4:55 to go in the 3rd qtr (40:05 into the game), the coaches took their foot off the gas. The players didn't, mind you-- they still contested and fought for every ball, but the Safeties were backed totally out of the play allowing huge cushions underneath which were exploited by Manning and his WRs against our LBs in the middle zones. You can argue all day long that it was the wrong decision, but that is a playcall issue, not an execution issue or a capability issue.

Ok, let's start at 4:55 in the Third Quarter. That's the point where Dirk claims that Dallas went into some sort of super Prevent-D that allowed Manning easy completions underneath. This was claimed to be simply Coach error and that we could have been stifling them at any time if we really wanted too. This is essentially the crux of the entire argument in his post and what he's been hanging his hat on as he rudely replied to people who have rightly questioned his theory. Dirk says:

For those who don't care to try to look smart by talking about things they do not under stand

Here is an example of what I mean by "Prevent" defense. I’ve been waiting for All-22, but apparently NFL Network isn’t going to let me see it so here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/100139737@N06/9735952787/

This is picture of the very first play after the fumble return for a TD. 4:55 left in the 3rd quarter. It’s a 15 yd completion to Victor Cruz at the moment of the catch. It was Play Action, but look at Lee. Now Look at Carr, who was lined up in Man on Cruz, but immediately bailed so far up the field that he’s 20yds from the Line of Scrimmage at the catch. See the Safeties? No… because they are off the freaking screen in a picture centered 15 yds downfield from the line of scrimmage.

3rd Quarter, 1st Down, 4:55

Dirk claimed that both Safeties (Church and Allen) were playing deep. Here's the photo he used as evidence, claiming both Safeties were out the back of the shot. Those are his descriptions drawn on the play.

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His description of this play is totally incorrect. Dallas played single high Safety on this down. Church in the deep and Allen moving up. In the photo that Dirk selectively choose Allen was actually in front of the shot not behind it.

Photo 1: Here's the play at the snap. Clearly Church can be seen deep and Allen is a good 7-8 yards in front of him at the 30 yard line.

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Photo 2: A few seconds into the play and Allen has moved up a further 5 yards and Church back a few. Allen ends up covering the tight end (#83 Meyer) who runs his route in front of Eli's role-out.

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Now, before the "I didn't have the All-22 footage" get out of jail free card is attempted to be played again in this thread like it was tried in the other thread, let's look at the broadcast footage where Dirk took his photo from:

Photo 3: Clearly, there's #26 Will Allen (on the 26 yard line) moving forward into view not backward and out of view.

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Photo 4: As Eli prepares to throw, clearly, Will Allen (on the 22 yard line) can be seen as the Safety covering the TE Meyer (#83).

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Photo 5: And if your film watching skills are so bad that even though you're supposed to be watching the Safeties and you've failed to spot Allen despite him clearly being in shot, he gives you one more chance as he comes over to where Cruz caught the ball from behind were Cruz made the catch. You don't need to be a science teacher to understand what that means about where Allen was on the play.

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Look at all the clear shots we have of Allen's placement. Now please scroll back up and look at the shot that Dirk took to support his false claim. Extremely convenient photo to pick isn't it?

So we have a few options:

Option A). Realise that Dirk simply cannot follow simple plays even on multiple reviews.

Option B). Realise that Dirk and the truth have at best a tenuous relationship that seems deliberately and willingly abandoned when it suits his opinion and that any questioning of his methods results in comments like these (quotes taken direct from horses mouth):

but if you think I'm just finding what I wanted to find you are way off. As I said in another thread. I'm a science teacher. don't lecture me on confirmation bias.

But don't lecture me.

so get off your pulpit. Disagree at will, but do not presume to teach ME science.

I've used clear examples and, mostly, small words. If you continue to misunderstand, that's your problem.

Got a number of people being dumb about this and I've about had it with them acting like they know whereof they speak.

Hey, you know what? Screw You.

See? Even when I'm not actively formally doing an experiment I STILL have a better grasp of scientific method than you.

Eat me.

C'mon big scientist man, show me how wrong I am.

Dirk seems very confident in his own intelligence credentials, with him frequently referencing his own science 'expertise' and berating others for stupidity, so surely he's smart enough to not have made the glaring mistakes of Option A. If you don't think the reasonable answer to this conundrum is Option B and you believe that Dirk just by pure fluke happened to not see Will Allen in shot several times and just accidentally took the most convenient and misleading photo possible then allow me to put you in contact with this guy from Nigeria who will put a lot of money in your bank account if you'll just give him your account details.

***Update to this play/photo debate.

When I pointed out Dirk's blatant inaccuracies about the Safety in the other thread he responded with this:

BTW, since my interpretation of the data is so BIASED and DECEITFUL

I'm sure you can easily explain how it's standard defensive practice to throw out a nickel defense against 21 personnel (the giants stayed in run formation which is why Allen snuck back up- we had 6+ a nickel CB in the box against a RB + FB)

This is another outright falsehood, they just keep coming. Dallas was not in Nickle on this play. They had 4 down Lineman and 3 LB's (Durant, Lee and Carter). You can clearly see Durant in the third and forth photos I posted of the play above. Durant (#52) is crashing down on the run in photo 3 and has turned around to chase Manning in photo 4. In that thread Dirk makes a few other inaccurate claims about that play that I also rebut but I think you get the idea. If you must see for yourself you can check out that thread.***

Lest people think I'm being uncharitable and overly harsh based on one photo, let's recap and further explore the claims in Dirk's Fanpost.

When Dallas went up by 17, with 4:55 to go in the 3rd qtr (40:05 into the game), the coaches took their foot off the gas. The players didn't, mind you-- they still contested and fought for every ball, but the Safeties were backed totally out of the play allowing huge cushions underneath which were exploited by Manning and his WRs against our LBs in the middle zones. You can argue all day long that it was the wrong decision, but that is a playcall issue, not an execution issue or a capability issue.

Ok, we've already covered first down in the above photos (15 yard gain). So let's go through the rest of the drive. This is a long and thoroughly documented affair friends but there's no other way to do it. Otherwise it just ends up people disagreeing rudely with each other making claims without any evidence. That's a terrible scenario for the blog to get into regularly and predictably what Dirk's thread devolved into when his theories were questioned. This is the problem when someone makes many wild and unsubstantiated claims to push an opinion: it takes a mountain of work to accurately show their falsehoods. This is especially difficult when we see, as shown in the update above, that when called on their mistakes they respond by stacking more inaccurate statements on top of their old ones. Let's further test out this "the coaches took their foot off the gas" and it was Prevent-D play-calls that caused all the woes theory.

3rd Quarter, 1st Down, 4:23

Photo 6: At the snap: Allen on the 50, Church on the 48-49.

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Photo 7: Manning just completed a run fake. Both Lee and Carter rushed up a few steps from it. Church has also moved up from the 48-9 to the 41-2. They moved up, not back as claimed. Observe Scandrick with his hands on the WR in the slot (at the 39).

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Photo 8: Next photo shows Scandrick letting the WR (Cruz) through his zone and then lurching forward into no-man's land (as Lee starts to come out from his mis-read into the area where Scandrick is also moving into). Eli, with good protection, is looking straight into the area that Scandrick just vacated for no good reason.

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Photo 9: Here's Randle catching the pass. Look at the huge gap in the D between Morris who carried Cruz deep and Scandrick who moved further up the field to cover nobody.

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This isn't a Coach or Play-call error. The players just misplayed this from the start. They bit on the play-action (Lee, Carter and Church) and then Scandrick got caught staring at Eli and moving forward instead of understanding the huge gap he'd just left where 2 WR's just ran into. Result was an 18 yard gain for Reuben Randle.

3rd Quarter, 1st Down, 3:51

Photo 10: The ball has just been snapped. Dallas runs this play as a simple Cover-2 Zone.

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Photo 11: The Safeties rotate to their deep halves, the LB's drop and the CB's jam and stay short. That's a standard Cover-2 Zone play-call folks. Eli gets pressured but completes short to Meyers, 2 yard gain. Morris was hurt on the play.

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3rd Quater, 2nd and 8, 3:15

Photo 12: Just before the snap. Church deep at the 26, Allen at the 36. Have we finally found this mystical Prevent-D play we're looking for? No. Dallas rushes 6 on the play.

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Photo 13: From Left to right: Webb, Long, Lee, Cohen, Hatcher and Ware all rush.

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Photo 14: Here's Nicks making the catch on Scandrick. The Giants do a good enough job of picking up the blitz that it allows Eli to find his target. Once again, clearly there's no special Prevent-D that's causing these completions. Nicks for 11 yards.

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3rd Quarter, 1st Down, 3:48

A Draw play so not really relevant to the discussion. I did give the play a look over and took photos but will leave them out of the Fanpost for now. Here's the description anyway and I'll post the photos in the comments if someone wants to see them.

Photo 15: With Kyle Wilbur rushing up-field around the Tackle and Cohen getting knocked completely off balance and being pushed back there's a yawning gap for RB Scott.

Photo 16: At the hand-off you can see that it was a basic Cover-2 Zone call. The same as the 1st Down 3:51 call shown earlier. Lee and Carter have already moved up for the run and the Nickleback Webb is also coming forward.

3rd Quarter, 1st Down, 2:03

Photo 17: Dallas plays a standard man coverage with the Safeties playing middle-to-deep.

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Photo 18: Nicks fails to hold on to (with some help from Scandrick) Eli's pass.

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3rd Quarter, 2nd Down, 1:57

Photo 19: Dallas starts the play showing Blitz.

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Photo 20: Eli makes an adjustment.

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Photo 21: Lee turns around and signals to players a counter adjustment.

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Photo 22: Dallas then runs standard Cover-2 Zone. Scandrick again looks lost. He lurches forward then tries to backtrack. For comparison look at the way Carr has trailed his WR up the sideline while keeping his eyes on the Qb. Nicks springs open immediately and throws his arm up. I've no idea why Eli didn't throw that pass, guess he didn't see it clearly. He eventually settles his gaze in Nicks direction but Church and a late scrambling Scandrick had recovered by then. Eventual pressure from Selvie makes Eli throw it at feet.

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3rd Quarter, 3rd Down, 1:51

Photo 23: At the snap.

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Photo 24: As Eli prepares to throw, again without any real pressure, Cruz is already behind Webb who, with nobody else in his vicinity and the RB having already released to Scandrick's corner, probably should have carried Cruz a little further up-field. Allen is caught in a tough spot with Eli having a clean pocket and good options down the seam with Cruz or on the outside with his WR inside of Carr. This isn't a Prevent-D problem, this is the natural weakness of a Cover-2 scheme.

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Photo 25: Easy pitch & catch for Manning & Cruz who then lunges into the Endzone for an 18 yard TD.

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Remember Jason Witten with the game winner against the Lions? It's the same thing. Please watch: Jason Witten Video.

Next Giants Drive.

4th Quarter, 1st Down, 12:10

Photo 26: Eli with the play-action. Single high Safety Allen. The LB's and Church move up on the fake.

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Photo 27: Eli has a good pocket. Church has moved up inside the 10 yard line (that's inside the line of scrimmage folks) and the LB's have not retreated. They've left a yawning chasm behind them that Randle exploits for 20 yards.

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4th Quarter, 1st Down, 11:45

Photo 28: At the snap.

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Photo 29: The Safeties drop into Cover-2. Eli has just completed another fake hand-off. Look at the 3 interior zone players (Carter, Lee and Scandrick). Eli is clearly standing with the ball looking down-field and yet those 3 are still looking at the RB.

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Photo 30: The ball has already left Eli's hand for Nicks while Carter, Lee and Scandrick are only just turning around. This isn't a play-call error folks. The inside guys are biting hard and late reacting again and again. There's no Prevent-D play-call where the inside zones are asked to crash the line of scrimmage over and over on play fakes and leave huge holes in the middle of the field. This is player error not coach error. 17 yard gain.

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4th Quarter, 1st Down, 10:49

Photo 31: At the snap.

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Photo 32: Looks like Dallas is playing a sort of Cover-3 perhaps. One deep Safety and the CB's keeping the WR's in front. See Carr on the bottom of the photo. Morris sees Eli's intention and follows Randle inside. Eli, again from a very clean pocket, makes a nice throw between defenders. Randle makes the catch at the 45 and then eludes tacklers and turns it into a 20 yard gain.

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4th Quarter, 1st Down, 10:17

Photo 33: Ball has just been snapped.

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Photo 34: Watch Lee in the middle. The TE Myer is directly in front of him. Carter is taking the RB coming out to Eli's right. Scandrick and the shallow Safety are over the slot WR.

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Photo 35: Now look. Lee has abandoned Meyer inside. There are now 3 defenders on the slot WR and nobody on the TE who Eli, with more good pass protection, is just about to throw to. Again folks, this isn't a play-call problem it's player error. Without knowing the exact play-call it's difficult to know exactly who to blame on some of these plays but it sure looks like Sean Lee deserted his post. 13 yard gain.

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4th Quarter, 1st Down, 9:44

Photo 36: Man Coverage, single high Safety. Dallas gets good pressure and Eli throws it away. No Prevent-D here.

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4th Quarter, 2nd Down, 9:38

Photo 37: At the snap.

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Photo 38: Dallas plays a basic Cover-2 Zone. Eli dumps off the screen pass. 8 yard gain.

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4th Quarter, 3rd Down, 8:54

Photo 39: At the snap. 3 CB's lined up directly over the 3 WR's. Church deep. Safety Allen down on the TE.

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Photo 40: As Eli is throwing to Cruz the CB's are clearly in Man-coverage on their WR's. Church is the deep Safety. Allen is in the short middle on the TE Meyer. Church was put in a tough spot here as Meyer is coming free inside Allen with miles of room across from him, Church has to respect that. Eli has perfect protection. On a third and 2 I would have thought Meyer was the safe play but Eli obviously thinks Cruz and Scandrick one-on-one in the Endzone is too good to pass up. 10 yard TD.

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These two drives aren't some sort of special exception in play-calling. The basic coverage's called were fairly steady throughout the game. The obvious stand-out events on these drives were 1) Dallas' front 4 got very little pressure on Eli Manning, and 2) Dallas' underneath zone defenders (Lee, Carter, Scandrick and the Safeties all had bad plays here) bit hard on play fakes multiple times. Combining biting hard on play fakes with getting little pressure from your front 4 will leave you vulnerable again and again. That's exactly what we saw. This wasn't a play-call issue it was an execution issue.

Ok let's look at the next set of claims from the Fanpost.

But I can still hear the complaints: we let them get too close! they came back to within a score!
Yes they did... and you know how we responded? we got out of prevent and played real defense again. What do you think happened? Here are the Plays for those two drives. All of them:
Inc short right for Da'rell Scott
Inc short right for Hakeem Nicks
Sacked by Jason Hatcher
Punt
(after a Dallas Punt)
Pass Short middle to Da'rell Scott 5 yds
Inc short middle for Da'rell Scott
Pass Deep Middle for Reuben Randle for 26yds
Pass short right for Da'rell Scott intercepted by Brandon Carr returned 49 yds for a TD.
When we went back to normal defense instead of prevent Eli "Mr. 4th qtr comeback" Manning was 2/6 for 31 yds and a sack, 0 TD, 1 INT. Passer rating? 11.8

The calls during these two drives were essentially the same folks, Dallas just executed them better. Particularly in regards to getting more pass rush pressure on Eli. There's no need for elaborate cherry-picked data or wild unsubstantiated theories to explain what happened. Just look at the clean pockets Eli generally has on the Giants 2 big successful drives that I just covered in photos and then look at the consistent pressure on Eli in the series that follows. Monte Kiffin wasn't calling the play "Cover-2 Zone but don't pressure the Qb" during those previous drives. Also, as the game got closer to the end, the Giants play-action, a major bane for Dallas in this game, became less effective.

Here's the plays if you want to actually see them for yourself:

4th Quarter, 1st Down, 5:49

Photo 41: The OC is just snapping the ball. Look at Selvie at LDE, he's the only defender moving. He's flying off the ball with great anticipation.

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Photo 42: Eli has just received the ball and Dallas is falling back into a fairly conservative zone. Look at where Selvie is, he's already beating the RT inside.

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Photo 43: As Eli gets rid of the ball Dallas' Safeties and CB's have kept themselves behind the WR's. Contrary to the other theory this Dallas D play-call actually looks at least as conservative as many on the previous drives, not less so. This wasn't some magical turn back into "real defense" play-call. It was simply Selvie getting through immediately and ruining the play. Eli throws incomplete to the RB Scott.

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4th Quarter, 2nd Down, 5:44

Photo 44: At the snap. Both Safeties are deep again.

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Photo 45: This D plays out like many other calls during the game. One Safety high. The other in the middle eyeing the crossing routes. What's different? Again it's the pass rush. Selvie has stunted inside and is coming through between the RG and OC. Right towards Eli's face.

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Photo 46: Selvie lunging at Eli. Eli is just dumping it off. Two good plays by Selvie is what ruined those plays for NY it was not some grand reversal of Dallas' defensive play-calls. Eli incomplete to Nicks.

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4th Quarter, 3rd Down, 5:38

Photo 47: Just been snapped. Dallas man over WR's with Safeties in deep halves.

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Photo 48: A few seconds after the snap, Dallas is clearly playing man-coverage on the receivers while the two Safeties are playing the deep halves. Again, there's simply nothing substantially different about this play-call from what we've seen in the previous drives.

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Photo 49: What is different here to the previous drive? The pocket is collapsing and quickly. Hatcher gets there first for the sack.

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The play-calling differences in this series are negligible. The improvement in pass rush effectiveness though was definitely substantial. There were no special blitz play-calls, Dallas just continued rushing four as they've done on the vast majority of downs in the game. That Dallas didn't get suckered by a play-action fake should also stand out. I've no idea how someone could honestly look these plays, this drive and the last two, and make the sort of claims that we saw being made about Coach errors, Prevent-D etc. This is very simply, and very obviously about getting pressure with 4 man rushes on this series, something they did not manage to do much at all in the previous two drives.

Next drive in that series:

4th Quarter, 1st Down, 2:41

Photo 50: At the snap.

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Photo 51: Eli dumping it off to Scott for 5 yards. Eli may have Randle on the bottom of the photo inside of Carr on the slant. He took plays like this repeatedly in the previous drives. The pocket seems to be less set than the earlier drives and after last drives good pressure Eli seems pretty keen to get rid of it early. 5 yard gain on the pass to RB Scott.

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4th Quarter, 2nd Down, 2:19

Photo 52: Eli just catching the snap.

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Photo 53: Dallas with what looks like a man-zone combo. Single high Safety. Ware is getting close to Manning as he tries to dump off to Scott. Pass incomplete. Scott was open, probably close for a first down, but Eli's pass was just bad.

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Photo 54: Here's the view of Eli's bad pass. Scott is leaping to grab it as the ball bounces of his fingertips. It was a very poor pass and Manning is lucky that it wasn't picked off. Not to worry though as he does it again soon.

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4th Quarter, 3rd Down, 2:14

Photo 55: Eli just about to catch the snap.

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Photo 56: Eli has had a nice clean pocket while his WR's got down-field. As he throws Randle is cutting inside Morris. There's nothing vastly different about these D play-calls from the earlier ones. The Safeties were playing the deep halves and the CB's in man. Randle grabs it for 26 yards.

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4th Quarter, 1st Down, 2:00

Photo 57: At the snap. Dallas with both Safeties deep again.

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Photo 58: The CB's get their hands on the WR's then let them pass by. The Safeties stay deep. It's a standard Cover-2 Zone like we saw many times on the previous drives.

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Photo 59: Carr shows good recognition and has seen the screen play developing early. He's already breaking on the RB before he's caught the ball.

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Photo 60: It's hard to know exactly what went wrong here. It seems to me that Eli is just rushing this throw. He's got enough space to wait an extra second. To make matters worse his throw appears inaccurate. Now maybe the RB Scott was in the wrong spot and late to turn too, we can't really know for sure but it looks to me like Eli deserves the lions share of the blame here.

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Photo 61: Carr making the Interception.

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That about covers the plays in question and frankly this post has gone on long enough so it's time to wrap it up. I think my point has been well made and shown. Once again, there's nothing significantly different about the D play-calls over these drives. There has been no drastically different "Prevent-D" and "Real Defense" period in the drives as was being claimed. It's just bogus guys.

We literally shut them down at will. We took a top flight receiving corps, being thrown to by the poster boy for Clutch QBing and we destroyed them whenever we felt like it.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If somebody's trying to tell you that the pass defense that gave up 450 yards 4Td's and a passer rating over 100 actually "Shredded" that offense and "shut them down at will" and uses sweeping unsubstantiated claims to support their theory I just don't understand how your 'BS Flag' didn't immediately fly up high. The simpler truth is that Dallas' players made some good plays on D and Dallas' players made some very bad plays on D.

The irony is Dirk titled that FanPost "I Lied". Well, indeed it certainly seems you did sir. That title was about the only truthful nugget worth gleaming from the entire Fanpost. It's a shame that people who do informative and accurate Fanpost's often get so little attention where as populist pieces of Kool-Aid spewing untruths get 20-something Recommends nowadays. Sometimes the Emperor really has no clothes folks and you should look closely before declaring it a wonderful gown.

The truth isn't always nice but it still needs to be said and it should be respected, regardless of its popularity, even if it is uncomfortable. I hope and ask that this Fanpost is allowed to stand as is without moderation. I think that truths (even if harsh) should not be censored and the blog would be a poorer place without truth and accuracy in analysis being the goal of our comments and a standard that was taken serious.

Thanks to those who managed to endure through the entire post.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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