According to Pro Football Focus, Thursday's game against the Bears was the second best game of the season for Brandon Carr. Looking at PFF's stats that seems a little strange; they credit him with giving up five receptions and two touchdowns! To make sense of that seeming contradiction, let's see what the tape has to say.
On the first play of the game we see Carr, (yellow circle), lined up on the right side of the formation, about five yards off the line of scrimmage.
It's a run play. There are a few things to notice. First, Jeremy Mincey has crashed inside. Our fearless leader Dave recently wrote an article detailing how that inability to control the edge is what killed us against the Eagles. Secondly, both of our linebackers are flowing left, (you can tell by the way they are distributing weight on their legs).
The Bears have done their homework. A week after seeing the Eagles kill us with misdirection, the Bears open the game with a little of their own. They're running a counter play, and so far it's working to perfection. Mincy is washed inside, and the linebackers have run themselves out of position.
Matt Forte easily gets around Anthony Hitchens, but Barry Church, (yellow arrow), has taken a nice angle to come up and hold the edge.
Doesn't matter. The Bears WR comes over effectively creating a new edge for Forte, and blocks Church.
This leaves Forte one-on-one against Brandon Carr, which isn't a bad matchup for the Bears. But Carr has stayed disciplined, never tried to shoot inside to make a play, and is able to stay outside of Forte and make a nice open field tackle. Despite the bad play of our LB's and DE, the secondary does a good job of coming up and resetting the edge to stop the run.
For the first time in the game Carr lines up on the left side of the defense. He's playing tight bump-and-run coverage on this third down play.
And he's playing pretty dang good coverage too. Carr was able to get a good bump and is running stride for stride with the WR, and is even able to turn his head to see that Jay Cutler is locked in on his man.
Right after crossing the first down marker the receiver makes a move as if he's running an out route. Carr sees that Cutler is still staring his man down, and starts to pivot, expecting the out route and thinking he can undercut it. Notice that there is absolutely no pressure on Cutler.
Carr has completely turned around, but it's not an out route. The WR is pulling a double move, faking the out then running a go. Carr looks beat, and beat bad. Oh yeah, still no pressure on Cutler, who has not stopped staring at the same WR all play.
I have repeatedly said that Carr is not athletic enough to keep up on double-moves, but here he does a really nice job recovering, and is again step for step with the WR. Still no pressure on Cutler who is able to deliver the longest wind up since Byron Leftwich.
25 yards past the line of scrimmage the receiver has finally gotten a little bit of separation from Brandon Carr.
Carr was actually still in good position to make a play, 30 yards past the line of scrimmage. Unfortunately the ball is underthrown, which is pretty much all it takes to draw a PI call in today's NFL. If Carr had turned around this is easily a pass breakup, and probably an interception. Good play by Carr, but a bad finish, (not helped by the absolute lack of pressure).
This was one of the strangest plays in the game. The Bears come out shotgun, twins right with the TE on the twins side. The Cowboys counter with a nickel package single high look, (J.J. Wilcox is the high safety, just off screen).
The twin WR's and the TE all release together to replicate a "bunch" look. Carr is either playing the outside man or the flats in a zone look. Notice Wilcox, (red arrow). It looks like he's playing man coverage, and has come up too hard, now he's having to backpedal furiously to avoid his man blowing by him on a go route.
I have to think this is supposed to be man coverage. The TE cuts inside and is picked up by the linebacker. The outside WR runs a shallow out route underneath Carr, and the inside WR is running a go.
This is where things get weird. For some reason Carr decides to peel off the outside WR and starts heading upfield with Wilcox to cover the go route. I'm not sure why; it kind of looks like Cutler is already stepping into his throw at this point and maybe Carr sees that. Maybe he sees that Wilcox is getting beat. I don't know, but for whatever reason, the underneath receiver is left open, and Carr and Wilcox both go with the deep receiver.
Here you can see that it looks as if they have the go route bracketed, with Barry Church coming over the top to help.
But a few seconds later it's obvious that both players are beat and that Carr is trailing badly.
Here it is from another angle. This is what has me so confused; Carr is nowhere close to the receiver. He has no chance to make a play, so why did he break off? I have to think he saw Wilcox getting beat. Regardless it was a busted coverage and a huge play for the Bears.
Here we see Brandon Carr lined up as the right side corner.
The Bears are again attacking the edge, and have a pretty decent set up here; the linmen and 'backers, are washed out leaving J.J. Wilcox (yellow arrow), and Carr (yellow circle), to defend Forte (red circle) with a blocker in front.
The blocker has taken on Carr. Wilcox, (who has shown a knack for blowing up sweeps and runs to the edge), has taken a good angle to intercept Forte.
Unfortunately Wilcox can't wrap Forte up, but he does drive him farther outside. Meanwhile Carr has battled through the block, and has kept his outside shoulder free, (which is key to holding the edge).
And Carr, who has struggled this year in the tackling department, comes off the block and makes the tackle for a short gain. The DB's did an excellent job all game long of sealing the edge of the defense.
The Bears are in a bunch formation. The Cowboys generally counter this by playing off coverage in order to avoid pick plays.
The Bears take advantage of that loose coverage by running a WR screen. Here they have two blockers in front of the receiver with only two CB's to beat.
From this angle it looks like the Bears have successfully blocked the Cowboys cornerbacks, leaving the WR a ton of room and only J.J. Wilcox (yellow circle) to beat.
Carr however is again able to beat his block and free his shoulder.
Before delivering another nice open field tackle.
It's fourth and seven. The Bears come out shotgun, twins left, two tight ends. Carr is playing tight coverage on the outside receiver.
Carr has tight coverage right off the snap. He doesn't jam the wide receiver, but he's not giving him any cushion.
It looks like Carr is beat here, but he's really not as the linebackers (blue circle, are taking all the inside throwing lanes. Unfortunately the coverage breaks down on the other side of the field and a WR is left open (red arrow). The Bears convert for a first down.
This was the most aggravating play of the game to break down. The Bears are in three wide with Carr singled up on the split end.
Here we see the Bears release two receivers on Carr's side of the field; the split end and the tight end. The Cowboys have three players in coverage, Anthony Hitchens, Barry Church, and Brandon Carr.
Okay, let's see what's going on. Both the receivers have gotten past Barry Church. Brandon Carr is behind Church, and is being split by the tight end running up the seam and the wide receiver running towards the pylon. Anthony Hitchens isn't helping as he is looking at the receiver crossing the formation. And Jay Cutler is already throwing the ball.
Here's what people on TV saw. Martellus Bennett wide open, with Brandon Carr coming in from behind, obviously burnt.
But let's look at the play from another angle. Here we see Bennett (red circle) with Hitchens and Barry Church.
Hitchens (yellow circle) is effectively covering no one, although to be fair there is a crossing receiver. Meanwhile it looks like Barry Church (red circle) is manning up on Martellus.
So as Hitchens is preoccupied, Church for some strange reason literally just leaves the coverage. There is no one else to cover, Bennett doesn't do any jukes or moves. Church literally just starts heading sideways, towards nothing.
Now Hitchens notices Bennett! You'll notice that at no time did the crossing receiver ever get close to Hitchens. You'll also notice Church is no longer in the picture, and Bennett is so open he could moonwalk into the endzone.
And somehow, Brandon Carr, who was not even in the picture, is the closest defender when the actual touchdown is caught. It's a hard knock life.
Here Carr is playing an off coverage.
Carr's man runs a post while the tight end runs a little "pop" route.
The tight end catches the ball right after the 20 yard line. Carr does a good job peeling off of his route and breaking down to make the tackle.
But because Carr breaks down the tight end is able to pick up another three yards.
And Carr is unable to make the tackle. He slows the tight end up enough to allow the rest of the defense to arrive, but the tight end picks up another extra two yards. It wasn't a bad play by Carr. But again a lack of pressure distorted the defense which allowed the Bears offense to exploit it for seven easy yards.
Is this formation starting to look familiar? Notice that Dallas has five players on the line of scrimmage.
How about now? Notice that Dallas only has three players in coverage.
The tight end catches the ball at the 26 yard line, Carr has peeled off his receiver.
Carr does a good job of limiting the YAC to just four yards, (helped by a linebacker). Still for a while this play was just killing the Cowboys, and there was nothing that Carr could do about it.
Carr is isolated against the split end at the top of the screen.
Carr is playing man coverage on a "go" route. It's hard to tell but he's got great coverage here, and is leading the wide receiver by a good step.
Here we see the ball in the air, and that Carr has inside position on it. So far this is about as good of coverage you could ask for. But do you notice the Bear receivers hand?
Huh...suddenly Brandon Carr is on the ground and the receiver is catching an easy touchdown. I'm just saying; that's pretty weird.
What's It All Mean?
- A major reason for Dallas's loss against the Eagles was an inability to contain the edges of scrimmage. While the line still struggled some with that in this game, the defensive backs, and Carr in particular did an outstanding job of sealing the edges.
- Dallas did a good job of mixing coverages and looks. They played cover 2 and 3 zone, a mix of zone and man, off-man, bump and run, and more. For the first three quarters, (all I charted), the different looks had the Bears offense completely bamboozled.
- A lack of pressure is killing the coverage. For all the individual good play of the corners, no corner can cover forever. The Bears were able to run way to many plays down the field, and it cost Dallas.
- Blitzing killed our coverage. When we blitzed linebackers the Bears ate us alive with underneath routes. The Eagles love crossing routes with the WR's; if we blitz and don't get there, they will kill us.
- Carr did a good job limiting YAC. That's been a theme here at BTB the last few weeks; the defense is giving up too many yards after the catch. It wasn't an issue in this game as the DB's, and Carr in particular, all did a good job tackling.
Well those are my thoughts fellow BTB'ers. What do you think? And who would you like to see a video breakdown of next?