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Breaking Down The Cowboys Lack Of Pass Rush In Playoff Defeat At Green Bay

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Many people blame the lack of a pass rush for Dallas's playoff loss to Green Bay. Is that accurate?

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some truths about the Green Bay game.

  • According to ESPN, Dallas tallied two sacks and three QB hits. Pro Football Focus credits them for an additional six QB hurries.
  • Per PFF, on the year Aaron Rogers was pressured on 26.5% of his dropbacks. Dallas pressured him on 29.7% the eighth highest percentage of pressure Rogers faced, including in the playoffs.
  • Aaron Rogers threw the ball 35 times, 17 times in the first half, 18 times in the second. Both of Dallas's sacks came in the first half.
  • Coincidentally, five of Aaron Rodgers seven deep passes were in the first half.

So what happened in the second half? One big theory going around is that our one-techs did not draw double teams, leaving Crawford doubled too much. Another popular theory is that our defensive line just stinks. Let's go to the tape and see what exactly happened in the second half.

Play 1:

Here we see Nick Hayden in his usual one-tech alignment (yellow circle) with Tyrone Crawford lined up at the three (red circle).

Hayden draws the double (yellow circle) but it looks like Green Bay is going to double Crawford with a tackle (red circle).

There's a lot going on here. Dallas is running a pretty crazy stunt. Orlando Scandrick and Bruce Carter have both blitzed around the edge (blue circles) while George Selvie has crashed hard inside. The strong-side guard has peeled off of Nick Hayden to pick up Selvie, and the weak-side guard has slid over off of Crawford to pick up Nick Hayden with the center (yellow circle). This leaves Crawford one-on-one with the offensive tackle (red circle).

Credit to Green Bay's line, they pick this up very well, although Scandrick (blue circle) almost gets to Rodgers. Meanwhile Hayden and Selvie are occupying four linemen between them (yellow circle) and Crawford is unable to get off his block (red circle). Rodgers gets off a short incomplete pass to Jordy Nelson.

Play 2:

Dallas lines up with Hayden and Crawford playing the three-technique.

Both players attack the outside shoulder of the guard, leaving the center with no one to block.

Hayden is unable to stay "outside" the guard and the center comes over to double team him. Crawford is left one-on-one with the weak-side guard. Rodgers has the time to go deep here to Randell Cobb, but the pass is incomplete.

Play 3:

Dallas lines up with Hayden as the three-tech and Crawford as the one.

The line shifts pre-snap, to give us Hayden at the one and Crawford as the three-technique.

Hayden draws the double team and Crawford attempts to bull-rush the guard.

At this point Green Bay's offensive line is just beating our defensive line.

Play 4:

Dallas in a three-man rush, with Hayden playing the one-tech and Crawford playing the seven-technique (outside shoulder of the TE spot, even if there is no actual TE).

Green Bay initially double teams Hayden.

The double team switches to Crawford (red circle). Aaron Rodgers checks down to Eddie Lacey and Green Bay does not pick up the first and are forced to kick a field goal.

Play 5:

Typical alignment for Dallas with Hayden at the one-tech spot and Crawford at the three.

Hayden draws the double team, leaving Crawford one-on-one with the guard.

Here's that play I talked about so much in my film breakdown of Hayden where the DE crashes inside and Hayden loops around (yellow circle). Crawford is still going one-on-one, but gets chipped by the RB, releasing into a pattern (red circle). Meanwhile DeMarcus Lawrence is bull-rushing the offensive tackle (blue arrow).

Green Bay's line has picked up the stunt with Hayden and the DE (yellow circle). Crawford isn't able to get off his block (red circle). DeMarcus Lawrence has put a nifty move on the tackle to cut back underneath (blue arrow). Rodgers feels the pressure and dumps the ball off to the running back.

Play 6:

Crawford initially at the one-tech with Hayden at the three-tech.

They shift pre-snap.

Hayden draws the double team, and Crawford bull-rushes the guard.

Crawford is so successful with his bull-rush he pushes the guard all the way into, and through, Crawford's double team, drawing a chip from the center in the process. Look at the far left of the screen; Anthony Spencer has gone hard upfield and is now trying to spin back inside the tackle.

Crawford has walked the guard all the way back into Aaron Rodgers face (red circle). The center is in a bad spot; he's trying to keep a gauge on Crawford, but is still engaged in a double team on Hayden (yellow circle). On the far left Spencer has spun back inside, but is still fighting the tackle.

There is a ton of pressure going on here. Give Rodgers credit, he doesn't get happy feet. However, once Spencer gets inside the tackle there is no longer anyone setting the edge, and Rodgers rolls outside the pocket.

Play 7:

This is an unusual alignment for Dallas. Crawford is in his normal three-tech alignment but Hayden is lined up at the zero-tech, and is playing standing up. Meanwhile both DE's have taken very wide splits.

Hayden draws the double team (yellow circle). Crawford meanwhile is slanting hard outside the guard.

It's a neat little stunt with Crawford going hard outside then the DE crossing in behind him (red circle) but Green Bay does a nice job of picking it up.

Play 8:

Here we see a combo of Ken Bishop playing the three-technique (yellow circle) and Josh Brent playing the three (red circle).

Bishop doesn't engage right away. This confuses the guard who initially is moving towards him. Brent meanwhile is left one-on-one with the guard.

This turns into a three-man rush with Bishop dropping into coverage (yellow circle) and the center moving to double Brent (red circle).

Play 9:

Again we see Bishop and Brent both aligned as three-techniques.

Bishop (yellow circle) attacks hard inside, while Brent (red circle), bull-rushes his guard.

This is never a good sign for a defense; the offensive line has made a nearly perfect wall (check out the black line) with only Brent getting a little push. Bishop is trying a stunt with the DE, where, after attacking inside he loops behind the DE who is also crashing in. Unfortunately the DE falls down.

Somehow the fallen DE has commanded a double team leaving Bishop singled up on the tackle (yellow circle). Meanwhile Josh Brent has bull-rushed the guard straight back into Aaron Rodgers face (red circle), forcing the throw.

Play 10:

Dallas comes out with Hayden (yellow circle) and Crawford (red circle) both in a three-technique alignment.

Both players are singled up initially. This is actually a really good example of something that can't be said enough; the three-technique is generally singled up by virtue of positioning, regardless of what the other lineman is doing.

Unless the three-tech purposefully works himself into the double team like Crawford does here. I'm a huge Crawford fan and I think he's going to be great, but this is a huge pet peeve of mine. He loves to work the inside shoulder of the guard. I think it's residue of his time as a SDE, but he rarely uses outside moves in his pass rush from what I've seen.

So we now have a big muddle in the middle. This wouldn't be bad necessarily if our DT's could press this scrum backwards, or if our DE's were able to win against their single-teams. But neither happens, and Aaron Rodgers is left with as clean a pocket as you'll see.

Play 11:

Again, Dallas comes out with both Crawford and Hayden playing three-techniques.

Again Crawford (red circle),crashes hard inside and is doubled.

It's a stunt though, with Crawford crashing hard inside and Hayden looping around. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Hayden is always the loop and not the crasher in these stunts, as you would think it would be best to loop the more athletic player. Anyway, check out Jeremy Mincey on the far right. He's in the process of a swim move, I love how violent his motion is here.

The interior of the Green Bay line does a nice job of picking up the stunt. Look at the pocket Rodgers has right now, and how wide the DE's are.

On this play the DE's do a great job of closing that pocket in a hurry. Both are winning their individual battles with the tackles. Meanwhile Hayden (yellow) and Crawford (red) can't get off their blocks.

Mincey overruns the play, and Spencer is still doing a good job of pushing the pocket in (blue circle). Not much movement up front, but slowly the DT's are pushing the pocket inwards. Credit Rodgers here. There is a ton of movement going on all around him and he stands strong in the pocket to make the throw.

Play 12:

Start of the fourth quarter. Dallas comes out with Hayden at the one and Crawford at the three. Green Bay is in shotgun, but also in their rarely used I-formation instead of an off-set back.

Green Bay doubles Crawford with the guard and tackle (red circle) while the center blocks Hayden (yellow circle). It looks like a running play, and all the linebackers are glued to their spots. This is something I noticed a lot in the playoffs; the linebackers were doing a lot of read and react, instead of attacking. Nerves? Missing Rolando McClain?

It's play-action with a roll-out opposite play-side (something Detroit used to great effect the week prior). Hayden has done a good job of getting off his block (yellow) Crawford is getting double teamed (red) and the tight end has done a good job of sealing the defensive end inside (blue).

After the initial trickery the defense does a good job recovering. Hayden is fighting through his block (yellow). Crawford has completely gotten off the double team (red)  and the DE has also fought through the block and regained the edge (blue).

Hayden applies pressure.

This should be a moment of glory for Hayden. He fights through the block, tracks down Rodgers deep in the backfield, and gets his hands on him...

But can't wrap him up. Rodgers escapes and gets the pass off for a short gain.

Play 13:

A quick FYI: There are a lot of pictures on this play, but it actually goes by really quick. Rodgers gets the snap at 1:07:26, he throws the all at 1:07:29. So three seconds or less. Anyway, Crawford at the three (red) Hayden at the one (yellow).

Both players are initially singled up. The center is drifting towards Hayden but hasn't committed.

Here we see Crawford going hard at the guards outside shoulder, while Hayden is running a stunt with the DE. The center has nothing to do.

Crawford isn't able to beat the guard outside. Hayden has looped around the DE crashing inside. Check out DeMarcus Lawrence coming in hard on the far left, he's doing a nice job of pushing the tackle back into the pocket.

The center has finally decided to do some work and goes over to double Hayden (red). Lawrence has gone to far upfield, and left a lane for Aaron Rodgers to step up in.

Crawford has gotten off the double team and looks to have the guard beat to the outside, but Rodgers is already throwing the ball.

I want you all to see the coverage on this play, because it's bad. As you can see, Davonte Adams (red circle) is wide open. This is at about two seconds into the play, Rodgers hasn't stepped up into the lane vacated by Lawrence yet (yellow circle).

I don't know what's going on. Was Moore supposed to cover deep and Scandrick the flat? Is Scandrick trying to recover because Moore blew his assignment? Who's supposed to cover the guy in the middle of the field (blue circle). These are the questions that keep me up at night. Anyway, Adams catches the ball, Scandrick can't wrap him up, and it's an 18 yard pickup.

Play 14:

Welcome back Brent and Bishop! Earlier when we saw this combination it was with Bishop playing the one-tech and Brent as the three; here Brent is playing the one-technique (yellow circle) and Bishop is the thee (red circle).

Brent draws the double team, leaving Bishop one-on-one with the guard.

But it's really just a three man rush anyway, as Bishop is dropping back into coverage. Something to note; by the time Bishop drops back into coverage Rodgers is already starting his throwing motion.

Play 15:

This play is really aggravating. Green Bay is going no huddle and they are lined up and ready to snap while our linebackers are still getting set. Meanwhile we've got Brent (yellow) at the one-tech alignment and Bishop (red) at the three.

The ball is snapped. Check out the linebackers. Hitchens is looking right at the ball, and hasn't even gotten his hand down or in his stance (blue circle) and Carter is still jogging to his spot.

Both defensive tackles are cut block. Hitchens has not yet dropped his hand, or moved.

Nearly every single lineman (offense and defense) is on the turf. Rodgers has thrown the ball. Hitchens has still not moved, and his hand is just now going down from pointing. This makes me sad. Very, very sad.

Play 16:

Again we have Brent and Bishop in, at the one and three respectively.

Brent draws the double team, leaving Bishop one-on-one with the guard. Pay attention to Mincey at the far left of the screen.

The defensive tackles aren't doing much, but Mincey has bull-rushed his man right on top of Aaron Rodgers.

Man, this hurts. It looks like the refs missed a pretty blatant hold on Mincey, right as he was about to blindside Aaron Rodgers.

Instead Rodgers has a clean pocket and enough time to throw. Bishop finally breaks free of his block (red circle) but it's too little too late.

Play 17:

Brent is out, and Hayden is back in. So we now have Hayden at the one, and Bishop at the three. My question is, where is Crawford? Time is winding down in the fourth, and Green Bay is driving for the winning score, why isn't Crawford in the game?

Hayden looks like he's running a stunt of some kind. Bishop is singled up on the guard.

Nope, not a stunt, Hayden has dropped into coverage (yellow circle). Bishop is still singled up on the guard. Check out the defensive ends, and how much of a pocket Rogers has.

This is actually kind of cool, as Hayden bumps the crossing receiver (yellow circle). I wish he would have bumped him harder, but that's still a pretty neat wrinkle. Meanwhile Bishop is now being double teamed. The DE's have done a great job of collapsing the pocket, and it looks like George Selvie might get around the edge (blue circle).

The crosser that Hayden has bumped has recovered and is continuing his route (yellow circle). Bishop can't beat the double team (red circle). Selvie has gotten around his man, but has run too far behind the play. This is the trait that coaches loved about DeMarcus Lawrence, he can bend around the edge without gaining too much depth. Rodgers meanwhile now has a lane to step up into.

Mincey again almost has a sack here. The completion goes to the crossing receiver that Hayden initially jammed; if he had gotten a better jam this might be a sack.

Play 18:

Third down on the 14 yard line, and the coaches have brought Crawford back in. So we have Hayden (yellow) at the one, Crawford (red) at the three-technique.

The center initially hand-checks Hayden, but is watching what's going on with Crawford.

The center engages Crawford with the double team. Hayden is being blocked one-on-one, as are both defensive ends. Mincey (on the right) is bull-rushing the tackle, and George Selvie is engaged in hand fighting with his blocker.

Selvie beats his man, but as we've seen quite often, it leaves a lane open underneath for Rodgers. Rodger's takes off in the open lane, Hayden can't get off his block, and it's a TD for the Packers.

What's It All Mean?

Aaron Rodgers was sacked 28 times in 2014, or 1.75 times a game. We sacked him twice, and forced a fumble that wasn't counted as a sack. But both times happened in the first half, none in the second.

Seven of Green Bay's 17 passes in the second half went to running backs and tight ends. Green Bay definitely played the second half with a different gameplan, going away from the deep and intermediate throws and focusing on dump-offs, shallow crosses, and curls.

We can't blame the one-tech position for lack of the pass rush. On the majority of plays the one-tech did pick up the double team and the three just couldn't beat the single blocker.

So what's it all mean? In the long term not much. The defense still played pretty well; we sacked Rodgers more than his average and held Green Bay to nearly a touchdown less than their average score. The defense played a pretty good game. If we reversed the first and second half showing, people would be talking about how good our defense looked. Conversely, our offense scored a full 8 points less than their average. After a strong start, we just couldn't get anything going offensively until the final drive of the second half.

I have a few questions after reviewing the game. What happened to Tyrone Crawford? He couldn't beat single teams, and wasn't even on the field most of the last drive. Was he hurt? He had been sick the week before and might have still been feeling the effects. But why did they never play McClain or Selvie at the three technique?

All told the Green Bay game raises more questions than answers. After watching the film, I don't think we can pin the loss entirely on the defensive line; they didn't dominate by any means, but they didn't play horribly either. Dallas has some good quality pieces in place, what it lacked in this game were defensive playmakers. Do we have players on the roster that can turn into those playmakers? I think so, but only time will tell.