We’ve all spent enough time watching the Dallas Cowboys to know certain tendencies that they have, that’s part of what being a football fan is all about. You get to know your team.
This is so much of why Sunday was such a revelation from America’s Team. The Cowboys were using play-action, throwing on first down, and scoring at will. It was such a sight for sore eyes when it’s come to this offense in recent memory and there’s no reason to believe this disposition isn’t here to stay. We’ve made it, my friends.
In looking at what the Cowboys did to the New York Giants though, one particular thing seems to stick out as a microcosm of sorts. While yes, they produced touchdowns on five straight possessions, it’s about more than what shows up in the box score. When looking back on the game there was one moment that seemed to truly exemplify the change in philosophy that this team has undergone.
The Cowboys came out aggressive to start the third quarter
How many times have we seen the Cowboys come out and try to run the ball and kill the clock in the third quarter? It’s a strategy that they’ve employed for years and it’s part of why they’ve allowed teams to get back into games. All quarters are significant, but if you can keep your foot on the gas right after halftime and pile on to a lead, you’re doing yourself some serious favors.
Do you know how many plays the Cowboys first possession of the third quarter was? Think about it while I buy you some time. Think about it long and hard.
It took the Dallas Cowboys, poetically, three plays to score on their first possession of the third quarter. So much of this was due to the first play in which Amari Cooper gained 45 yards, but that’s the aggressiveness that we’re talking about.
This is an absolutely disgusting route from Amari. Lulls the DB to sleep with a version of a stutter-go, then accelerates through his stem for the big gain.— Connor Livesay (@ConnorNFLDraft) September 9, 2019
Good ball from Dak off the play-fake again. pic.twitter.com/ABzqnDTDMR
It’s hard not to attribute this to Kellen Moore specifically as he’s the team’s new play-caller. While there are obviously a lot of moving parts involved in the construction of an offense he is the architect.
Jason Witten was particularly impressed with what the Cowboys did in this moment. He talked about it in the locker room after the game (you can listen to all of the sound we collected in the winning atmosphere right here).
“I thought Kellen did a really nice job. He was aggressive. It was an aggressive plan. A lot of the stuff pre-snap, you see it paying off for us. I thought the best possession we had was in the third quarter. You talk about being aggressive, we come back out and stay that way. The play-action game really opened up for us. Dak saw it. Dak was in complete command the entire game. I think that shows the relationship they have and the way we want to attack. It’s one thing to say you want to be aggressive it’s another thing to see it executed the way they did.”
Witten is, obviously, right. For the Cowboys to come out and stay aggressive, specifically with play-action, is more than a breath of fresh air. It’s an entirely new set of lungs in a place with the most pure oxygen in the world.
Asked to expand on this play a little bit more, Witten chose to heap more praise on Kellen Moore. There’s a long line to do so.
“One of the things Kellen talks bout with this offense is, in a lot of ways we’re doing a lot of the same stuff that we do. Aggressively take stuff that they give us. We had a lot of success with the RPO game. I think that was a counter to one of the things they wanted to take away was ‘okay we’ll get into Cover 2 and take away these RPOs’ and then boom Amari goes down the middle and a couple of plays later you hit a really similar play to Cobb. So a lot of weapons, I think it starts with the coordinator and trickles down to the linemen that protect it. And certainly Dak’s command. We talked all offseason, his ability to kind of take the next step in all phases, I thought he showed it from minute one out there today.”
This is impressive. Hearing that the Cowboys want to “aggressively take what the defense is giving them” is confirmation that they seem to be on the right offensive path.
Welcome to 2019.