Taking a look back to see what the Cowboys offense can learn from Denver’s game plan.
It's one of the most overused tropes in the football world – finding the blueprint to defeat a team. Phrases like that tend to become tropes because there's some element of truth to them, however. And when the Broncos' own head coach leans into them, the narrative takes a life of its own.
"We just have to do it the right way, call it the right way, which I'm in charge of so you know that that's going to be taken care of," said Denver coach Vic Fangio on Sunday. "And I just felt OK about it. I want to say good about it. Teams just haven't played them the right way." McCarthy smirked when that quote was relayed to him on Monday evening.
"Vic played us very aggressive. That's good to hear him beating his own drum," he said. The Broncos are unlikely to give away their secrets completely, but the idea is there for anyone to watch. According to ESPN Stats & Info and Next Gen Stats, Denver only blitzed Dak Prescott on just 14% of his dropbacks – the lowest rate he's seen this season. Instead, Fangio preferred to drop bodies into coverage in an effort to make life as confusing as possible for Prescott, who was also under duress thanks to an impressive effort from the Broncos' pass rush.
Recent matchups between the Cowboys and Falcons have brought plenty of excitement.
Falcons. Atlanta jumped out to a 24-6 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, and overcame a ferocious New Orleans comeback to win, 27-25. The Saints scored three times over the span of seven minutes in the fourth quarter to take a 25-24 lead on Atlanta with just over a minute to go. On the first play of the ensuing Falcons drive, Matt Ryan found Cordarrelle Patterson down field for 64 yards down to the New Orleans 11-yard line. Younghoe Koo then drilled a game-winning 29-yard field goal to avoid another heartbreaking Atlanta meltdown.
The early hero to Atlanta's season has been the surprising resurgence of NFL journeyman and nine-year veteran Cordarrelle Patterson. The former first-round pick has shined in a hybrid running back/wide receiver role during his first year with the Falcons. Patterson leads the NFC in combined yards (1,069) and is only behind Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor in the entire NFL. Additionally, through just eight games he has scored twice on the ground and is top-10 in receiving touchdowns with five scores.
Don’t listen to Vic Fangio and the Broncos. There is no ‘blueprint’ to stop the Cowboys’ offense - Jean-Jacques Taylor, Dallas Morning News
Were the offensive struggles against Denver a blip on the radar or a sign of things to come?
But the reality is Fangio didn’t devise some blueprint to stop one of the NFL’s best offenses any more than Jacksonville came up with a blueprint to stop Buffalo’s high-powered offense in their 9-6 win over the Bills. Fangio’s team simply took advantage of an overall flat performance from a team that had won six consecutive games and felt a little too good about themselves.
That’s it. Nothing more. If you watched the game, you know the truth. See, if Fangio had devised some scheme-busting defense to shut down Kellen Moore’s offense then Prescott wouldn’t have spent his postgame news conference bemoaning the throws he missed. Prescott hadn’t played in three weeks, and he looked rusty. He missed a couple of deep balls to CeeDee Lamb, which probably should have been touchdowns.
He missed a fourth-down pass to Cedrick Wilson and his passes -- even those he completed -- seemed off target, which is unusual for Prescott. As he has morphed into an elite quarterback, Prescott has become more obsessed with the big play than the safe play. Dink-and-dunk Dak is gone forever.
Despite Sunday’s performance, this is still a very good team.
The Dallas Cowboys were served a beating on a silver platter yesterday. There are no two ways around it. The Denver Broncos came into AT&T Stadium and worked the Cowboys up and down the field on both sides of the ball. There isn’t much silver lining from yesterday.
Dak Prescott had a career day for all the wrong reasons with some of his lowest numbers to date. The defense was gashed all day long. Even the special teams couldn’t catch a break. The one bright spot I do want to shed some light on is Malik Turner. The Cowboys’ fourth wide receiver showed me a lot of heart and fight by still playing hard and contributing two touchdowns late even though the game was out of reach. There is something to take from that.
The one salvageable thing from yesterday may be that the rest of the NFC East is a complete circus and the Cowboys held a four-game lead in the loss column over the Eagles, Giants, and Washington Football team. With as bad as yesterday was and the undeniability of it, the sky is not falling. It is still so far from time to press the panic button. I think it is more of a reset.
A look back at everything that went wrong on Sunday.
The defensive collapse was just as egregious. It must be remembered that by the end of the game the Broncos had three backup offensive linemen on the field. While the Cowboys did have four sacks of Teddy Bridgewater, that was more a tribute to the one bright spot of the game, Micah Parsons and his two-and-a-half sacks. Most of the time, Bridgewater had plenty of time to find receivers, and he did. Over and over again, including the beautifully thrown 44-yard touchdown to Tim Patrick. He would finish the day completing 19 of 28 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. Far too many of those completions were on third down, with Denver converting eight of fifteen, or 53.3%. That will win you a lot of ballgames.
249 yards is still somewhat average as a volume stat. What truly killed the Cowboys was giving up 190 yards on the ground, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. While that is not an exceptional average, it masks how many of those helped sustain drives. With a few short yardage conversions mixed in, the Broncos ground things out and wore down a defense that was forced to stay on the field a very, very long time. Once again going back to the portion of the game before the meaningless Dallas scores, the defense was on the field for 39:12. By the end of the game, they would have spent 41:12 trying to staunch the bleeding. They were worn down, and it showed.
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