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Film Finds: CeeDee Lamb leaves James Bradberry in the dust, Mike McCarthy’s guts turn the tide

A closer look at the film of the Cowboys vs. Eagles game highlights CeeDee Lamb’s route running and Mike McCarthy’s aggressiveness

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

With a Christmas Eve win over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Dallas Cowboys put all their fans in the holiday spirit and gave them the gift of hope. Fans are hopeful that the Cowboys can still contend for an NFC East title and potentially a first-round bye in the playoffs. The defense forced several turnovers and Dak Prescott was superb from the pocket. The team can sing a happy tune as they make their way to Music City to face the Tennessee Titans this Thursday. Before that, let’s take one last look at last week’s film against the Eagles.

Lamb breaks down Bradberry

After the Eagles had scored to take a 34-27 lead, the Cowboys needed to answer back with just under ten minutes left in regulation. The following drive didn’t get off to a great start but thanks to a Prescott dime to T.Y. Hilton for 52 yards, Dallas was set up in the red zone. CeeDee Lamb was a thorn in the Eagles’ side for most of the first half but came up huge once again to bring the game to a tie.

When the Cowboys broke the huddle, they were in trips set to left with three receivers to that side. As seen in the photo, CeeDee Lamb has been motioned to the opposite side of the formation. To counter the Dallas personnel, the Eagles are playing five defensive backs and one linebacker. Upfront, they have three down linemen with Josh Sweat lined up wide to the open side of the formation and Brandon Graham to the closed side.

Eagles’ safety Marcus Epps (#22) does try to somewhat disguise the coverage before the snap, but as you see, the Eagles settle into a Cover 4. To the right of the formation, Brandon Graham takes the flat receiver Tony Pollard, and T.J. Edwards takes the middle receiver, Dalton Schultz.

The first part of this play is about Prescott and how fast he processes the information he sees. As Prescott drops back, he focuses his attention on Dalton Schultz in the middle of the field. As soon as he sees that’s tightly contested, he quickly looks to the outside to CeeDee Lamb. Once Prescott knows Lamb has created the space he needs, he fires a dart to the outside.

Granted the above image is from the game broadcast and not the all-22. However, this route deserves to be viewed in this quality, so you can see how Lamb caught James Bradberry in 4K. Coming off the line, Lamb takes a wide stem toward the sideline. Bradberry is expecting Lamb to take his route inside and thinks that Lamb is going to stick his right foot in the ground to slant across the end zone.

Instead, Lamb catches Bradberry flat-footed and makes a break towards the back pile-on. Prescott delivers the throw on time in the perfect spot and the Cowboys tie the game. Dak’s split-second play recognition and CeeDee Lamb’s sudden quickness made this play happen. Over the last few weeks, the chemistry between the two has been a work of art.

McCarthy’s gamble pays off

If there’s one thing we know about Mike McCarthy, it’s that he’s not the conservative type. He’s high stakes, high rewards. He’s willing to throw caution to the wind if it means the benefits are far too great to pass up. Given the last coaching regime, you love to see it. The confidence in his players is evident and, Ezekiel Elliott pun intended, his team feeds off it.

Take this play for example. The Cowboys are trailing by ten midway through the third quarter. McCarthy knows if he gives the Eagles back the ball, any points they score could be insurmountable. With nerves of steel and stones of platinum, McCarthy goes for it on 4th and 1 from his team’s 34-yard line.

The Cowboys are lined up in a singleback set with three tight ends. (# 89 Peyton Hendershot not pictured) Take notice of where Elliott is lined up and how close he is to the line of scrimmage. The Eagles are loading up both sides of the A-gap, with Fletcher Cox and Linval Joseph shaded over both sides of the center Tyler Biadasz. Javon Hargrave is in the B-gap between the left tackle and left guard.

As Hendershot comes down in motion and lines up behind Dak Prescott, Josh Sweat (#94) shifts over from the C-gap to the B-gap. Linebacker T.J. Edwards is coming downhill before the snap. With Hendershot motioning in behind Prescott, the Eagles are convinced this is a QB sneak, and Hendershot is there to push Prescott forward for the line to gain. They thought wrong.

As the Eagles’ defensive line and Edwards crash down as expected, Tyron Smith and Jake Ferguson are able to double team on the outside linebacker Kyzir White (#43), before Ferguson gets to the second level, and with a little help from Hendershot, serves up a pancake to Reed Blankenship. Finally, Sean McKeon creates a nice hole with his block of James Bradberry as Elliott breaks loose for a 22-yard gain.

Wise beyond his years

Time and time again, DaRon Bland’s at the right place at the right time. His interception of Gardner Minshew was his fourth in the last games and was integral to the Cowboys’ win on Christmas Eve. Having just blown a 10-point second-half lead, the Eagles had their sights on a long drive to win the game in the closing minutes. Bland’s interception led to the Cowboys scoring a field goal on the next drive and held the lead for good afterward.

The Eagles are facing a 3rd and 4. If they can pick this first down up, things could get dicey for the Cowboys. Philadelphia is in a bunch set to the right of the formation. Meanwhile, Quez Watkins is to the left outside the numbers, and A.J. Brown is in the slot on that side.

The Cowboys are in a man underneath defense with Malik Hooker and Donovan Wilson as the deep half safeties. Trevon Diggs has Brown in the slot, and Nashon Wright has Devonta Smith at the bottom of the formation. This leaves Daron Bland alone in off-coverage with Watkins.

You can look at this several times over and there’s nothing that tells you this play should have resulted in an interception. The Eagles called the perfect play against this coverage and should have been pitch and catch. Minshew was protected by the offensive line and given a clean pocket to throw from.

Bland’s smarts and understanding of the situation are what put him in the spot to make this interception. Bland, in off coverage, identified the route. As soon Watkins plants his foot in the ground, Bland is driving on the route and with his eyes on Minshew about to release the ball.

This is just a great individual play by a player that’s hungry. Hungry for an opportunity to get on the field as a fifth-round pick and hungry to make a play. Bland wanted that ball more than Quez Watkins did, ripping the ball away from him as he fell to the ground and the Cowboys’ defense knew it right away.

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