Named this week’s recipient of the Cowboys game ball, rookie Daron Bland showed up in a big way against the Indianapolis Colts. He was all over the field, as he was second on the team in tackles, and got his hands on the ball multiple times.
Preserving the lead
In this first play featured here, he was able to keep points off the board for the Colts. Having scored on a touchdown on the previous play to make the score 21-19, Indianapolis opts to go for the two-point try to tie the game.
The Colts line up in the shotgun, with two receivers to the right and one receiver close to the formation on the left. Indianapolis keeps tight end Mo Allie-Cox in as an extra blocker along with running back Deon Jackson.
Bland is matched up with Parris Campbell, who is one of the faster players on the Colts. Indianapolis slides the pocket to the right, no doubt to avoid Matt Ryan getting immediate pressure in his face. The Colts only have three eligible receivers out in patterns. Michael Pittman is coming across from left to right, Alec Pierce is going vertical, to create space for Campbell.
Campbell runs a quick out from the slot and Bland plays it perfectly. You’ll notice he doesn’t make any unnecessary contact with the receiver to draw a penalty and looks for the ball as soon as Campbell comes out of his break. He doesn’t have outside leverage, but it doesn’t matter with his ability to close on the pass.
Bland’s tenacity to play through the receiver’s hands forces the incompletion and makes sure that Campbell can’t extend the ball across the goal line. Had Campbell gotten better depth on his route with a better-placed ball, maybe there’s a slim chance for the Colts. Still, a great job by Bland. Bland’s effort keeps the Cowboys ahead by two points and the Cowboys were able to score a touchdown on the next drive, to make it a two-score game.
First interception of the game
At this point, the game has started to slip away from the Colts. However, there’s still a lot of time left in the fourth quarter and they’re trailing by only two scores. If you had to pinpoint where the floodgates opened, it’s on Daron Bland’s first interception of the game.
Once again, the Colts are lined up in the shotgun. The Colts will motion the tight end Kylen Granson to the right for a bunch set. The Cowboys are showing Matt Ryan a two-deep shell look, that likely impacts where he decides to deliver this pass.
At the start of the play, Donovan Wilson drops back as if he’s playing a deep half, before sprinting down near the middle of the field. After looking it over and conferring with a good source, it appears Dallas disguised a Cover 1 robber look. Wilson is in the middle, Hooker is over the top, and man coverage everywhere else.
What’s notable is Anthony Barr is now being matched up with Parris Campbell and Kylen Gransen is matched up with Daron Bland. Bland has no problem carrying the tight end. Ryan trying to throw the ball over Trevon Diggs leaves some air under it. Again, Bland turns his head to locate the ball and secures it with sure hands.
This last play is to showcase the confusion the Cowboys’ defense can cause upfront to an offensive line and the overall speed of their front seven. The Cowboys lead the NFL in sacks with 48 and it’s because of these types of plays.
It’s 3rd and 5 and the Colts are driving in Cowboys territory. The Cowboys are matched up in man coverage while the Colts are lined up in trips to the left of the formation. Dallas is showing pressure with Micah Parsons and Jayron Kearse lined up in the A gap. It’s all about numbers and isolating the mismatches. It’s important to highlight this play because it underlines Dan Quinn identifying a weakness and exploiting it.
On the previous series, Donovan Wilson sacked Matt Ryan on third down from a similar look. Smartly, Dan Quinn decided to take advantage of Indianapolis’ offensive line struggles.
Ryan has only one reasonable option and that’s the slant underneath to Michael Pittman, with Trevon Diggs trailing behind in coverage. If Ryan can complete this pass, it’s at least a first down if not a huge gain.
The speed of the Cowboys’ defense makes you have to make split-second decisions and this sack occurs because Colts running back Jonathan Taylor is a tick too late. The left guard Quenton Nelson relays the blocking assignments and when the ball is snapped, picks up Jayron Kearse. Taylor working from right to left hesitates for a brief second and is unable to get to Anthony Barr before he rips Matt Ryan to the ground. A huge stop by the defense.