Who would’ve seen this coming? After winning last Thursday against the Tennessee Titans, the Dallas Cowboys are still in the race for an NFC East title and possibly a first-round bye. Everything is on the table for this team going into the last week of the season. Before getting too far ahead of ourselves, let’s further review last week’s game against Tennessee with this week’s film finds.
Schultz Mosses Andrew Adams
The Cowboys let the Titans hang around in the game and things started to get a bit too close for comfort. Dallas needed to answer after Robert Woods’ touchdown. The Cowboys were up by only four points when the offense managed to get into the red zone and Dalton Schultz’s second touchdown gave Dallas a two-score lead again.
The Cowboys lined up in the shotgun with a 2X2 look, two receivers to the right and CeeDee Lamb with Dalton Schultz to the left. The Titans are in a standard nickel defense with two linebackers and five defensive backs. Before the snap, Schultz will shift inside of Lamb.
The Titans are trying to confuse Dak Prescott and clog up the passing lanes. Initially, Tennessee drops seven defenders into coverage before dropping an eighth with the defensive tackle Jayden Peevy also dropping in coverage. The outside corners are playing the flats.
The middle linebacker Monty Rice and the safeties are playing over the top in thirds.
Rushing only three linemen, Prescott has plenty of time. Tyron Smith at right tackle stonewalls ex-Cowboy Tarrell Basham. Meanwhile, Jason Peters handles the inside path of the edge rusher to his side and allows Prescott time to slide to his left.
With everything occupied underneath, Prescott locks in on Dalton Schultz. Prescott could have also looked to Michael Gallup on the post route to the end zone if he wanted to. Instead, he puts the ball in the perfect spot and Dalton Schultz takes it off the helmet of Andrew Adams.
Fowler’s first step
After not recording any sacks last week against the Eagles, that could not continue. The Cowboys needed to get back to getting pressure on the passer and taking them to the ground. Enter Dante Fowler. Drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee is very familiar with Fowler and his fast first step to rush the passer. They felt his presence once again his strip-sack of Joshua Dobbs.
It’s 3rd and 13 and an obvious passing down. Fowler is lined up wide of the tackle box with Tennessee showing no help from a running back or a tight end. It’s going to be Fowler one-on-one with Le’Raven Clark.
As the play develops, you’ll see Dobbs slip at the top of his dropback and that’s bad news with this sudden edge rush. Every split-second matters for Dobbs to have any chance of getting the ball out on this play. Even if he did, the only option he would have a is short pass to Treylon Burks (bottom of the screen) coming across the formation well short of the sticks. The coverage in the secondary was excellent.
In addition to Fowler’s pressure, look at the opposite side. Micah Parsons loops from just outside the C-gap all the way over to the A-gap. This game up front occupies the center and left guard which in turn helps out Dorance Armstrong. When the running back goes out into a pattern it leaves the left tackle alone with Armstrong with no chip on that side.
Armstrong gets great pressure and possibly makes the sack if Fowler doesn’t get there first. Fowler doesn’t do anything complicated at all. He looks like he’s shot out of a cannon and gets a great jump off the edge and gets to Dobbs with a speed rush. Once he gets to the quarterback, he’s relentless to get the ball out of his hands and Parsons recovers the loose ball, clubbed hand and all.
Lamb torches Titans
CeeDee Lamb is the key cog of the Cowboys’ passing attack and opposing teams know it. Several times we’ve seen opposing teams try to dedicate an extra defender to Lamb as a means to take him away as an option. We’ve also seen teams fail at doing so despite their efforts. On this play against Tennessee, Lamb lost the Titans’ secondary for a big gain.
Dallas is lined up in shotgun with trips to the right. Dalton Schultz is the in-line Y tight end with Ezekiel Elliott flanked to the right of Prescott. To counter the personnel, the Titans are again in nickel, this time with Kevin Byard as the single high safety.
The goal of this play is to move the pocket for Dak Prescott and get CeeDee Lamb all the way across the formation deep in the Titans’ secondary. For this to work and be successful, it all starts with the offensive line and several moving parts that take place. First, is selling the run action.
Tarrell Basham (#57) sees Zack Martin pulling around from his right guard spot and crashes down on the run fake to Elliott. This momentarily fools him which ensures Prescott will have time to get outside of him for more time to let the play develop.
The backside edge rusher is left unblocked for Martin to take on. Conor McGovern pulls out to his right from his center spot for some added help for Prescott. Meanwhile, Tyron Smith, Tyler Smith, and Jason Peters work together to collapse the interior defensive linemen. Noah Brown holds up on Basham just long enough for Prescott to throw.
With Lamb in the slot, the cornerback Joshua Kalu is unable to get a hand on him to reroute him. Lamb has become one of the league’s best with his releases off the line of scrimmage and this is stealing money for him. Lamb immediately gets the inside release from Kalu and starts to angle his pattern to the right as if he’s running a corner route.
Kalu, now in a trailing position, tries to get on top of Lamb’s outside shoulder to get back in the play. Lamb gives a slight head nod to the right before planting his right foot on the turf to go the other way. By this time Kevin Byard has opened his hips to left also anticipating a corner route. It’s game over from there.
Lamb easily separates from Kalu and puts Byard in the spin cycle, turning him all the way around. Prescott’s pass Is thrown on time to Lamb and the Cowboys are on the move after a 34-yard gain. Even when Lamb is covered, he’s open.