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Cowboys Stole Page from Lombardi's Playbook

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Cowboys Stole Page from Lombardi's Playbook

Every once in awhile, you just have to show appreciation for something your opponent did. Of course, it's much easier to be magnanimous when your team has won the game, right? 

The Cowboys offense was pretty much kept in check by the Packers defense, with special mention going to the rookie cornerbacks. When Sam Shields  left the game with a concussion, Damarious Randall stepped into the  role of covering Dez Bryant with the result being Bryant having one of the worst games of his career.

As a team, the Cowboys only caught 13 passes for a paltry 114 yards. On paper, the running game appears to have been much more successful for the Cowboys, with 165 total yards gained. However, 95 of those yards came on two runs by Darren McFadden.

Normally, you might expect to see a post here about what went wrong for the Packers on those two plays. Well folks, I'm here to inform you (and flip Shakespeare around a bit), I'm here not to bury the Packers on those two plays, but instead to praise the Cowboys. 

Yes, I know that hurts. Hell, I just winced a little myself.

But those two plays were something you just don't see anymore in this league. A perfectly designed and executed sweep with multiple pulling linemen creating "a seal here and a seal there" and a nice alley for the running back to run through. Sound familiar?

Really, it was a thing of beauty.

Let's take a look at both of those plays.

The first one occurs only 3:10 into the first quarter.


As the ball is snapped, Left tackle Tyron Smith pulls to seal off back side pursuit while left guard La'el Collins  heads downfield after LB Jake Ryan. On the right side the Cowboys have two tight ends, who both block down, sealing off Mike Pennel and Julius Peppers. RG Zack Martin and RT Doug Free both pull outside of those blocks and look for second-level Packers to block. Free kicks out on Morgan Burnett and Martin cuts behind him and totally annihilates Clay Matthews. Matthews might as well have been a small child for how successful he was in fighting off Martin. Ryan arrives on the scene, but Collins has caught him and keeps him from filling the hole that McFadden squirts through. This was really Ryan's play to make, but he takes too East-West of an angle coming over and shows pretty stiff hips when trying to turn to face McFadden. McFadden bursts by Ryan and then in between Clinton-Dix, who gets an hand on him but nothing else and Julius Peppers, wh0 can't get there in time coming from the back side.

Peppers, deserves major credit, however, for not giving up on the play. When Micah Hyde forces McFadden to redirect, a pursuing Peppers just misses again but still does not stop. As Hyde forces McFadden toward the sideline, Peppers is there to finish off Hyde's cut tackle.

A tremendous effort by Peppers, but mainly this is about an absolutely textbook (or chalkboard) execution of a play that you just don't see any more.

The second McFadden run came 5:10 into the third quarter.

This play is basically a left-sided copy of the first play, but with a little twist that make it even more diabolically perfect. Again, there are two tight ends on the left side who block down. Again, three lineman pull with the same responsibilities. But this time, the Cowboys run some pre-snap motion, with Lucky Whitehead coming left to right, taking Damarious Randall with him and leaving one less Packer on the side of the field where the play is actually going. So simple, yet so effective. 

Micah Hyde has no chance against Tyron Smith and once again, Jake Ryan is kept from the hole, this time by TE Gavin Escobar who manages to seal off both Jayrone Elliot and then Ryan all in the same play. With no one to block, La'el Collins leads McFadden through a big "alley" and continues downfield where he knocks Clinton-Dix to the ground. It's quite striking how agile this 320 pound lineman is as he sprints downfield, continuing to lead McFadden. But much like Peppers on the first play, Clinton-Dix refuses to give up on the play and eventually brings McFadden down.

My Packers fanhood was formed during the days of Lombardi's Packers sweep. As such, I've always had a fond appreciation for the mechanics, design and execution of  the perfect sweep. It's the epitome of the football play where all eleven players have important roles in making it work. The Cowboys executed these two plays perfectly and it was a joy to watch. 

And again, I can say that because the Packers came home with the win. 

Go Pack!


"Jersey Al" Bracco is the Editor-In-Chief, part owner and wearer of many hats for and He is also a recovering Mason Crosby truther.  

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (14) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

croatpackfan's picture

Thanks Al for noticing and pointing out those 2 plays. And, no matter who won, but when something is done almost perfectly, you have to give the credit for that!

Handsback's picture

Great job Al!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

On sweep 1, Clinton Dix is in good position to limit this play to 5 yards or so, but overran it, failing to make the tackle or to force McFadden farther inside towards Peppers who is flowing towards the hole. Cowboys' TE James Hanna (who?) destroys Neal, so Neal provides no outside contain (or any other impediment except to his own ILBs - see below), leaving a dilemma for CM3 and Burnett as they now have to be concerned about both the outside contain and the inside cutback. Plus, Dallas does have blockers to engage both Burnett and CM3. Burnett and CM3 do force McFadden inside but Ryan, pursued by but not touched by an OL, doesn't angle inside of the trash (Hanna/Neal); instead, Ryan goes around the trash in too much of an east-west angle, allowing McFadden to cut inside of Ryan. Ryan essentially ran himself out of the hole, and the pursuing OL Martin finally catches up to Ryan and pushes him farther outside, finishing Ryan off. This leaves Dix with a clear shot, but McFadden cuts inside of Dix too - or Dix overran it - to each his own on the terminology/blame. No Cowboy touches Peppers - he is not sealed at all - but it looks like he initially stays home to prevent the cut back and is too late to get the hole when McFadden flows right and then cuts it inside. Main Culprits: Neal, Ryan Dix (maybe Peppers).

Sweep 2: Jersey Al's analysis is clear and concise. Elliott gets sealed by a TE (there is a reason Elliott only plays a few snaps per game - many folks commented that Perry would have set the edge better on this play), and Ryan runs into the trash, allowing the same TE to block him as well. TE Witten gets in Pennel's way, but most 3-4 DE's aren't going to be fast enough to catch an RB running just outside the numbers. LT Smith, one of the best, not surprisingly destroys the over-matched DB, in this case Hyde. La'el Collins pulls, and is agile enough to pick off the overmatched FS, in this case Dix. Goggle La'el Collins hits 18.25 MPH (!) and you will get lots of hits. Dix gets up and commendably runs McFadden down. This is a well designed play. Even if Ryan gets there, he would have had to deal with LG La'eL Collins, and the motion moves Burnett to the other side, and CM3 also starts to move away from the play side. Main Culprits: Elliott and Ryan.

D Ernesto's picture

Ya good ol did missed another tackle. Notice how he is never hurt becuase he has learned to avoid contact by being somepl?ace else. IMHO I think he is grossly over rated he should have been a fourth round pick not a one

John Galt III's picture

Send this to Mike McCarthy. If it worked well against us, we can use it against someone else.

Horse's picture
ray nichkee's picture

I love the breakdowns with the video.

Mojo's picture

In example 1, although Ryan overruns the play it doesn't help that he's pushed from behind by Collins. Guess that must be legal on sweep plays.

Jersey Al's picture

I saw that, but I'd say it's marginal at best. Ryan had already taken himself out of the play...

Bohj's picture

Good stuff Al. As a Michigan alum, watching Ryan make tackles for a loss was a treat. He hit the hole pretty aggressively. I think in the pros, his aggressiveness has been working against him on crucial plays like this.

Filling the hole has more to do with patience, cutting off the hole and letting more bodies flow to the ball. In time, he will be great. And he can use these crucial mistakes as learning tools. The funny thing is that, crashing the gap and making that tackle for loss or minimal gain has high reward. But if you get sealed off, the risk is also high.

I want the people who have been clamoring for Ryan earlier to recognize, yes....this guy is talented. But the coaching staff knows when guys like this are ready. He's in now because he is more ready. But he is still a rookie. He would have been more of a liability earlier in the season. He has to demonstrate being assignment sure. Also the reason MM is hesitant to give him praise. When he shows consistency, he will get the accolades he deserves. Great things to come out of this kid though.

4thand1's picture

I think the GB game plan was to shut down Dez Bryant. They gave up a few big runs but won the game hands down.

ray nichkee's picture

You may be right der hey, why would Dom blitz such an amazing QB like cassel? (as cow says)

The big runs were not supposed to happen but the big pass play didn't either.

Horse's picture

Cassel: 5 TDs, 6 INTs, PR 73.5
Rodgers: 28 TDs, 5 INTs, PR 97.5
Case dismissed.

Jersey Al's picture

Cow, in a large sample of stupid trolling comments, this might be the dumbest thing you've ever said.

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