By Richard Yanes
The loss to the Denver Broncos was very eye opening to everyone associated with the Dallas Cowboys, including the fans. We have not seen that type of defensive domination against a potent Cowboys offense that includes the leading rusher from last year, a Pro-Bowl quarterback, offensive line and receiver. Those four things alone should allow us to run away with every game, pun intended.
So how did the Denver Broncos turn the game around on the Cowboys?
Well that answer is simple, and it’s not because of their front seven like many would assume. To be honest, La’El Collins held his own against Von Miller. It’s due to their outstanding secondary. Led by Aqib Talib and, the ridiculously underrated, Chris Harris Jr., the Denver secondary took the pressure off the front seven every single play. Sure, we got to them a couple of times, but they did more than enough to support the run defense and virtually take Ezekiel Elliott out of the game.
Start with the obvious run downs (1st, short yardage, etc.). Denver was very methodical in wear everyone was placed on the defensive side of the ball. The secondary was good enough for Denver that they could play press coverage for most of the game with a single high safety, and stick to the hip of each receiver in man coverage.
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Dallas, in a two-receiver set, was no match for that defense. It allowed Denver to place 8 guys in the box. Yes, EIGHT. It doesn’t matter what your O-line can do at that point. Dallas, would then come out in a three-receiver set. Denver would answer with the same style of defense - man coverage with a single high safety, leaving seven players in the box to focus their attention on Zeke and Dak.
You may be asking yourself, “where was Dez?!” Our pro-bowl receiver, Dez Bryant, does not fare will against press coverage while getting hit off the line. His game has not lost a step, that’s just his weakness. Also, teams have figured out how to play Dez Bryant when he goes for the outside release – force him out.
By the time the second half rolled around, we were in pass-first mode trying to get back into the game. At that point, Denver kindly backed their defensive backs off a bit, blitzed their linebackers and wreaked havoc on a beaten up offensive line.
Playing like they did, Denver flipped the Dallas game plan on the Cowboys. They dominated time of possession in the first half, and into the second half by continuously pounding the football on the ground, playing solid defense and keeping their offense on the field.
Dallas will need to do some serious film study to learn from this loss, and that includes Ezekiel Elliott.
Heading into Arizona, the Cowboys will be up against another tough secondary, but one not quite as strong as the match-up in Denver. Most people would assume that you need to move Dez around, and they would be right. More so, however, Linehan needs to find a way to get Cole Beasley and Brice Butler involved in this game. Stretch the field and let Zeke do his thing by the Great Wall of Dallas.
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