Sunday’s game was a massive failure for a Dallas Cowboys team ill-equipped to overcome its own mistakes. There were too many miscues on early downs that put this team in virtually unwinnable situations. Combined with three turnovers, the final result was not surprising but understandably frustrating.
Although watching the film from a disappointing loss is never fun, it’s still a good opportunity to look for silver linings, and there were a couple. Here are my film notes of the Cowboys’ offense from their Week 3 loss at Seattle:
-Nice play by Seahawks safety Brad McDougald on 2nd-and-5 of the opening drive. He broke for Tavon Austin, who was 12 yards away before Prescott even decided to make the throw and tackled the receiver for a loss of one.
-Not sure if La’el Collins was supposed to block LB Bobby Wagner or DE Frank Clark on a 3rd-and-1 read-option, but the LB was the reason they didn’t convert for a 1st down. Prescott could’ve kept the ball and ran it himself.
Dak Prescott has to keep this man. They had it blocked perfectly on the outside. pic.twitter.com/9mgQdYS4LL— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 24, 2018
-Tavon Austin 18 yards was a jet sweep on 2nd-and-3. On the previous play, he ran orbit motion on an Elliot 7-yard run. Featuring him on these motions is something Dallas needs to do much more often.
–Earl Thomas INT on the following play was a slant-flat concept vs Man-Free coverage. Dak targeted Michael Gallup on the slant but CB Trey Flowers forced the ball loose on impact. Excellent hands by Thomas.
-Prescott missed an open Gallup on a play-action comeback out of I-form. Ball placement was high and outside. Dak’s footwork was likely affected by Barkevious Mingo’s rush but he had the room to make the throw.
This was just a duck by Prescott. Gallup was open. pic.twitter.com/JUIsYV3E2t— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 24, 2018
-Cowboys used a lot of multi-TE sets with both TEs on the same side of the line on early downs in the first half.
-On two consecutive drives, Scott Linehan tried to go against type by throwing from running formations on 1st down. The first time, Dak missed the throw. The second time, the defense wasn’t fooled by the bootleg. Mingo sack for a loss of 10.
This is when you know your offense is too predictable. pic.twitter.com/bCVfK40fcx— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 24, 2018
-Not the best ball fake on the failed bootleg pass. Mingo may have seen the ball the whole time.
Mingo's eyes never come off the quarterback. He knew exactly what was coming. Talk about being predictable. pic.twitter.com/iBlW6cg9Ab— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) September 24, 2018
-Cowboys schemed a pass for Zeke on 3rd-and-9. It was a similar concept that’s been discussed before and one they need to dial up more often. Unfortunately, Zeke dropped the pass.
-Zeke 19 yards was a power sweep to the strong side. This has been the Cowboys’ best-run play in 2018.
Oh, what do we have here? Another explosive #Cowboys run using the pin-and-pull sweep. Impressive blocks by Rico Gathers and La'el Collins on top of excellent block manipulation by Zeke. pic.twitter.com/q3zd9orGrW— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 24, 2018
-Zeke should’ve had a TD on an improvised scramble pass up the sideline on 3rd-and-2, but he stepped out of bounds before the throw. He later took responsibility for his lack of awareness on Sunday.
If Zeke stays in bounds here, how much does that change the outcome of yesterday's game? pic.twitter.com/btiOnMnOAC— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 24, 2018
-Dallas had too many negative plays to open drives in the first half. They’re not capable of catching up when they’re behind the chains. Their formula for success has little margin for error.
-Through three games, Dak seems to have completed most of his passes on slant-flat concepts.
-Frank Clark’s jump-off on the snap gave LT Tyron Smith trouble a couple of times. The sack on 3rd-and-5 to end Dallas’ first drive of the third quarter was one example.
-Zeke 21 yards mid-third quarter was another power sweep to the strong side. Nicely blocked.
Oh look at this. Another pin-and-pull sweep and another explosive gain by #Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott. Beautiful blocks by Zack Martin and Connor Williams, clearing the path for Zeke to sit Earl Thomas down with a stiff arm. pic.twitter.com/YXA6rNIj9e— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 24, 2018
-Seahawks sent slot blitzes from CB Justin Coleman a handful of times on 2nd down.
-On 3rd down passes, Linehan tends to rely on individual route matchups and Dak finding the open man. His more creative designs usually occur on early downs. With the passing game struggling, will he scheme complex route combinations on 3rd down more often?
-Zeke fumble early fourth quarter was on an outside zone to the weakside boundary on 1st-and-10. Zeke was loose with the ball and got caught from behind.
If Zeke didn't fumble, I'd tell you guys about Zack Martin's pancake on this particular play. But he did, so....... pic.twitter.com/DiXKOGlrW6— John Owning (@JohnOwning) September 24, 2018
-On the next offensive play, he broke loose for a 19-yard gain on yet another power sweep.
-Two plays later, Dak made his first run attempt on a read-option for 10 yards. He handed the ball off on their previous read-options.
-Austin three-yard TD was a variation of the play-action push/shovel pass that’s been popular throughout the league this year. Despite criticism for a lack of creativity, Linehan has used some “exotic” designs this season. However, they haven’t been enough to overcome the offense’s deficiencies.
-Seahawks played a lot more 2-high zone on Dallas’ late-fourth quarter drives. They were fine with the Cowboys moving up the field as long as it took time off the clock.
-Earl Thomas’ second INT came on a deflected pass on TE Blake Jarwin’s curl route vs 2-high zone. The pass was a little behind Jarwin and LB Wagner quickly reacted to Prescott’s throwing motion. Thomas snatched the ball out of the air.
The Cowboys’ offense hurts itself with untimely gaffs in execution and on-field discipline as much as its perceived lack of creativity. This ineptitude is most disastrous on early downs as this offense can’t “throw itself out of trouble”. Every level of the unit, players and coaches alike, must improve. Otherwise, this team could be facing a 5-11 or 6-10 season.
You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22