Week 3 Film Notes: All-22 Takeaways of Cowboys Defense


Unfortunately for Dallas Cowboys fans, the defense didn’t pitch a perfect game, and the team flew home with a 1-2 record. There’s definitely more to like on film on this side of the ball, but they committed mistakes on a few key plays that made the difference on Sunday.

Here’s a look at my defensive film notes from Dallas’s Week 3 loss at Seattle:

First Half

-Safety Xavier Woods back from injury, making his first start of the season. Kavon Frazier came in off the bench.

-DE Randy Gregory and DT Datone Jones also back from injury. Datone Jones would only play five snaps before straining his hamstring. Cowboys would place him on IR Tuesday.

-Seattle’s starting center, Justin Britt, was active but didn’t play with a shoulder injury. Left guard Ethan Pocic out with ankle injury, hasn’t played since Week 1. JR Sweezy starting.

-From the first snap, Sean Lee displayed his elite mental processing and play speed.

-Another example of Lee knifing his way to the RB eight plays later. Unfortunately, he’d leave the game in the second half with a hamstring injury.

-Nice blitz design on 3rd-and-5 of Seahawks’ first drive. Dallas’s stunt brought Tyrone Crawford through unblocked to force a tough throw. Good defense by Byron Jones on Brandon Marshall.

-Unfortunately, Crawford was called for roughing the passer. The current enforcement of this rule seems impractical and unrealistic across the NFL.

-Cowboys were once again aggressive on 3rd downs, often calling LB blitzes.

-Leighton Vander Esch (LVE) received snaps by the second drive.

-Dallas’s DBs were excellent in run support early.

-Byron Jones knocked the ball out of the Marshall’s hands twice in the first quarter, both on 3rd down. He’s had an amazing transition to CB this year.

-Dallas with a couple of Cover 2 zone coverages in the first quarter, but they were mostly single high, playing Cover 3 zone and Man-Free (Cover 1). That’s been their identity for six years now.

-Carson 19-yard flat route on 3rd-and-10 was a busted coverage from Man-Free blitz. Cowboys were in a Double-A gap look. Someone on that line was supposed to follow the RB, but no one did.

-Next play around 9:33 in second quarter: Jaron Brown 19-yard TD was a seam route vs Cover 3. Seattle ran a mirrored Seam-Wheel concept. Chido Awuzie allowed too much cushion.

-Cowboys had coverage breakdowns on two consecutive drives. Both on 3rd down and both led to TDs on that play or the one after.

-Tyler Lockett 52-yard TD was a go route vs a somewhat disguised Cover 2. Kavon Frazier was in for Jeff Heath at safety. Heath was hurt on first play of drive. Frazier was slow to rotate to his deep half, and Russell Wilson threw a well-placed ball.

-Randy Gregory’s unnecessary roughness call on 3rd-and-7 was a dumb penalty by the DE. Pressure forced a hurried throw by Wilson, but Gregory lost his cool.

-Dallas’s defense can’t afford to make many mistakes like the ones above. The team doesn’t have the offense to keep up. Defense must play stellar football every week.

-Cowboys defensive line didn’t make much noise the rest of the half after the first couple of drives.

Second Half

-Byron Jones with a third pass breakup on 3rd-and-6 on opening drive of third quarter, all against Marshall.

-Dallas with a handful of snaps with three down linemen. They blitzed or sent a LB as a fourth rusher on these plays.

-Lee and Lawrence sack was one such play. Jaylon Smith and Lee ran a cross-dog blitz. Lee looped around RT Ifedi and met Lawrence at the QB.

-LVE took over for Lee when the defensive captain left the game.

-Marshall’s 27-yarder was an amazing pass from Wilson on a well-covered go-route vs Man-Free Lurk. Chido had great coverage, but the throw was perfect.

-Dallas held up fairly well against the run most of the time but waned on the Seahawks’ final scoring possession. Allowed runs of seven, five, five, eight, and five yards over the 10-play drive.

-Seahawks started every drive in the second half with a run. In fact, they often ran on the drive’s first two plays, a sign they weren’t concerned with Dallas catching up.

-Chris Carson five-yard TD early fourth quarter was an inside zone run from read-option. Wilson has long been good at play-fakes. Brought LVE with him outside after the hand-off.

-Overall, LVE played well in Lee’s stead. He showcased his sideline-to-sideline range, sure tackling ability, and physical potential to take on blockers. Given Lee’s health status right now, his selection in the first round of the draft makes more sense in hindsight. The need to find a fill-in for Lee was part of the reason Dallas had LVE rated as their top prospect when they were on the clock.


As head coach Jason Garrett is fond of saying, a handful of plays made the difference in this game. Dallas has normally played at a high level in the passing game, but miscues in coverage cost them. Untimely penalties, whether fair or not, also hurt their momentum.

The defense must be outstanding every week if they’re going to carry this team to a winning record. The Cowboys won’t win if Marinelli and Richard’s charges have a downturn in performance or discipline. Byron Jones is playing at a pro-bowl level at CB, and the pick of LVE appears like better value given Sean Lee’s health status. The missing ingredients preventing this unit from reaching elite status are interceptions and consistency.


You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22