Week 5 Film Notes: All-22 Takeaways of Cowboys Defense


The defense’s goal line effort was heroic and gave the Dallas Cowboys a chance to win. However, they allowed too many significant completions in the passing game.

This talented unit shows a lot of promise this season and for the future, but it’s asking too much of them to drag this team to victory every week. Here are my notes from the All-22 film of the Dallas defense in Week 5:

First Half

-Sean Lee out again. Maliek Collins also out. David Irving was added to the 53-man roster but was inactive.

-Cowboys blitzed on the first pass play of the game on 2nd-and-7. Sent both LB Leighton Vander Esch (LVE) and slot CB Anthony Brown. Deshaun Watson found his TE for a 10-yard gain.

-DeAndre Hopkins isn’t a fast receiver, but he still creates separation on his cuts and is arguably the league’s best at contested catches.

-Byron Jones didn’t travel with Hopkins. Dallas’s DBs stay on their side in this scheme.

-Rod Marinelli and Kris Richard regularly rotate their safeties to disguise coverage. This is mostly from two-high to single-high, but they did throw in some disguised Cover 2.

-Cowboys front seven did an excellent job reacting to the read-option with pitchout mid-first quarter. Everybody had a clear assignment and no one was left in a bind.

-Houston’s receivers made plays on crossing routes. Dallas’s DBs weren’t able to stay in phase across the field.

-The collective sideline-to-sideline range of the defense is excellent. This unit does a good job limiting perimeter runs.

-Byron Jones, Chido Awuzie, Anthony Brown had no answer for Hopkins. He frequently beat them over the middle and on out routes to the sideline.

-Keke Coutee TD early second quarter was a push/touch pass on jet sweep motion at the goal line. These types of plays have been utilized by nearly every team this year.

-Cowboys used the scrape-exchange to defend the read-option. Jaylon Smith had the QB if he kept the ball.

-Watson’s ability to connect with Hopkins even when the pass rush did its job was one of the key factors in the game. He either extended plays, or Hopkins won at the top of his route.

-Alfred Blue 17 yards was on an outside zone run. Jeff Heath lost gap integrity on the back side.

-Chido appeared hesitant on at least a couple of plays in the first half. Houston threw for decent-to-good completions on each occurrence.

-The Cowboys’ defense in low red zone held strong on two straight plays mid-second quarter. Heath showed good range on the first play, Taco Charlton and Daniel Ross good effort on the second. Held the Texans to a FG.

-Blue 28 yards from midfield inside one minute before halftime was a checkdown vs Cover 3. Jaylon with a rare missed tackle.

-Next play was another example of Watson finding Hopkins just before the rush could reach him. Hopkins beat Chido across his face on an out route. This put Houston inside the 10 yard line.

-Jaylon sack on 4th-and-1 at the goal line was a great display of his burst and range. He spied Watson, ran with him to the perimeter, and laid a vicious hit on the scrambling QB.

-Richard was aggressive with his blitzes, particularly on the final drive of the half. They sent five or more rushers on all three downs.

-Dallas’s goal line stands were high-effort plays, a credit to the culture Jason Garrett and Rod Marinelli have created. They prevented a lopsided loss and gave the Cowboys a chance to win.

Second Half

-Per usual, the defense’s foundation was Cover 3 and Man-Free.

-The Hopkins fumble was on the first 3rd down of the drive. Watson was pressured on a blitz from Dallas on 3rd-and-9. Hopkins ran to the sideline and caught the pass but was stripped by Brown. Jourdan Lewis recovered.

– Chido didn’t play in the second half. Apparently, it was not injury related. Brown took over as the left CB. Lewis manned the slot.

-Dallas continued to blitz on all three downs.

-LVE has had a solid if not good game. He’s played well at the point of attack to take on blockers and make tackles.

-Outside of Blue’s 17-yard gain on an outside zone run, the Cowboys largely shut down Houston’s running game, though the Texans weren’t much of a running team anyway.

-Richard called some interesting slot blitzes in the game. There was at least one snap where Xavier Woods ended up taking Hopkins in man coverage as Lewis blitzed.

-Byron Jones defended the fade well on 1st-and-4 late in the third quarter. Had his back to the ball but reacted quickly to Hopkins’s jump and never contacted him in the air.

-Next play was a designed QB run to the boundary. This time, LVE showcased his range and wrap-up skills to stop Watson for a gain of one.

-Other than the Texans’ TD early second quarter, the Cowboys’ goal line defense has held strong three straight times.

-Jaylon Smith had probably the best performance of his career. He made plays all over the field in both the run and pass game.

-Jaylon deflected a 3rd-and-1 throw to force a three-and-out late third quarter. Watson executed a sprint-right over concept. His first read of Hopkins was covered and he threw an outlet pass to Fuller, which Jaylon blocked.

-DeMarcus Lawrence had a quiet game on the stat sheet, but he was active throughout the night.

-Byron Jones was called for pass interference in the end zone on a go route off of play-action. He had good coverage, similar to the fade route, but he drifted into Hopkins as the ball arrived. Houston got the ball at the 1 yard line.

-Dallas would hold strong once again and force another FG.

-Cowboys played more two-high zone, mostly Cover-2, in the last couple drives of the fourth quarter.

-Woods INT with 20 seconds left in regulation came off of Man-Free blitz coverage. Jaylon and Lawrence beat Blue and RT Lamm and collided with Watson as he threw. Pass was errant, and Woods was in position.


-Hopkins 49-yard catch and run to set up the game-winning FG was a dig route vs Brown’s man coverage. Texans used the same pre-snap orbit to swing motion they’d run about four or five times in the game. Watson play-faked and had time in the pocket. Hopkins broke through three tackles.



Dallas’s goal line defense was outstanding and kept the game close, but they allowed too many sizeable or explosive plays through the air. Their inability to cover DeAndre Hopkins through the tops of his routes and get to Deshaun Watson before he could throw added up to a loss.

This is a good unit, but they’re not elite and aren’t capable of carrying this team consistently. They make plays, get stops, and pressure and sack the quarterback, but they don’t suffocate offenses. On a team whose own offense struggles so mightily, this defense is missing that last ingredient that’ll turn this franchise into a winner.

Perhaps that final piece to the puzzle will arrive in time, but if the hopes for a “successful” 2018 rest solely on this defense, they’ll likely fall a tad short.


You can follow Allan on Twitter at @AllanUy22