The Dallas Cowboys struggled without stars Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for a seven-game stretch. Mark Schofield shows how Romo to Dez was the key to victory over the Miami Dolphins.
2015 has been a rough year in Jerry World. Both Tony Romo and Dez Bryant were sidelined after two wins to open the season, and the Cowboys staggered to a 0-7 record without their offensive stars. But with the quarterback returning to the lineup against Miami, and Bryant getting back up to speed in his fourth game back, the team was looking to get back in the win column against the Dolphins.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Dallas faces 2nd and goal at the 15-yard line. They set up with 11 personnel on the field, trips right, with Romo in the shotgun and tight end Jason Witten alone on the left next to the tackle. The Dolphins are showing a potential linebacker blitz in the interior with the five defensive backs indicating Cover 1:
The trips right formation features Devin Street (#15) on the outside, Terrance Williams (#83) in the middle and Bryant on the inside. This forces the Dolphins to make a decision: They could slide a defensive back over Bryant in this man coverage scheme, or they can rely on rookie linebacker Neville Hewitt (#46) to handle the receiver in man coverage, knowing they have safety help over the top with Walt Aikens (#35).
They roll with Plan B.
The Cowboys attack vertically here: Witten running a corner route on the backside, Williams releasing on a seam route, Street executing a double move — showing a curl to the inside before breaking deep — and Bryant moving across the middle on a post pattern:
Off the snap Hewitt turns his hips toward Bryant in an effort to run with the WR, but the receiver establishes outside leverage quickly. Bryant bends toward the middle and gets a step on the LB. With Williams releasing vertically, Aikens has to watch both the post and the seam routes. The safety splits the difference as long as he can, but with Bryant getting separation from the rookie linebacker, Romo has enough space to take a shot:
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The quarterback delivers a perfect throw, leading the WR toward the back of the end zone and away from both defenders. Bryant reels in the touchdown, and the Cowboys take a 21-14 lead.
Here is another angle on Bryant’s route, illustrating how he was able to get a step on the linebacker:
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Notice the precision of the pass from Romo. The ball is accurately placed, leading the receiver into space. This play is also a good example of how an offense can use personnel and formations to put the defense in a difficult position. Much like how the New England Patriots use tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Cowboys put their best receiver on the inside and force the defense to defend him either with a linebacker, or to adjust their coverage and create a mismatch somewhere else on the field.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.