Chiefs 17, Cowboys 16: Bitten by the Bear


Dez drops Dallas’ best chance for a comeback.

The Cowboys problems with pressure 3-4s continued yesterday.  New Chiefs coordinator Bob Sutton, a long-time Rex Ryan assistant, used parts of Ryan’s philosophy, most notably Buddy Ryan’s Bears front, to frustrate the Cowboys rushing attack, holding Dallas to 61 total yards.  He further mixed some of Rex’s signature overload blitzes and some aggressive coverage to frustrate Dallas’ passing attack.

What resulted was a replay of some hard road losses from recent years.  The 17-10 loss in Denver in week four of ’09 was most typical.  Sutton had the element of surprise on his side, and a strong interior front which made big plays at key points in the game.  Nose tackle Dontari Poe contributed two sacks which short-circuited Cowboys drives  The first put the brakes on Dallas’ opening drive and forced a field goal.  The second, which I’ll review in detail below, stopped the Cowboys when they were ready to score a touchdown on their opening series of the 2nd half.

Two games is not a trend, but it’s the beginning of a trend, and the most concerning feature of the 2013 Cowboys has been their inability to muster a rushing attack.  This week they faced a number of eight and nine man fronts, but the weak totals, combined with last week’s inability to get a push against seven man Giants fronts, has to be the main topic this week in the offensive coaches’ meetings.

Sutton used a common stem in the Ryan 3-4, one which Wade Phillips used in Dallas from time to time, which lets a 3-4 easily shift into a Bear 4-3.  Here’s how it looks in diagram form and here’s how the Chiefs executed it on the first scrimmage play of the 2nd half:

Here’s a base 3-4 front, with the ends and the nose tackle two-gapping against the center and offensive tackles, playing head up against their offensive counterparts and looking for plays to either gap to their left or right.  This look can be changed into a Bear by having both DEs slide one player inside, each going from head over a tackle to a guard.  The strong side inside backer, the Ted or T,  will line up in the C cap between the strong-side tackle and the tight end, while the strong outside linebacker, the S, steps outside the TE to bracket him.  The strong safety, SS, will walk up and play the Ted’s role, as the second inside linebacker.  The weak safety will drop into the deep middle.  You go from this:

to this:

And here it is in the flesh:

Kansas City is in a 3-4 look with the strong safety creeping up to put eight defenders in the box.  Notice both DEs to the NT Poe’s left and right are standing.  They are lined up across from the OTs, but when the ILB on the near hash mark walks up, both DEs pinch over the guards:

This puts three men over your center and guards, while over-shifting towards the tight ends’ side.  You’re facing an 8-man front with press coverage on the outside.  Kansas City mixed this front with a 2-4-5 look with two down linemen and four linebackers and blitzed from it regularly.  That heavy beef and movement gummed up Dallas’ inside runs.  Only once, on a Lance Dunbar cutback, did Dallas get heavy push on a running play.

  • Prince of Heck

    Didn’t see the game today. Did Romo look like he is still injured? Wondering if it’s one of the reasons why the pass plays have been conservative.

    • StillHateTheGiants

      His stats look great. At crunch time when he had a chance to lead the team to a comeback, he laid an egg. 3 straight incompletions, none of them really looked close to being completed. I’m not saying he is the reason for the loss, but you asked how he looked.

      • Prince of Heck

        I know that he didn’t perform well. I was looking to see if the injury was a factor though.

        • StillHateTheGiants

          Sorry, can’t answer that part. I thought it was uncharacterstic of him to miss receivers so badly, I’ve rarely seen him miss 3 straight at crunch time. I kind of hope it was due to the injury

          • Starmesh23

            Could have been that his pain killing meds wore off late in the game, but that’s just a theory.

      • kameleon_o

        Yeah, in the late 3rd qtr and the 4th, he looked really off. Just throwing it so low and just off. Of course, the fact that in a lot of cases it looked like they were trying the dynamic throw it to Witten for a 1 yard gain when you need 6 yards pass plays it probably wouldn’t have mattered.

  • Taylor

    As I have posted before, we are not a very good team. 7-9 to 9-7. We have personnel deficiencies, but the coaching that conceal those shortcomings is not in place.

    • kameleon_o

      The defensive coaching isn’t perfect but I do like what they’re doing with some real no name guys. It’s not their fault that they’ve been saddled with guys off the couch and yet they’ve made players out of Hayden and Selvie. I respect that. They’re not perfect but I think what you’re seeing is that Rob Ryan was NOT the problem with this team last year. He might not have been the answer but he was scapegoated by Jerry IMO.

      The real problem is the offensive coaching. If this is what a Callahan/Romo offense is going to look like in the future then we’re in real trouble. JJ will be drafting a deep threat high next year.

      • Pete

        Amen to Ryan not being the problem. There praising him in NO. I don’t think the cowboys players are smart enough to learn the system

        • kameleon_o

          Yeah. I’m not saying RR was my favorite D-coordinator but to make him JJ’s scapegoat was wrong. I loved how his first year the defense started off great and then nose dived and he was blamed for it being too complicated. Wouldn’t it have been the other way around?? They would have struggled at first then got better?? If it was too complicated then how come they could do it at first??

          • Taylor

            Everybody got hurt. How good RR might have been with a full complement of players is moot, but his D was riddled.

  • ym

    This is incredible. You have teams that a few years that were at the bottom or average, like the Seahawks and 49ers. Even the Bengals. Now they’re all moving forwards and are competitive. The Chiefs are probably going to be competitive. This team has not changed. It’s probably not going to change. This is two games in, but we’ve seen the same thing play out year after year. This team is going nowhere.

    • jarhead

      its not a complicated formula, draft well, find a QB, and a good coaching staff that maximizes all those good picks.

      the only thing that can really screw it up is a schizoid GM…..

      ummmm, never mind.

      Anyway, i wouldn’t anoint the chiefs yet, its way too early for that.

      • kameleon_o

        I don’t think anyone’s anointing the Chiefs but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that they’re a franchise that LOOKS like it’s on an upswing. That’s the point. It’s been 3 years now and we’re seeing NO improvement.

    • Lee1936

      Sure looks like the two-decade JJ curse still reigns in Dallas. The trade-up to take Claiborne was a huge mistake. At least, I haven’t seen the glitter expected from a guy who cost our top two picks last year. Claiborne’s as fragile as Mike Jenkins.
      Here we go again, 8-8. To mollify the fans, JJ fires Garrett in January, and hires a new HC and O Coord.
      The only improvement I’ve seen this year is fewer penalties. Maybe 9-7?

      • kameleon_o

        Exactly. He won’t stick it out with Garrett and let him build this team right but on the other hand, if he let him stay he would still meddle like crazy and Garrett would be in the same situation. Garrett’s in a no win situation here. He’d be better off going somewhere else and proving that he’s got talent and that Jerry just misused it.

  • Michael

    What to say about this game?

    Kiffin still can’t stop the read option. Whenever the Chiefs needed to pick up a few yards or burn the clock, the read option was there every time.

    Turnovers, uh? Every team tends to the league average. Excesses either way are not scheme related. You might get marginally more INTs out of a zone scheme, but it isn’t something you can count on week to week.

    Callahan’s offense? Offensive. If they are going to lose at least they could lose with style. Fling the ball down the field. Line up and run downhill. Better to lose with dignity than to suffer a 3 yard drag route on 3rd and 6!

    You cannot tell me that Jason Garrett – he of the long vertical passing game – likes the style of the Cowboys offense or defense. It must hurt to watch your team lose running such toothless and passive schemes.

    I love Bob Sutton’s defense. The Bear fronts, the overload blitz, the man press. The aggressiveness an attitude. He is really one of the best DCs in the Ryan style. BTW, the Saints defense held Tampa to 7 today and holding Atlanta to 17 last week.

    Romo still holds the ball too long. Bryant still drops too many key passes. Murray remains a one year wonder. And where was Austin, Escobar, Hanna and Williams today? So much for a deep receiving pool.

    Same old story. And nice touch by JJ appearing at the locker room and absolving Dez Bryant for the dropped pass.

    • kameleon_o

      I’ll never understand the offensive philosophy of running routes that barely break the line of scrimmage on 3rd and 6. I guess if a team got 10 downs to get a first down that’d be the way to go. The down the field passing game is non-existent. It’s bad now but it really wasn’t that great last year either. One of the reasons I was hoping they’d keep Anthony Armstrong on the team. He was the only guy with elite speed and I thought he just might be a guy who could loosen up those 7 and 8 man boxes.

      Ahhh, Escobar and Williams. Two guys who were going to step in and give us such depth at the positions that what defense could stop us?? Stop me if you’ve heard that story before. Right now Escobar’s on pace for a 16 catch season. Anthony Fasano where are thou?? No big deal. It’s not like we needed any starters on our team from the 2nd round pick.

      I said 8-8 before the season and I’ve seen NOTHING that changes my mind about that now. The offense is worse and the defense is slightly better (probably due to health more than anything and a couple decent additions like Selvie). When you were an average team before that’s a recipe to stay average.

  • StillHateTheGiants

    Really? Romo’s fumble was a result of playing too loose with the ball? He was hit from behind in the act of throwing. I fault the guy when he makes unforced errors but I don’t put that one in that category.

  • StillHateTheGiants

    That just stinks. It’s a shame your first game was a loss. I don’t get to go often but trust me, a win is a whole lot better.

    • kameleon_o

      I’m sure it is. Boy that was a long walk out of Arrowhead with the fans there doing their indian chant.

  • Jon B.

    Hire Lovie Smith………….TOMORROW…… him the new Head Coach………….he already knows the entire staff…………Demote Jason Garret to Offensive Coordinator in the booth only………..Callahan back to O Line coach.

    It won’t happen………..but GM Jerry has undermined Garret……..he played the your not calling the plays anymore card and now it looks like Garret’s replacement is worse……..he dinks and dunks……….and doesn’t believe in a GO route for Austin or a seem for Witten? If Witten cannot get separation put Escobar out there. The Chiefs D isn’t bad……….but look at what Denever just did to the GMEN without 6 turnovers……….4 I think it was. That kind of beat down is what Dallas should have done…………you don’t let teams hang around you bury em……….and you beat teams like the Chiefs………..which we couldn’t do.

    This team plays good………..just not good enough. Look around the leauge………….Harbaugh, Carrol, Harbaugh, it doesn’t take a Princeton education to coach in the NFL……….let garret be the O.C. he was good at that we just had Coach Cupcake unable to lead the most talented group of men in the NFL to their destiny………………

  • hardwater

    So far, as a whole, I don’t like Bill Callahan’s play calling. I’m also not at all sure Romo is a good pocket passer. He may be better as an escape-artist-pants-on-fire-gunslinger-QB. How ironic that would be as we improve the O-Line.

    • kameleon_o

      It’s too early for me to jump on Callahan’s play calling. Just for me of course. I’m with you that so far I’m not sure that I like what I see. I could tell that the Chiefs had almost no fear of us going deep. They figured Dez would get his every now and then but if they could contain him after the big catch we would probably shoot ourselves in the foot and we did. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why we didn’t run any deep routes. When we were in 3 WR sets the Chiefs were usually playing man with a safety over the top drifting over to Dez’s side. How come Austin and Williams couldn’t take advantage ONCE on a deep ball?? Romo had a lot more time than fans thought in this game but he never pulled the trigger deep.

      Also, someone else, either on this site or another one, pointed out something I thought while watching the game. This is the most UNIQUE hurry up offense in the league. They hurry up to the line of scrimmage and then fiddle fu** around until there’s 1 second on the clock because Romo’s hand drawing the play to each player individually. I understand the crowd noise was a factor, I was THERE and it was deafening, but the whole point of the wrist playsheet is that he can call the play out really quick and then go run it. I’ve never seen a no huddle offense where the QB calls the play really quickly and then stands under center reading the defense again and it looked like he was changing the play. I don’t know what was going on and by the look of it neither did the Cowboys.

      • truecowboyfan

        I didn’t get to see the game, which might be a good thing. But you obviously had a unique perspective for this past game. I have also wondered why it appears that the Cowboys don’t run more deep vertical routes…and when I say vertical, I mean running perpendicular to the LOS, not the deep ins and outs that JG loves. The Cowboys have 3 big, athletic WRs (including Dez the freak), a 6’6″ future HOF TE, and a 6’4″ TE who can run a sub 4.5 forty. Seems to me as if they have more than enough threats to hurt you vertically down the field. There are only 3 possible reasons that I can think of:

        1. The design of the offense does not call for these type of routes with multiple vertical routes (not the stupid deep ins and outs) on a consistent basis. If this is the case, that is a poor, poor scheme to run with this personnel group. I’m sure someone can easily confirm or refute this theory (Raf?).

        2. No time for Romo. Although possible, I also know there are many occasions when Romo has more than enough time to get the ball down the field. I doubt this is the cause.

        3. Romo is gun-shy. A gun-shy gun-slinger sounds farfetched. But I actually think this could be one of the reasons. Romo takes a lot of flack in the media for being careless with the ball…and rightfully so. But all the great QBs take calculated risks when the reward is a possible big play down the field, and especially when you have talented play makers at WR and TE. I don’t care if they are covered, as long as they are single-covered and the DB is trailing or even on the WRs hip pocket, take a shot! You rarely see Romo take these kind of shots down field, which leads me to believe that he is trying to be too cautious. For a team that can’t run the ball, I think you have to take risks down the field, or else you probably won’t be able to sustain enough drives to score enough points to win.

        So which is it? I’m guessing its #3, but #1 could also play a role.

        • kameleon_o

          I think it’s #1 right now but I’ve often wondered if #3 isn’t possible as well. He takes so much criticism and every loss is blamed on him that it’s only natural to get a little “safe” sometimes when you know you’ll be crucified for every mistake you make.

          • truecowboyfan

            Definitely. Its hard to blame Romo for trying to play it safe. But he needs to find the happy medium between “bonehead” and “too safe.” As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe the Cowboys can be a championship team this year by playing it safe.

          • kameleon_o

            Here’s my problem in just one aspect. When it comes to going down the field I’ve seen them too often on a 3rd and way long just do a little dump off. The old Romo, and the old Garrett offense, actually had confidence they could sometimes pick up those 3rd and 16-20 yard to go. Is there really any difference between an INT 60 yards down the field versus a punt?? I know they don’t want Romo throwing INT’s but sometimes, like if you can get a WR matched up one on one going deep, you take the shot and good things happen. If it’s picked off then you were going to punt anyway.

  • Lee1936

    Raf, thanks for great analysis.

  • PDXCowboy

    You’ve pretty much sum up the thoughts I’ve been reluctant to say. Even ignoring the injury bug, which has been persistent, he really hasn’t demonstrated any occasional jaw-dropping moments that give you cause to think he was worth the move up.

    You really haven’t heard anything either. The media would be quick to jump on the smallest glimpse of domination in practices or the OTAs. Never heard a coach hint as much either. Contrast that to Dez, who similarly has fought injuries and a challenging learning curve, but also occasionally wowed us with 3 TD games while we waited.

    I know he’s really the least of our problems, and really not a problem at all. A serviceable starter is fine. It’s just that damn cost to get a serviceable starter that sticks to your craw. That, and the big playmaking he was suppose to bring, could really help right now.

    • Pete

      to the coaches not saying much, it being a bad pick, (maybe) it would only make JJ look more like a fool, cause you know it was him driving the bus to get him. I’m not sold on him being a bum yet. I don’t think he’s a 100% and really don’t think he should be out there. I think all around there a badly coached team, I’d fire the whole lot of them

  • connery

    Call up Randle now. Murray looks like he needs cataract surgery. And does anyone on this team, other than Bryant, know how to run a “go”route?
    Complicated huh?

  • klyngman

    RAF, excellent write up as always. I watched in agony as the chiefs seemed to know , the cowboys looed nonplussed at the fronts the chiefs were showing. I’m wondering if they never prepared for those fronts they saw yesteday

  • Pete

    Well after reading all your posts, one thing is clear. Garrett has to go. On the flip side of that, anybody he was to bring in would just be a puppet also so there’d be no change. Oh well!

  • Lance

    #24 not being able to effectively jam a 160lb receiver is a huge problem going forward. Still not good enough to win these types of games against below average opponents, dunbar fumbling…dez dropping the long ball at the 50 … romo threw a pick to berry on the last FG drive, that was a terrible holding call on the pass to witten. People are saying Dez ‘s back tightened up late…huge loss when we needed him to take over at the end of the game.

  • C. Joseph Wright

    I’ve been looking forward to re-watching the game, and that Poe sack in particular, so that I could see how much of the blame put on Frederick was justified. Thanks for the insight on the RB’s role.