Poor coaching, execution = panic time in Dallas

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Oct 17, 2010



It seems Big D in Texas these days stands for Disaster.
 
The startling inefficiency – the gross negligence on the gridiron – of the Cowboys reared its ugly, pock-marked face once again in their 24-21 loss at Minnesota Sunday in the Panic Bowl.
 
Most notably, the Dallas D:
  • held BrettFavre to 118 passing yards
  • held Adrian Peterson to a pedestrian 3.04 YPA running  the football
  • held the Minnesota offense to a long gain of just 20 yards, a pass to tight end Jim Kleinsasser;
  • held the Vikings to a total of 188 yards of offense.
But the Vikings still managed to put 24 points on the board and win the game. As measured by our Scoreability Index, the Vikings needed just 7.8 Yards Per Point Scored. Conversely, Dallas surrendered a pathetic 7.8 Yards Per Point Allowed. 
 
The inefficiency of the Cowboys has been an ongoing story in recent years and again here early in 2010. We went into great detail about this inefficiency just before the start of the season.
 
But the loss to Minnesota was a perfect pigskin primer: a textbook display in poor coaching, poor execution on the field and how not to play football.
 
It's added up to a shocking 1-4 record and Panic Time in Dallas. The solution, as we see it, is an easy one, but not one that will right the ship any time soon: the problem is poor coaching. Wade Phillips needs to go. And he needs to go sooner rather than later.
 
Inefficiency, as gauged by our Bendability-Scoreability Indices (remember, losing these indicators means you lose the game 86 percent of the time) is, as we see it, a sign of poor coaching.

It's a sign that your team plays poor situational football, and fails to do all the little things right that prove the difference between victory and defeat. Teams poor in this indicators (the Cowboys entered Week 6 No. 25 in Bendability and No. 30 in Scoreability), suffer some combination of the following:
  • Poor special teams
  • Poor red zone offense and defense
  • Poor execution in the field-position battle
  • Poor turnover differential
  • Penalties and poor decisions at key moments
Dallas suffered all these problems in their loss to the Vikings.
 
Special teams disaster
Minnesota speedster Percy Harvin returned the opening kickoff of the second half 95 yards for a touchdown. That was the most notable disaster for the Cowboys special teams. But not the only one.
 
More quietly, the Vikings crushed the Cowboys in the punting wars - a victory which played a huge role in the outcome of the game.
 
Dallas punter Matt McBriar failed to put even one of his five punts inside the 20. Minnesota punter Chris Kluwe landed four of his five punts inside the 20. Coupled with turnovers deep inside their own territory, the Cowboys consistently failed to make Minnesota drive long distances for points.
 
Special teams advantage: Minnesota
 
Field position disaster
The Cowboys actually scored two touchdowns in two red zone appearances. But the mystery is this: why did they produce just two red zone appearances with 314 yards of offense?
 
The answer lies in the field position wars, which Minnesota dominated handily.
 
Dallas's average drive began at its own 21. Six of their 11 drives began inside their own 20; they took over just once in Minnesota territory, and even then just barely (at the Vikings 48).
 
Minnesota's average drive began at its own 40. Just one of their 10 drives began inside their own 20; they took over four times in Dallas territory.
 
The Dallas offense faced long fields all day; the Minnesota offense faced short fields all day. It was a critical difference on a day when the Cowboys dominated the statistical battle but was crushed badly in the situational battles.
 
Field position advantage: Minnesota
 
Turnover disasters
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw two interceptions. Minnesota quarterback BrettFavre miraculously did not throw a single INT, though he did lose the game's only fumble.
 
Both of Romo's picks were intended for tight end Jason Witten over the middle. Both picks were hauled in by middle linebacker E.J. Henderson. Both gave the Vikings the ball deep in Dallas territory (at the 16 and 30).
 
Both picks led immediately to Minnesota points: a BrettFavre TD  pass to Greg Camarillo that tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter; and a 38-yard Ryan Longwell field goal in the fourt quarter that proved the decisive points.
 
Turnover advantage: Minnesota
 
Penalties and poor decision disasters
Finally, the Cowboys were flagged for twice as many penalties for twice as many yards: 11 for 91 for Dallas; five for 45 for Minnesota.
 
Some were true mental meltdown classics for a team that has turned mental mistakes into an art form this year.
 
Dallas wide receiver Miles Austin was whistled for unsportsmanlike conduct for celebrating Dallas's first touchdown too vigorously. It was an entertaining but needless display; everybody in football, outside the Dallas locker room, knows it will get flagged. Here's the clip here:
 
show video here
 
 
Forced to kickoff after the TD from their own 15 yard line, Cowboys kicker David Buehler managed to boot the ball out of bounds at his own 38. Fortunately for Dallas, in this instance, the nearly-as-inept Vikings failed to capitalize on the great field position and punted.
 
But Kluwe pinned Dallas at their own 16. Romo promptly threw an interception, which the Vikings quickly converted with the BrettFAvre-to-Camarillo touchdown strike.
 
The early game-tying score was put place by a series of bonehead moves that typify poorly coached teams: Austin's irrational exuberance, Buehler's botched kickoff and Romo's INT.
 
Bing. Bang. Boom. The Cowboys had blown an early lead and handed the Vikings a gift touchdown.
 
Austin wasn't done: he hauled in a 68-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter that would have changed the entire game. But he was called for offensive interference, contributing once again to a huge 14-point swing in the first half alone.
 
Instead of ending with a big score, the drive ended badly: the Cowboys were whistled for two more penalties and  punted after an eight-snap, 13-yard possession that wasted four minutes of game time and 12 minutes of fans' lives.
 
The coaching disaster
Dallas is now 1-4, easily the worst team in the tough NFC East. Its record conflicts with the team's expectations and, most damingly, Dallas has looked shoddy each and every step of the way. 
 
This confluence of poor record and poor football should mark the end of Phillip's career as an NFL head man. Team owner Jerry Jones gave him the proverbial vote of confidence Monday morning. But that promise and $25 will get you a Greyound ride out of the Big D.
 
Jones knows football. He's sat through these disasters. He's seen what you've seen: His team is 1-4 not because of lack of talent, but because the head coach has not harnessed that talent and energy. Instead, he fields a team that does all the little things poorly and all the bad things spectacularly well.
 
So sayonara, Wade. It's been a disappointing run.
 
You know our take: if Phillips had only stuck with Doug Flutie back in 1999, karma wouldn't keep coming back like this to kick him in the gonads.

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