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Garrett’s Mind Games

December 31, 2009

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. That’s the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein.

That’s exactly what the Cowboys did against the Redskins on Sunday night, but I think it was about the best play calling that we’ve seen out of Jason Garrett in a while. If he’s crazy…it’s like a fox.

Football is a series of little wins, something I talk about often. If your line wins their blocks, and the receiver beats coverage, and the quarterback steps up and finds the hole – you complete a pass. Then there’s the battle after the catch.

There’s literally thousands of battles in every football game. Formations, substitutions, play calls, audibles, coin flips. Thousands.

At the point in the game where the Redskins stopped Barber, the game wasn’t in much doubt. Really, from the opening touchdown, there wasn’t much intrigue in the game. The final score wasn’t a blow out, but there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome.

There wasn’t nothing to be gained by giving Philly any idea of tendencies or new wrinkles to analyze before the showdown on Sunday. The first stop showed them the exact same play twice. A play that Albert Haynesworth was able to crash and stop.

Philly has no Haynesworth. They have Broderick Bunkley and run-liability Trent Cole to stop that play. By showing the same play twice, Eagles DC Sean McDermott has to make a decision.

Were the Cowboys showing me nothing? Or were they developing a tendency? Were they working on a play that they think will work against our smaller players?

Does he guess that they’ll go back to the well again, or does he think that was a red herring? He’s faced with choices. A battle of wits with Garrett. He can pull the undersized Cole, which gives a play-action look a better chance of success. Combined with the Eagles’ corner’s habit of trying to jump routes, it may make a double-move possible.

Or he could leave Cole in, and likely not have the same results Washington did.

Garrett was giving the Eagles something to think about, and that is why I like going back to the well.

Not to say that the Cowboys were better off not getting the first downs. Remember, it was Haynesworth who stopped the play dead twice in a row, and he’s pretty good. Garrett also got an idea about if or when he’d like to call the same play going forward.

Lets go back and look at the plays from the previous week against New Orleans in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations where Garrett dialed up the run:

3rd and 2 at NO 7 – Choice (wildcat) left, 4 yards
1st and 3 at NO 3 – Barber left, touchdown
3rd and 1 at DAL 26 – Barber left, 2 yards
3rd and 1 at NO 6 – Barber right, 3 yards
2nd and 2 at NO 2 – Barber left end, touchdown

As you can see, the Cowboys were more successful there. Three firsts and two scores. More variety, too. Just remember it’s a game of battles, and unlike the San Diego game or the Denver goal-line stand in week 2, the game wasn’t on the line there. Don’t read too much into Haynesworth making plays, unless you’re in the Eagles film room.

Lets compare something else from the last two weeks. Against New Orleans, you saw the Cowboys find success out of the wildcat (I don’t call it “razorback” – there’s the wildcat, or when Rickey Williams runs it, the weedcat).

It was the Saints secondary that was bringing Tashard Choice down. And until the Washington game, it was the only play call you really saw out of the formation. Felix had not been used at all. There’s been no pass play called. Not. One. Pass.

The trickeration that you saw against Washington was Garrett letting Philly know that there’s other plays that they’ll run. By breaking out the reverse, the Cowboys were planting a seed. A little one, but a seed none the less. It could make the standard play where Choice goes behind a pulling guard more successful if the Eagles try to stop the fancy play, or if they stay home it could open up the first pass out of the formation.

Garrett played chess with the Eagles while facing Washington. After the Saints game before it, I have reason to think that Garrett is finally hitting his stride as a play-caller this month.

It portends good things going forward.

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