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Dallas Cowboys: How can the offense exploit the Falcons defense?

cowboys offense
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys defense is going to give up points against the high-flying Falcons offense. This past week against Seattle the Falcons boasted three separate 100-yard receivers, all with nine receptions apiece. To be successful in 2020, the Dallas Cowboys will have to lean on their offense outgunning opposing defenses. Each week I hope to use the All-22 to find weaknesses in opposing defenses that can be exploited by the Cowboys offense. The Falcons don’t have the players in the back half to match up with the Cowboys.

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Use motion to get exploitable man coverage matchups 

Motion to 3×1 to get man on a single receiver

There is no guarantee that the Falcons will always check to a MEG or MOD (man everywhere he goes and man only deep respectively) but in this particular instance they did, and Russell Wilson and DK Metcalf were able to do just that. The Seattle receivers are a talented trio of Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and David Moore. But that trio honestly does not hold a candle to the trio of Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and (a predictably banged up) Amari Cooper.

Related | Cowboys vs. Falcons Week 2: Keys to the game

Even when not facing motion, the Atlanta defense runs a lot of man-to-man coverage. They usually run it when they go to single high sets, and having just a single overhead safety could mean big plays for the Cowboys passing attack that saw mostly two high looks in Week 1 against the Rams.

In the above play, Metcalf does a good job, as he usually does, releasing off the line-of-scrimmage with a nice outside jab that forces cornerback Isaiah Oliver to gain depth with the outside foot to try and carry vertically. When he does that, Metcalf is able to plant and drive inside, creating space along the stem and at the breakpoint. Oliver and rookie AJ Terrell must win at the line against these Cowboys receivers if they want to stand a chance in man coverage.

Scheme rubs and picks against man coverage

In the above video, the Seahawks fail to convert the third-down play because their receivers are unable to create separation. The Seahawks try to get the ball to their tight end on the out route by rubbing off the receiver, but the receiver is unable to create any legal contact against the defender, which leads to pressure and only a short gain to Travis Homer.

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It’s not all that often that teams willingly run man principles against a bunch set like the Falcons did here. With the immediate underneath route from David Moore uncovering, there was a chance to hit that, but the delayed release of Homer kept the linebacker in the immediate area. The Cowboys will have to weigh the options of adding pass protectors in the backs and tight ends and attempting to spread the defense to the limits. Handling the pressure Atlanta likes to bring is paramount.

Reap the benefits of undisciplined play

Coverage miscommunications

There are no guarantees that the same poor play will persist from one week to another, but this is the type of benefit that play-action can bring to an offense. In all the commotion of movement in the backfield, the linebackers completely forget about the existence of Chris Carson, who ends up with a walk-in touchdown on the play-action rollout.

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For some reason, both linebackers end up peeling back into tight end Will Disley, who delays his release as he sells the down block. However, this isn’t the only time the Falcons defense suffered from integral dissipation.

Poor run defense

I’m not quite sure what or why this happened, but #45 bailing back into the hook zone area in pass coverage when there is very clearly a run is an interesting bit to play. Carlos Hyde had a decision to make here. Did he want to hit the wide-open play side B gap that the backer vacated or the backside A gap where Grady Jarrett lies face-first on the ground?

The reason why this happened is that Deion Jones was tasked with playing the MIKE spot in a Tampa 2 coverage scheme. And the threat of play-action gives Dante Fowler Jr. a tough decision as the unblocked man to follow Wilson or attack the mesh point. These sorts of miscommunications could occur a lot this week for the Cowboys offense. We so many weapons on the field, the Falcons are going to have multiple situations this week where they have tough choices to make in how they play the Cowboys offense.

If the Cowboys can spread this team out and stress them in multiple areas, the offense should be able to have plenty of success against a team that allowed 38 points in Week 1.


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