Dallas Defense Devolves in Drubbing – Dan Quinn Distracted on Way Out?

The Dallas defense was bullied into submission by Green Bay. Jordan Love and Co. dominated the Cowboys. Was Dan Quinn distracted by his future?

The Dallas Cowboys‘ defense had absolutely no answers for the Green Bay offense on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium. They suffered a bludgeoning so embarrassing that it’s impossible to envision Jerry Jones running it back with the same staff next season.

After all, this was the first time since the playoff format changed that a No. 2 seed has lost to a No. 7 seed. And it was as embarrassing a loss as any that we’ve seen all season.

What went wrong defensively? Was Dan Quinn distracted on the way out of the door, potentially to be the Seattle Seahawks’ next head coach? Was it a poor matchup for them? Are they schematically inferior, or was lackluster talent to blame?

Dallas Defense Dissolves Against Green Bay

The Green Bay’s offense dominated Dallas. They scored touchdowns in six of seven drives to start the game, and on the only drive that they didn’t score, they still picked up a first down and nearly made it to midfield.

Their motion fooled Dallas defenders persistently. They picked up double-digit first downs on the ground and through the air. They converted six of nine third-down opportunities in those first seven drives and were perfect when they got into the red zone.

So what exactly went wrong?

One explanation is that the Cowboys’ defense are frontrunners. They’re fast and light, particularly up the middle of their defense. The loss of Leighton Vander Esch took away arguably their only viable linebacking option. Markquese Bell gave them some juice, but he’s a converted safety.

It doesn’t help that their first-round pick, defensive tackle Mazi Smith, has not yet emerged as a viable option in the middle, and Damone Clark has struggled at linebacker.

But let’s dive into the numbers from the Wild Card Round.

Jordan Love averaged 1.13 EPA per dropback and a 24.9 EPA total. His expected QBR was about as close to 100 as it can get. The Packers converted on 88% of their offensive series. Despite starting 18 of their 25 drives with runs, they picked up first downs on 83.3% of those drives.

Love also finished the day with a 73% success rate. For reference, the league leader in dropback success rate was Brock Purdy (56.4%). Aaron Jones had himself a day as well. He had a 50% success rate and picked up first downs on 41% of his runs. Meanwhile, Romeo Doubs, Luke Musgrave, and Dontayvion Wicks did practically whatever they wanted to in the secondary.

And that was the Cowboys’ most significant defensive issue. Green Bay had guys running open left and right. How did that happen, considering the Dallas defense was fifth in dropback EPA and 10th in dropback success rate for the season? They got away from their identity.

The Cowboys are a man coverage defense that opted to live in zone coverage at a suspiciously high rate against Green Bay, even though Love was picking them apart. A likely answer to the why could be Stephon Gilmore’s shoulder injury. It doesn’t make sense that Dallas would go away from their bread and butter against a group of first and second-year wide receivers.

MORE: NFL Playoff Bracket

But their main issue was one that has festered through multiple staffs at this point. The Cowboys simply cannot figure out how to remain disciplined when teams utilize pre-snap motion or “Sniffers” running across the formation behind the line of scrimmage.

There were open receivers, tight ends, and rushing lanes everywhere.

Where Does Dallas Defense Go Now?

Nobody yet knows how the Jones family will handle this loss. However, we do know that Quinn has been with the Cowboys for three years now, and his former stomping grounds, the Seahawks, have a vacancy at head coach and a defense that needs a massive overhaul.

Dallas also could use an overhaul. They need Trevon Diggs to return healthy next season, and they need to address the safety position alongside Malik Hooker while also adding help at linebacker.

KEEP READING: Dallas Cowboys Depth Chart

But they need to get back to playing with the multiplicity we saw from them in 2021 and early in 2022. There were times that Quinn seemed to really be in his bag, but this team got more one-dimensional with time.

They need to evolve, but they’ll need to bring in an excellent technician and someone who can command the player’s respect the way Quinn was able to. That’s a tall task.

Want to predict the results of the 2023 NFL postseason with our FREE NFL Playoff Predictor? How about looking into in-depth breakdowns of team depth charts or the NFL playoff schedule? Pro Football Network has you covered with all that and more!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Join the Conversation!

Related Articles