How The Big Play Affects The Cowboys Offense

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Jason Garrett has said a number of times that big plays of 15 yards or more on any given drive often lead to points.

This is one of the keys to each game for Garrett, maximizing the explosive play on offense and minimizing the explosive play on defense.

Dak Prescott is not throwing a ton of 20+ yard passes, but are the Cowboys gaining big yards and gashing defenses to create explosive plays and exploit the opponents defense.

Let’s take a look at the Cowboys offense, specifically, scoring drives so far this season, how often each one of those scoring drives had an explosive play and how those plays have developed.

While Dak Prescott ranks 11th with 7.3 yards per pass attempt, Ezekial Elliott’s yards per carry have steadily increased despite his 16th ranking at 4.4 ypc.

Here is a breakdown of the Cowboys drives regarding field goals, touchdowns and either punt, fumble or missed FG.
                  FG   TD   NONE
GAME 1    4      1        4
GAME 2   2      3       4
GAME 3   1      4        5
GAME 4   1      3        5
TOTAL     8     11     18

The Cowboys have scored on 19 drives, while 18 drives have finished with no points. This does not count the final drive against the 49ers when Cole Beasley caught a 47-yard pass, but it does count the final drive against the Giants.

In the 19 scoring drives, the Cowboys had 24 plays of 15 yards or more for 494 total yards and an average of 20.6 yards per play. Dallas has had only 4 drives that did not have an explosive play, and 6 drives that had more than one explosive play.

Here’s a breakdown of the players who have contributed to these plays on scoring drives.

PLAYER     PLAYS     AVG YARDS
Elliott        7               20.7
Bryant         5               17.8
Beasley        3               27
Witten         3               21.3
Swaim          2               24.5
Williams       1               17
Prescott       1               17
Dunbar         1               16
Butler          1               16

Elliott has 5 runs for an average of 21.6 ypc and 2 catches for 18.5 ypc, and Dak has one 16 yard run.

On the flipside of things, the Cowboys have 18 drives that ended in either a punt, fumble or missed field goal. Of those 18 drives, the Cowboys have had a mere 4 explosive plays.

But to break that down even more, one was a 47-yard catch and fumble by Williams against the Bears, one was a 15-yard catch for Dez against the Redskins and the other two were on the final drive against the Giants, when the defense was playing soft and leaving a lot of space underneath to pickup yards.

This alone is solid evidence that Garrett’s big play method rings true at least for the Cowboys. If Dallas does not have a play of 15 yards or more, they likely won’t score, and if they do have a big play, 85 percent of the time they score points.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest plays from the Cowboys-Niners game.

Here in the late third quarter, Elliott gets a run to the right side,

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Doug Free pushes his lineman up and out of the play all together.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Zack Martin then uses the angle to push his defender out of the play and Travis Frederick seals up the inside.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

This leaves open plenty of green in front of Elliott to pick up yards. If he moves fast through the hole, he can get huge gains.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Once Elliott quickly moves into the hole, he cuts back into the middle of the field and breaks loose for a 23-yard run. Later in this drive, the Cowboys run essentially the same play and Elliott gets 17-yards setting up for an easy 1-yard TD to put the Cowboys up 21-17.

Later in the game the Cowboys would add security points on an 11 play 62 yard drive that ended in a FG, but wouldn’t have been possible without this play.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Lucky Whitehead is lineup up behind Swaim on this play.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Travis Fredrick moves up into the second level quickly above, and below you see he moves the middle linebacker out of the way, opening up a massive hole for Elliott.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

The only guy who could stop this play is the defensive tackle who is taken out by a cut block by Martin. This block gives Elliott enough time to burst through the hole, and as you can see in the below two photos, he fakes toward the middle of the field and heads towards the open space where Williams is slipping trying to find somebody to block.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Essentially, Williams and Elliott are running next to each other with a lot of green ahead.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Elliott is taken down after 26-yards, but he moved the Cowboys field position from their territory into the 49ers side of the field.

But the play that sealed the game was the biggest play so far for the Cowboys.

Cole Beasley is on the right between Witten and Williams who is lined up far right.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Dak gets rid of the ball quickly and Witten and Williams take on their secondary players head on, to open a nice hole for Beasley.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Where this play really picks up is below when Free releases on his defensive end and picks up the safety coming down to bust up the play.

(Image via NFL GamePass)

(Image via NFL GamePass)

Once Free clears the lane, Witten washes his CB right and Beasley has nothing but green in front of him. He busts open for 47 yards before falling down in bounds to help the clock run out, forcing the 49ers to call their last timeout and the Cowboys ultimately ran the lock out to win.

The big play truly helps the Cowboys.

(©2016 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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