When you lose a game in the NFL, everything that you did during that week in preparation feels like it was all in vain. You question the way you broke down the opponent that week for your scouting report. You question if you did enough for the coaching staff and players.
Did I miss a blitz or a stunt that the opponent used to sack our quarterback? Did I miss a route or a blocking scheme that allow the opponent to score on a play?
Losses not only hurt the coaches and players, but they also hurt the guys on the road scouting players. You never want to feel like you didn’t do all you could to help your team win the game, but when you lose, you have to go back and study the tape and be honest with yourself and focus on the areas of the game that gave you problems. Sitting down and reviewing this game, there are three areas that I want to focus on.
* The Vikings have the ball, third-and-4 from the Dallas 10 in the first quarter. Wade Phillips sends in his nickel group to match the Vikings' five-wide receiver package. The Vikings line up in a bunch formation (three WRs) to the right side and Randy Moss wide left. Percy Harvin is lined up in the backfield to the right of Brett Favre, who is in the gun. The Cowboys have four players to the side of the bunch, so coverage-wise, Phillips is in good shape.
Pre-snap, you see Orlando Scandrick motion to linebacker Jason Williams that he needs to work his way if Harvin’s route takes him into the flat. At the snap, Scandrick’s read is correct and he works to his left to cover Harvin, who heads to the flat. Favre looks to Moss at the left but then comes back to the routes on the right.
The flare route by Harvin causes Scandrick to widen, but Williams does not adjust and is caught inside. The problem is that Sensabaugh and Newman already have Bernard Berrian covered, Williams needs to be in the area that Greg Camarillo was working. Camarillo starts to his right then up working between Scandrick and Williams back inside. Three men are covering one, Camarillo has space and Favre sees this. Easy pitch and catch by Favre to Camarillo, who takes the ball and works into the end zone.
This was the first play that Williams was on the field in a defensive situation for Bradie James, who had played outstanding up until that point. The problem that the defensive coaches have to have with this is that Scandrick told Williams what was going to happen before the play, and he failed to execute, the result was a Vikings touchdown and a 7-7 game.
* Vikings have the ball on the Dallas 32 with score 14-14 in the third quarter. Williams is once again in the game, this time for Keith Brooking. Phillips has his defense in attack mode on this third-and-4 call. It's man coverage with deep free safety help. Ball is lined up 23 yards off the line of scrimmage. Williams is lined up inside of Anthony Spencer, who has his hand in the dirt and ready to rush from the outside. Williams’ job is to cover Vikings tight end Jim Kleinsasser one-on-one.
Favre is in the shot gun and at the snap, the ball hits him in the shin. As the rush develops, Favre recovers to pick up the ball off the turf and Kleinsasser blocks outside on Spencer. Williams, not looking at Kleinsasser, begins to rush up the field to try and get the football. The problem is, Favre has the ball in hand and quickly gets it to the outside as Kleinsasser release inside and into the flat. With no one in coverage or in the flat, Kleinsasser makes the catch and begins to work up the field.
Williams and the defense is now in chase mode on Kleinsasser who carries the ball all the way to the Cowboys 11-yard line. The play not only converted for the Vikings on third down, but it allowed them to continue the drive and later score the go-ahead touchdown on a run by Adrian Peterson, making it 21-14.
* Cowboys had the ball on their own 23-yard line with 8:10 left in the 4th quarter, with the score 21-21. Jason Garrett is in regular personnel. Miles Austin is in the slot to left with Roy Williams lined up to the outside. The Vikings were playing a single high safety with man coverage across the board.
At the snap, the strong safety comes forward in coverage on Jason Witten to pick up him up. Witten takes an inside release to free himself, and the safety overruns the coverage.
In the middle of the field, Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson takes five quick steps like he is going to blitz coming forward. Tony Romo has now made eye contact with Witten, who reads “hot” and works into the middle of the field. As Romo is hitting his last step, Henderson begins to retreat into the space that he just left and the space that Witten is now working in.
Romo doesn’t see Henderson at all because the pass he throws doesn’t have the height or the pace needed to get to Witten. The ball is 5 yards short and Henderson is able to make an athletic play for the interception. The Cowboys' defense is able to hold the Vikings to a field goal on the quick change of possession, but that was the difference in the game 24-21.