A Look Back: Simple was better for defense

IRVING, Texas -- Rob Ryan talked last Friday about his defense being simple but multiple.

In this week’s A Look Back, when Ryan was simple against Philadelphia, the Cowboys were a lot better. On the Eagles’ first four scoring drives -- three touchdowns and one field goal -- the Cowboys were in their nickel defense 17 times and in their dime defense seven times out of 28 plays.

When the Cowboys shifted to playing predominantly their base defense, they were much better. On the Eagles’ final scoring drive -- a 43-yard field goal by Alex Henery -- the Cowboys were in their base personnel one nine of 10 plays.

In other words, when Ryan went simple, they were better. Keep it simple.

Ryan dialed up five-man or more pressure eight times against Nick Foles, one more than he did on Thanksgiving against Robert Griffin III. Foles wasn’t as successful as Griffin, completing five of eight passes with three going for a first down.

He went with just four-man pressure 22 times and Foles completed 15 of 22 passes. Victor Butler recorded the Cowboys only sack, which came in four-man pressure. Foles’ touchdown pass to Riley Cooper came with the Cowboys keeping seven guys in coverage.

Ryan did not use any three-man pressure in the first half but used it four times in the second half. Danny McCray dropped an interception in the fourth quarter on four-man pressure. The final play from scrimmage came with eight guys dropping deep.

Once again the Cowboys barely used press coverage. In fact, they used across-the-board press coverage a season-low one time and it came on the first drive of the game. Ryan can talk about all the press the Cowboys play, but the film shows something different. The Cowboys played half press 12 times with 10 coming in the second half.

After the game, Foles said the Cowboys played off and soft coverage for most of the game. He was right. The Cowboys were in off coverage 49 times. How does that play to the strength of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne?

For the first time this year, DeMarcus Ware has gone back-to-back games without recording at least a half sack. By my count he had three quarterback pressures.

The Eagles paid attention to Ware, double teaming him in some form either with a tackle and a guard, a tackle and tight end or a tackle and a back 11 times in 25 rushes on Foles. He was in one-on-one situations against the Eagles tackles 12 times. On the first snap of the game the Eagles had tight end Brent Celek block him and Ware pasted Foles for a near-sack fumble. On one play the Eagles did not block him when they went with a rocket screen.

Four times Ware dropped in coverage, all in the second half.