Key Stat: Kiffin's scheme stops big plays

Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defensive scheme does one thing better than just about any other scheme: prevent the big play.

The Cowboys could certainly use some help.

Last year, the Dallas Cowboys allowed 67 plays of 20 yards or more, tied for 22nd in the NFL. The league average was 60, and Pittsburgh allowed a league-low 37.

The scheme should help.

In the Tampa 2 scheme, at least one safety typically plays 20 yards off the line of scrimmage. His only job, so to speak, is to make sure nothing gets behind him. In passing situations, both safeties will often be employed deep.

The scheme also uses quite a bit of zone coverage, which means the defensive backs and linebackers keep the action in front of them. It's hard to get beat deep, when the safety is deeper than the deepest receiver.

That said, the Cowboys also gave up 15 runs of 20 yards, the sixth-highest total in the league.

The scheme makes them vulnerable because the safeties are so far off the ball. They will often compensate by having one of the safeties near the line of scrimmage to help against the run.

But the key is stopping the big plays and the easy touchdowns that often accompany long gains.