Cowboys: Breaking Down Matt Cassel


After losing three games in a row, the Cowboys opted for Matt Cassel behind center. Let’s break down Matt Cassel’s game…

Matt Cassel opened up the offense and in the first half, appeared to be the passer the Cowboys have been looking for…until the three consecutive interceptions of course.

"“I think Matt did a lot of good things in the game, he really did,” Jason Garrett said. “Obviously he helped our team move the ball well. I thought he handled the running game very well. I think for the most part made a lot of good decisions and a lot of good throws in the game. The obvious mistakes that he made were the interceptions and those were big plays. One was returned for a touchdown and two other ones were as we were getting into scoring zone on the 40 yard line and the 39 yard line. Matt’s played enough to understand that you can’t do those things.”"

After reviewing the game film, breaking down those interceptions that Jason Garrett mentioned is fairly easy. Let’s run through them:

Interception #1 was on

Terrance Williams

. This pick-6 would prove the most costly because it resulted in an easy run-back for touchdown. Williams wasn’t aggressively breaking on his

out route

and inexplicably allowed

Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

(DRC) to break on the ball. This is something Williams been guilty of his entire Cowboys career and a big reason Romo has had trouble trusting him in the past.

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  • Interception #2  was solely on Matt Cassel. Matt Cassel ran a perfect play-action fake that opened up Terrance Williams deep down the left sideline. The defensive back, Jayron Hosley was playing chase and the safety, Brandon Meriweather, was nowhere in sight. Cassel paused for no apparent reason and then threw the ball straight up into the air. He could have thrown to the back of the endzone to catch Williams in-stride and wide open or he could have gunned it straight in on the goalline as a back-shoulder throw. Hosley was turned around and had no clue where the ball was and Meriweather was too far away to make a play. Instead, the ball went straight up in the air, allowing enough time for Meriweather to skip over and pick it off. Note: Hosley is still lost in coverage at the time of this publishing. If you know of his whereabouts, please contact the New York Giants. 
  • Interception #3’s blame falls on Cassel as well, but this one is at least understandable. As we detailed over the bye week, Matt Cassel has a history of throwing interceptions in the middle of the field. He’s historically had trouble diagnosing zone coverage here and time away from the game didn’t do him any favors. The intercepting player was once again DRC and despite Cassel splitting the LB zone coverage nicely, DRC was playing man coverage and made a great break on the ball.
  • On the plus side of Matt Cassel’s performance is his willingness to go for the big play. Something Bob Strum at DMN pointed out was the Cowboys had five plays of 20 yards or more under Matt Cassell on Sunday. That’s the same amount of big plays the Cowboys managed under Brandon Weeden in three games.

    The willingness of Cassel to spread the ball around is something that Brandon Weeden refused to do as QB for the Cowboys. Weeden focused on a high completion percentage on those short dump-off passes in the middle and occasionally threw to shallow right.

    The result was a predictable offense that defenses didn’t need to play honestly. Defenses began crowding the box and focused on stopping the run. Even the best rushing attack in the NFL has trouble succeeding when a defense is playing eight (sometimes nine) in the box.

    Matt Cassel, when given the opportunity on Sunday, did some things Brandon Weeden refused to do: Throw the ball to the left and attempt big plays. Cassel still sent majority of his passes to the short right (41%) but he also effectively targeted deep to both sides, sending four attempts to the deep left and two attempts to the deep right. He had exceptional success at those deep throws too, completing 75% and 100% of those attempts (respectively).

    A byproduct of Cassel’s reckless fearless passing was that opponents could no longer crowd the line of scrimmage. As a result, the running game exploded as Darren McFadden logged 152 yards on 29 carries. Was it all worth it?

    It’s hard to say since both styles of QB play have only resulted in losses, but if more playing-time for Weeden can lead to reduced turnovers, then it’s a strategy worth pursuing…for the time being.

    Next: Ryan Mallett a Dallas Cowboy?

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