clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Los Angeles Rams vs. Dallas Cowboys divisional playoffs film preview and scouting report: How to beat the ‘Boys’ defense

The Cowboys defense is strong, fast and stout. But they’re not invincible.

NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams are currently 0-2 against talented defenses and if they can’t get past the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday, they’ll be 0-3.

Unlike the Chicago Bears or Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas is not going to bait QB Jared Goff into throwing against them because the third-year quarterback can beat the pass coverage (more on that later). Instead, the Cowboys, specifically their defensive front, will try and suffocate the Rams offense and apply pressure to Goff as soon as possible.


Because prolific passing offenses that can gain traction usually end up beating the Cowboys (see: Indianapolis).

Defensive front

Elijah Kim broke down some of the names you need to know for the Cowboys this weekend. Add to that list: DT Maliek Collins.

Collins was imperative to the defensive pressure against Seattle last week. He finished the game with a sack, four tackles, a tackle-for-loss and a hit. But he was just as effective when he wasn’t racking up the stats. He was a key piece to keeping the Seattle Seahawks’ offense from generating any sort of offense in the first quarter.

Collins owned Seattle RG and Rams fan favorite D.J. Fluker throughout last week’s game. If Collins wasn’t penetrating the line, he was holding his ground and plugging up the gap. What surprised me is how well Collins is able to move and apply pressure to a QB like Russell Wilson.

Collins’ isn’t going to be winning any races, but I was impressed in how he was able to change direction so quickly and force Wilson to run towards the sideline.

Another pair of names to know: DE’s Demarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory. Lawrence had a particularly good game in terms of keeping outside containment and applying pressure to Wilson when he was in the pocket. Both edge rushers have high motors and will not stop until the whistle is blown.

This is one of the more underrated defensive fronts in the league. The interior linemen can plug up the middle long enough for defensive rushers to come around and blow up the play, and vice versa. This is a very good unit. The Rams will need all hands on deck to stop it.

And for the love of God, do not call plays to the side of wherever Tyler Higbee is blocking.

The Chain Reaction

During the last week’s game, I noticed a pattern by the Dallas defense. The Cowboys tended to put Seattle’s offense in a hole early, which forced the Seahawks play catch up. Dallas would drop Seattle for a loss or no gain, Seattle would typically respond with a short passing play to gain ground and then Dallas would stop them on third down.

Take the second drive of the game, for example.

This is the first play of the second drive. The Seahawks go with a bootleg screen, which is immediately recognized and stopped by the defense. The next play was a 5-yard pass, which got the Seahawks to third-and-13 before punting the ball.

The next drive: two runs of four yards and no gain. Six of Seattle’s drive were three-and-out.

If Dallas stops the offense from gaining any ground on first or second down, there’s a good chance they’ll get the stop on third down.

So, how do you beat Dallas’ defense?

Be better than Brian Schottenheimer, first of all.

What failed Seattle’s offense was not adapting to the Cowboys defense and taking what they were giving them. Dallas played a large majority of their defensive snaps out of a 4-2-5 (Cover 1 with Cover 2 disguiseses), which gave them pretty good coverage against the pass. But what often worked against the defense was play-action and RPO’s.

The defense was fooled on both sides of the hash marks. The linebackers thought the Seahawks would run the ball left, while CB Byron Jones thought Wilson would take the ball. Jones ignores the tight end, who gives a hit before running down the field. The play worked so well that Wilson had two receivers in the same gap, allowing for a big gain.

The following play where the Seahawks go play-action. Watch the receiver second from the top of the screen (Tyler Lockett). He passes a Cowboys defender who is ready for the run and then drops back into zone coverage with no one in sight. Meanwhile, Lockett makes a very slight lean right, making the safety think he might just run straight ahead. But Lockett cuts across for the 40-yard gain.

Then Brian Schottenheimer goes full Brian Schottemheimer: The next two plays are running plays that gain three combined yards. Another third-down of six yards or more (third-and-seven) goes for incomplete and the Seahawks settle for a field goal.