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Red zone has been dead zone lately for Dallas Cowboys' offense


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IRVING – Diversity is a founding principle of this Cowboys offense. It's a wonderful, democratic concept to embrace in these post T.O. days.

But can we scrap the group hug every time the team drives inside the 20-yard line?

Can offensive coordinator Jason Garrett narrow his focus and feature a player or two in the red zone while keeping defenses off-balance with his formations?

This has become an issue over the last three games. The Cowboys have made nine trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Only twice have they come away with touchdowns. Three times they have come away with no points at all.

A team can survive this level of failure against a Kansas City or Carolina. But it's a losing proposition against a good team.

Atlanta is a good team.

"Our efficiency down there hasn't been as good as we need it to be," Garrett conceded. "There have been opportunities we haven't taken advantage of. We just have to tighten it up."

More Jason Witten and fewer shotgun formations would be a good place to start.

Witten is a Pro Bowl fixture. He's the Cowboys most accomplished route runner and the primary target of quarterback Tony Romo. So, how many times has Romo thrown to Witten in the red zone the last three games?

Zero.

The Cowboys have ignored Witten in the red zone while throwing to Miles Austin, Sam Hurd, Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Tashard Choice and Martellus Bennett the last three games. Witten was held on the line of scrimmage to block – twice – in the team's unsuccessful bid to score at the end of the loss to Denver.

"We have to get a Witten or a guy matched up that we think can beat somebody and go to them," head coach Wade Phillips said. "Witten has always been a guy, but getting a feel for all the receivers and who can do what, I think, is important."

Options in the red zone are crucial. But until a team establishes a primary option, until it forces defenses to take something away, developing those options is problematic.

"You want to get your best guys doing what they do best and you want to get your other guys doing what they do best," Garrett said.

"If you say we're only going to throw to this guy, we're only going to hand it to this guy, we're only going to run this run, over time it's going to be hard to do that. You want to be as good at as many things as you can be good at. You want to feature the right guys doing what they can do well.

"We've got to get better."

The Cowboys must also get better out of the shotgun.

The team has snapped the ball out of this formation 13 times in its last nine forays into the red zone. Romo is 3-of-12 for 27 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. The Cowboys ran the ball once.

Choice picked up one yard.

One reason to go to the shotgun inside the 20 is to spread the defense and make it easier to run. Run more out of the shotgun or other formations and there should be more room for the receivers.

Injuries to Marion Barber and Felix Jones have compromised the team's consistency in this area.

"Getting a strong enough running game down there can really make a difference," Phillips said. "Then they don't know whether you're going to play action or run the ball.

"Basically, it's not a drop-back area. It's a run and play-action area. If you're a strong enough running team, I think that helps."

The Cowboys rank second in the NFL in yards gained but No. 11 in points scored. This gap will close if the team becomes more efficient in the red zone.

That one principle overrides diversity every time.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/football/cowboys/stories/102109dnspomoore.3382234.html

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IRVING – Diversity is a founding principle of this Cowboys offense. It's a wonderful, democratic concept to embrace in these post T.O. days.

But can we scrap the group hug every time the team drives inside the 20-yard line?

Can offensive coordinator Jason Garrett narrow his focus and feature a player or two in the red zone while keeping defenses off-balance with his formations?

This has become an issue over the last three games. The Cowboys have made nine trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Only twice have they come away with touchdowns. Three times they have come away with no points at all.

A team can survive this level of failure against a Kansas City or Carolina. But it's a losing proposition against a good team.

Atlanta is a good team.

"Our efficiency down there hasn't been as good as we need it to be," Garrett conceded. "There have been opportunities we haven't taken advantage of. We just have to tighten it up."

More Jason Witten and fewer shotgun formations would be a good place to start.

Witten is a Pro Bowl fixture. He's the Cowboys most accomplished route runner and the primary target of quarterback Tony Romo. So, how many times has Romo thrown to Witten in the red zone the last three games?

Zero.

The Cowboys have ignored Witten in the red zone while throwing to Miles Austin, Sam Hurd, Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Tashard Choice and Martellus Bennett the last three games. Witten was held on the line of scrimmage to block – twice – in the team's unsuccessful bid to score at the end of the loss to Denver.

"We have to get a Witten or a guy matched up that we think can beat somebody and go to them," head coach Wade Phillips said. "Witten has always been a guy, but getting a feel for all the receivers and who can do what, I think, is important."

Options in the red zone are crucial. But until a team establishes a primary option, until it forces defenses to take something away, developing those options is problematic.

"You want to get your best guys doing what they do best and you want to get your other guys doing what they do best," Garrett said.

"If you say we're only going to throw to this guy, we're only going to hand it to this guy, we're only going to run this run, over time it's going to be hard to do that. You want to be as good at as many things as you can be good at. You want to feature the right guys doing what they can do well.

"We've got to get better."

The Cowboys must also get better out of the shotgun.

The team has snapped the ball out of this formation 13 times in its last nine forays into the red zone. Romo is 3-of-12 for 27 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. The Cowboys ran the ball once.

Choice picked up one yard.

One reason to go to the shotgun inside the 20 is to spread the defense and make it easier to run. Run more out of the shotgun or other formations and there should be more room for the receivers.

Injuries to Marion Barber and Felix Jones have compromised the team's consistency in this area.

"Getting a strong enough running game down there can really make a difference," Phillips said. "Then they don't know whether you're going to play action or run the ball.

"Basically, it's not a drop-back area. It's a run and play-action area. If you're a strong enough running team, I think that helps."

The Cowboys rank second in the NFL in yards gained but No. 11 in points scored. This gap will close if the team becomes more efficient in the red zone.

That one principle overrides diversity every time.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/spt/football/cowboys/stories/102109dnspomoore.3382234.html

NOTE to Van Gorger:

Witten in the end zone- they have been talking about it on sports talk radio all week.

NOTE #2: They are going to run the ball

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JA98 needs to play DT more in this game. He seems to bolster the run D by holding up well against the Guard or center.

Falcons are 24th in yards per game given up but 4th in points allowed. That equates to arguably the best red zone Defense in the league. And now I'm hearing how horrible the Cowboys offense is in the red zone.

I'm starting to like our chances more and more.

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i hate articles like these. it seems like everytime someone writes an article like this saying "so and so haven't gotten player x involved enough" they always have a career day against us...or "so and so team has been horrible returning kicks and punts" they return two punts for TDs on us.

example: last year when we went to the superdome- "the saints can't run the ball. sean payton doesn't know how to call run plays and they're one dimensional". the saints run for 150+ yds on us.

another example: again last year in the GA dome vs denver- "the broncos defense is soft and they can't stop the run." the broncos play one of their best defensive games of the season against us and hold turner under 100 yds.

that crap is annoying.

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i hate articles like these. it seems like everytime someone writes an article like this saying "so and so haven't gotten player x involved enough" they always have a career day against us...or "so and so team has been horrible returning kicks and punts" they return two punts for TDs on us.

example: last year when we went to the superdome- "the saints can't run the ball. sean payton doesn't know how to call run plays and they're one dimensional". the saints run for 150+ yds on us.

another example: again last year in the GA dome vs denver- "the broncos defense is soft and they can't stop the run." the broncos play one of their best defensive games of the season against us and hold turner under 100 yds.

that crap is annoying.

I agree,

it would be on Sunday,

Bet it.

We sux at covering TE and Now the best one will go to Town on Us

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