The Dreaded Two Deep Safeties

Two deep safeties. It’s the coverage that has befuddled the Cowboys offense and tormented Dak Prescott since the Denver game last year. It’s nothing exotic. It’s a basic coverage. Yet, it’s been the Cowboys’ kryptonite. Its weaknesses are the seam between the safeties and the corner route on the sideline. But, for whatever reason, Dak doesn’t throw to either spot. Consequently, the Cowboys were given an early playoff exit when they could neither run against a four man front or keep it off their quarterback.

Fast forward to this year. The Cowboys haven’t forced Dak’s hand here. They haven’t asked him to throw into coverage. Instead, they’ve countered it by running the ball or throwing quick passes to Pollard and Zeke out of the backfield, hoping they can make a defender miss. You saw all of that against the Texans on Sunday, but our Lone Star neighbors weren’t having it. Once again, Dak was rendered absolutely impotent…until the last three minutes of the game. That’s when he started attacking the weakness in a two deep defense.

But before we revisit those, let’s review Mike McCarthy’s comments during the presser. In addition to Lovie’s Tampa 2, the Texas played quarters coverage several times and mostly a vision-and-break style defense, in which the defenders drop into a zone, look at the quarterback, and then break on the ball.

You can see the vision-and-break style on the first play of the fateful 98 yard drive to win the game. The linebackers take a very shallow drop. They’re clearly expecting a check down to Zeke. It’s as if they haven’t even considered the possibility Dak will throw behind them. Well, surprise, because he does and hits Schultz for a twenty yard gain over the hands of leaping defenders. Later in the drive, Dak makes another big throw to Schultz to set up a first and goal. The pass was right down the seam between four defenders.

But the same pass wasn’t even the best throw of the drive. That distinction belongs to the corner route to Noah Brown a couple plays earlier. Dak drops the pass right between the corner and safety. I can’t remember the last time Dak threw a corner route, much less successfully.

What does it mean going forward? I don’t know. It’s just the Texans. But, for one glorious drive, Dak was attacking the coverage holes in a two deep defense.

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