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Jets vs. Cowboys: What Was Matt Cassel Thinking & Other Big Plays

Forget the Enuwa play or Thompkins big catch and run... one of the earliest plays was also one of the strangest and biggest in retrospect

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I admit something here. In John B's weekly biggest play of the week, I overlooked one big play that happened early. Think back: Dallas drives the field on the first series of the game. The Jets offense was like the Wright Brothers first flight: excitement than it crashed to the ground with a thud. Jets fans were dogging the team for another lackluster start, and fearing a two score hole a mere three possessions in to the game. Then this play happened. It changed the course of the game, Dallas went from moving the ball, to just hoping a disaster doesn't happen. Skrine played a huge role, but seriously Matt Cassel. Woof.

To set it up this is a designed WR to the top. Ironically it wasn't Dez getting the ball here, no he's at the bottom being a decoy doing his best stand around and watch impression. The LT and Center pull out, while the TE goes safety hunting.

The Jets play either man or cover 3 zone. It looks like a zone, but I couldn't tell for sure because of how quickly this played out. Skrine showing excellent awareness jumped the pass before it could be thrown. Had Cassel gone there, it was a pick 6 to the house.

The play had one thing in mind, when that failed, it was doomed. Cassel didn't help things by tripping himself silly, allowing a pass rush to get in his face. Dez stands back and watches, but look how far off Revis is.

Evidently Cassel couldn't tell blue from green as he tossed it directly to Revis. Dez has space here (later he showed what he can do with it), but Cassel threw it directly to Revis. I don't buy him throwing it away either, no way would you throw it that far upfield to throw it away. I think it's a case of mistaken identity.

The return set the Jets up with excellent field position. No longer could the Dallas QB be trusted, as he got the yank soon after. The Jets meanwhile, went from being on the back foot to seizing the momentum.


Bilial Powell has been a revelation as of late. He reminds me a way of Leon Washington, as he provides a good Scat back role on 3rd down and is a solid change of pace RB to Ivory. This play though, was all about the O line.

The blocks are simple, really. It's a zone block with a double team on the nose tackle from Carpenter and Mangold. Everyone else is mano y mano.

A key that will be overlooked is the slot WR playing decoy. He looked back briefly and saw Powell with the ball. Instead of giving up and watching he ran to the sideline effectively pulling his man completely out of the play. Heads up football is awesome when the line executes this well. It's now up to the safeties.

They both get caught up in other blocks. Winters drives his man back 5-6 yards and blocks one safety while the double team swallows up the other safety. At this point Powell had a clean lane to the end zone and was able to hit the burners and score relatively easy.

Good blocking is the key to this play. The Jets blew the Cowboys off the ball and thanks to a heads up move by the wide out, the safeties were the last line of defense. They were caught up in the blocks and failed to make the stop.


A QB change was made after Cassel was deemed terrible enough that putting Kellen Moore in as QB would register as a good decision. It didn't work out well in the beginning as he heaved a short punt to Gilchrist who did a great job of playing centerfield from right field.

The Cowboys lined up with 4 wide, 3 split to the near side and a 4th up top. Dez was the lone WR up top running a fly route. On the other side of the ball the Cowboys had two in routes and a seam route run by the slot WR.

The Jets countered with cover one and a safety blitz for added pressure. Gilchrist starts on the far side of the field watching Dez in case he ran a post, while angling himself to the middle of the field. The corners and everyone else were in man coverage, while Pryor ran around the outside of the formation.

At the time Pryor was about to hit the QB, no one is open. Moore faked the pass, and ducked under Pryor, buying himself a few seconds. Gilchrest continued to move towards the center of the field, while just about everyone else had perfect coverage, sans Cro who got beat to the inside briefly.

The pass was never really that open, but Moore thought he saw a lane deep. Problem for him was Gilchrist was lurking in the area and broke on the ball. He did have to go a distance to pick off the pass, but this is an example of pressure rattling a backup QB and a deep man taking advantage.

The result was another INT for the Jets.


Late in the second quarter the Jets defense inexplicably went soft. They ran zone defenses and were getting toasted by Kellen Moore. Bowles countered by running an all out blitz at the worst time.

Dez is on the bottom of your screen one of four wide but the only on the left of the QB. Three other WR are on the right in bunch formation, running a seam, out route and in route. Dez does a step back screen.

The Jets are in straight man, and Revis is playing well off of Dez. The blitz never gets home, and the quick pass forces Revis to run at Dez.

He breaks down and Dez simply beats him around the inside. I'm not sure what Revis was thinking or doing here. Perhaps he was favoring a deeper route, but Dez simply backed up a few yards. Unlike Skrine, Revis never jumps the route or even tries to play close to Dez.

The result: Dez simply ran right around him and into the end zone.

That wraps up the first half in a nutshell, huge plays on defense, but not a lot of good things from the Jets on offense. Unfortunately that one mistake gave the Cowboys a lead into the second half as the Jets were forced to come from behind for the second straight week.