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The value of the film room

The Cowboys seemed to have Jets tendencies figured out on some key downs.

NFL: New York Jets at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Coaches staying up all night breaking down film of the upcoming opponent is the stuff of legend in the NFL. You hear stories of coaches who have a cot in their office where they sleep during the week so they don’t need to spend time commuting that could go to film study. Entry level quality control jobs are given to young coaches first breaking into the league. They study film all day and night on upcoming opponents.

What is this obsession with film? Hours of study might help you pick up one or two small tendencies that can help find the perfect play or matchup on a pivotal down.

In Week 1 the Bills had three situations where their offense was on the field on third and short (3 yards or less to go). One of those plays was a quarterback sneak out of condensed formation.

On the other two they started the play with three receivers on one side of the field. In both situations the Jets only had two defenders in the neighborhood of these receivers on the same side of the field.

Now there are good reasons for a defense to align like this. It can help defenders from being caught up in traffic. It also puts players in position to play effective zone coverage. It is likely the route distribution on a passing play will be even through the field. A balanced defensive alignment can put defenders into the proper position.

Of course this alignment also has vulnerabilities. The defense is outnumbered at the point of attack. A quick screen pass would leave two blockers against two defenders to free up the player who catches the pass.

The first time the Cowboys faced a third and short in Week 2 it seemed like they were prepared to exploit the tendency the Jets had put on film the previous week.

Here the Cowboys put three receivers to one side of the field. Again the Jets only have two defenders there.

At the snap Dak Prescott just dumps the ball off to CeeDee Lamb, and Dallas is able to easily block the two Jets defenders in the area.

This is known as a packaged play. You can see the Cowboys offensive line is run blocking. It is designed as a handoff, but Prescott has the option of throwing the screen if he sees a numbers advantage on his side presnap. First downs don’t come much easier.

Early in the second quarter you see a similar situation. Dallas is in third and short again. The play ends with three eligible receivers (two wideouts and one tight end) to the same side of the field. Again the Jets only have two defenders close to the line.

The Jets actually do vary their call here as Michael Carter II blitzes from the slot.

Regardless, the Jets are vulnerable because of their alignment to a pass in the flat.

The Cowboys take full advantage.

It felt like the Cowboys were a step ahead of the Jets on many key downs in this game. Some of it might have been due to the film room and figuring out how the Jets would align on these key downs.