Thursday, November 25, 2010
Kitna and surging Cowboys battle Saints
The New Orleans Saints hit the road to face the Dallas Cowboys, and while Dallas appears to be surging, history is on New Orleans’ side. Defending Super Bowl champions are 6-2 on Thanksgiving Day since the merger and haven't lost since 1993.
More than 81 percent of Jon Kitna’s pass attempts have traveled 14 yards or fewer down field in 2010. In his two weeks as a full-time starter under Wade Phillips, Kitna threw these short passes in bulk and found little success.
But in the last two weeks, with the Cowboys committed to the run, it has opened up the intermediate pass routes.
This should prove to be a decisive battle, as the Saints have allowed a passer rating of 76.1 on passes thrown 14 yards or fewer, the fourth-best mark in the NFL.
And another change that has taken place under Jason Garrett should have an impact when the Saints have the ball. Look for the Cowboys to employ a standard pass rush after sending five or more pass rushers on nearly half of all pass plays (46.2%) when Wade Phillips was in charge. That tactic rarely worked, as Dallas allowed 11 passing touchdowns and a 118.1 passer rating when rushing five or more.
But in the last two weeks, the Cowboys have blitzed less than half as often (19.4%) and have the same number of interceptions in those instances (one) as in the previous eight games combined.
They will likely stick to that conservative defensive scheme against the Saints because Drew Brees has the third-highest passer rating against five or more pass rushers since 2008.