Anatomy of a Play: Practice makes perfect for Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is having the kind of fun calling plays for wide receiver Miles Austin that he used to have with Terrell Owens. Broken tackles and deep crossing routes have led to explosive plays ... which have been sorely missed in Big D.

They are now back in a big way.

Austin earned a starting job with his record-setting 250-yard performance against Kansas City in Week 5, and backed it up with a 171-yard effort in last Sunday's win over the Falcons. He is arguably the reason the Cowboys are 4-2 instead of 2-4.

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Trailing Atlanta 7-3 in the second quarter, Garrett called a play for Austin that Dallas had been practicing all week. They were anticipating a certain coverage, practiced the play against that coverage, and then got that exact coverage from the Falcons.

Dallas aligned with two wide receivers to the right -- Roy Williams outside and Miles Austin in the slot. Tight End Jason Witten was the only eligible receiver to the left, lined up in his traditional tight end position.

What the Cowboys expected from the Falcons was a zone blitz from Witten's side. Whenever you know a defense is blitzing, where they're blitzing, and with whom they're blitzing, there is an opportunity to make a big play.

Garrett anticipated the blitz and used maximum protection for Tony Romo. Witten wasn't part of the route combination. He stayed in to block a blitzer, as did fullback Deon Anderson.

Atlanta was in a single-high safety coverage and because of the Cowboys unbalanced set -- with two receivers to the right and none to the left -- the Falcons shifted their secondary to the two-receiver side.

Austin ran a deep crossing route away from where the coverage was favoring. He was matched against a safety, who was playing with outside leverage. There was no way with a good throw that the safety could catch up to Austin. Thanks to the maximum protection, Romo had all the time he needed to make a perfect throw.

The cornerback on Witten's side blitzed, which forced the other safety to play the deep coverage responsibility that normally would have been the corner's. It's a fish-out-of-water scenario for a safety to play a deep outside third -- it's just not something he is asked to do very often. As it happened, he was so focused on Witten that he didn't get any depth in his coverage to help out on Austin.

Romo was shocked when he saw the play unfold just the way Garrett said it would. Romo commented after the game, "That very seldom, if ever, comes up exactly the way you practice it." He joked, "I really hate to do this, but I give all the credit to the coaches on that one."

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