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Anatomy Of A Breakdown: Brandon Marshall’s Winning Catch

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    NEWSLETTERS

    ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins breaks up a pass intended for Denver Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall.

    It’s never a good sign when your team can’t tackle well. Think back to recent Super Bowl champions: Pittsburgh, New York, New England, and so on and so forth. Rarely do you see teams of that caliber tackle poorly, much less depantsed entirely by a single player during the course of one measly play.

    Ah, but such is the tomfoolery of a Wade Phillips coached team that not only do the Cowboys tackle poorly, they often fail to tackle completely, and in the most comical fashion possible. I’ve studied the tape of Brandon Marshall’s ludicrous 51-yard touchdown catch from yesterday – the catch that won Denver the game. It’s a veritable masterpiece of whiffs, dekes, and overall defensive nicompoopery. It should be watched with Yakkety Sax playing underneath. Or, failing Yakkety Sax, some sort of comical Mariachi music. Let’s breakdown the breakdown.

    We’ll begin with Brandon Marshall leaping over Terence Newman’s head to grab the ball. After coming down with the grab, Marshall cuts inside, away from Newman, who gives chase. Bradie James is blocked as Marshall cuts in farther and farther, slipping past Ken Hamlin’s feeble tackle attempt. At this point, Hamlin has doubled back on top of Marshall and Marshall finds himself quadrangulated (not a word, but it should be). Four other Cowboy defenders have him boxed in. The formation suggests the number five on a six-sided die. Here is a diagram:  

    With five defenders converging from all points north, south, east and west, Marshall should be dead meat. Ah, but this is where is the fun begins. Marshall then cut backs outside, eluding ALL FIVE DEFENDERS IN A SINGLE JUKE. Newman, Scandrick, Hamlin, James, and Ware all have their momentum taking them inside when Marshall makes his cut. Thus, when he cuts back to the sideline – PRESTO! He’s free. So simple!

    After Newman and James miss tackles again on Marshall for good measure, Hamlin then gives up on the play just as Marshall is about to cross the goal line. Would Hamlin have caught Marshall? Tough to say. Although the game WAS tied, so perhaps a little extra effort was deserved on the play.

    Either way, this play stands as an example of not only Marshall’s incredible athleticism, but also of the Cowboys’ stunning mental lapses on defense. And it shows that this team’s problems run a whole lot deeper than just, “Romo sucks!”