Last look back at Cowboys vs. Megatron

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
10:46
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Brandon Carr has been hit with a lot of criticism for the afternoon Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson had mostly against the Dallas Cowboys cornerback.

Some of it comes with the territory, considering what the Cowboys paid him ($50.1 million) as a free agent last year.

But what about the plan the Cowboys used in the game? Where’s the criticism of that?

Jason Garrett was asked if the Cowboys asked too much of Carr against Johnson.

[+] EnlargeCalvin Johnson and Brandon Carr
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsThe Cowboys didn't give Brandon Carr much help defending Calvin Johnson, and the team paid for it.
“I don’t think so,” Garrett said. “We played a lot of different defense in the game yesterday. We tried to defend their whole offense. Certainly, Calvin Johnson is a big part of that offense. There were times Brandon Carr was covering him man to man. There were other times when we played zone defense where we rolled to him and tried to double him in some kind of fashion and that’s just what you try to do against a player like that. I thought he did a really good job of making plays when they were contested catches. Matthew (Stafford) threw the ball up a few times, and he went up and got it and made those plays down the field and they were big plays in the ball game. He’s an outstanding player and anybody who’s followed football for the last four or five years understands how good a player he is. We certainly understood that. But they have some other weapons on their team too and you have to try to defend their whole offense and we didn’t do a good enough job of that.”

Carr followed Johnson for most of the wide receiver’s 75 snaps. There were times Johnson lined up in the slot and the Cowboys did not move Carr there.

But after looking at the coaches’ film, the Cowboys did nothing special to slow down Johnson. They rolled a safety his way less than 10 times in the game, unless you want to count traditional over-the-top help as extra attention on Johnson. They played a lot of single-high safety to help slow Reggie Bush and that didn't help much. They played more zone than they did in the previous two games.Carr played more press coverage against Johnson than off, but the split was close to 50-50 in the second half. And even when he was lined up in press coverage, he played more bail technique than jamming him at the line of scrimmage.

As Johnson kept racking up catches and yards, there was no adjustment to take the receiver out of the game. They simply played their same coverages hoping it would work. Coaches across the league will tell you a defense can take away a receiver or tight end if they really want to. It’s more than just rolling a safety over that way. Look at what the Lions did to Jason Witten. He was bracketed and doubled and was held to two catches.

Sometimes you just tip your cap to a player like Johnson when he makes a catch like the 54-yarder and the Cowboys have the safety, Jeff Heath, in position to make a play and Johnson just takes it away. You can live with those, but the Cowboys did not make it overly difficult for Johnson to have the game he had.

It’s Wednesday and the Cowboys have moved on to Sunday’s foe, the Minnesota Vikings, but the coaches might owe Carr an apology.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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