The DC Times

A New Way to Look at the Cowboys, NFL, and Fantasy Football

By Jonathan Bales

The Sportstradamus: Week 8 NFL Game Picks

Jonathan Bales

The majority of sports picks you find online are basically useless.  They’re slapped together in minutes and have no real connection to the actual outcome of the games.

So I figured I’d give you some more useless projections.

In all seriousness, I will pick the games and totals each week and compare my results to those of other writers and sports types around the internet.  They’ll be listed in the “Game Picks” tab under the “Gameday” category.  I just want to show you guys how a real statistician does work. . .

Notes before reading

  • An’@’ symbol is listed in front of the home team.
  • Game lines alter slightly based on the source.
  • The winner versus the spread is listed in bold.
  • I don’t advocate gambling.  These picks are simply for fun (and to prove I’m better than 95 percent of “experts” at picking games).

Week 7 Results/Overall Results

9-5 straight up/60-44 on season

7-7 against spread/52-46-6 on season

9-5 on over-under/54-49-1 on season

Week 8 Projected Scores

San Francisco 24 (-2) Denver 17

This game is actually in London. . .what a treat for the British.

@Dallas 24 Jacksonville 20 (+7)

I said last week was the last time I would pick the Cowboys. . .with the spread.  I think the offense will still be relatively dangerous with Kitna under center.

Washington (+3) 24 @Detroit 20

I’m not sure why the Redskins aren’t the favorites.  At a three point dog, the oddsmakers are basically saying they’re equal to Detroit.

@New York Jets 20 Green Bay 17 (+7)

Do the Jets really score enough points to be touchdown favorites over a team with an offense that is as explosive as Green Bay’s?

@St. Louis 21 (-2.5) Carolina 17

Both teams have young quarterbacks, awesome running backs, and poor defenses, but the Rams are at home.

Miami 21 (+1.5) @Cincinnati 17

The Dolphins are a few plays away from being 5-1.  They are the superior team.

@Kansas City 21 Buffalo 17 (+7.5)

I will take the Bills with the points all day.  There’s no way Kansas City should be receiving more than a touchdown.

@San Diego 27 Tennessee 24 (+3.5)

The Chargers are much like the Cowboys in that they come out big in difficult games and fall flat in the easy ones.  This is a must-have game against a very tough opponent.

Tampa Bay 24 (+3) @Arizona 17

Josh Freeman>Max Hall.  The Bucs are the best team in the NFC.  Just ask their coach.

@Oakland 23 (-2.5) Seattle 17

I’m back on the Raiders bandwagon, but this is the sort of game Oakland could overlook.  They need to put Seattle away early.

@New England 21 (-6) Minnesota 13

Is there a legitimate chance that Brett Favre doesn’t play?  I think he’ll give it a go, but I don’t think he’ll be effective.  The Pats will take Randy Moss out of the game.

Pittsburgh 27 (+1) @New Orleans 20

This is going to be an awesome game, but New Orleans isn’t the same team without Reggie Bush.  He’s doubtful to play.

@Indianapolis 28 (-5.5) Houston 21

The Texans get closer every season, but this is a statement game for then.  Show Indy the AFC South isn’t a cakewalk anymore.

Over/Under

San Francisco/Denver UNDER 42

Dallas/Jacksonville OVER 43

Washington/Detroit UNDER 44.5

New York Jets/Green Bay UNDER 43

St. Louis/Carolina OVER 37

Kansas City/Buffalo UNDER 46

Miami/Cincinnati UNDER 43.5

San Diego/Tennessee OVER 44

Tampa Bay/Arizona OVER 39

Oakland/Seattle UNDER 42

New England/Minnesota UNDER 44.5

New Orleans/Pittsburgh OVER 44

Indianapolis/Houston UNDER 50

By Jonathan Bales

Dallas Cowboys’ 1-5 start: Five good things that could come from it

Jonathan Bales

As I wrote in a previous article, the objectives of this 2010 Cowboys team must change after their 1-5 start.  Specifically, the balance of importance between winning now and preparing for the future must shift to emphasize the latter.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m ultra-competitive and want to win each and every football game.  Losses kill me.  But the Cowboys need to be careful to not compromise their ability to win in 2011 and beyond because they want to “save face” this season.

If the Cowboys choose to make decisions with the future as a priority, here are five good things (many of which were brought up among DC Times readers–specifically Craig Kocay) that could result from this nightmare season. . .

5.  Skeptical fans might see the importance of Tony Romo.

It’s stunning to me how a quarterback with one of the highest passer ratings, yards-per-pass, and winning percentages in NFL history can be hated by so many fans.  Do people not remember the days of Quincy Carter, Chad Hutchinson, and Drew Henson?  How about Brad Johnson?  Remember his three-game stint a few years ago that resulted from Romo’s broken finger?

Jon Kitna is much better than all of the aforementioned former Cowboys quarterbacks, but he sure isn’t Tony Romo.  This season will represent another opportunity for those on the fence about Romo to see the light.  Appreciate what you have.

4.  There will be little to no pressure on the Cowboys in 2011.

When expectations are high, the Cowboys crumble.  Even though they are extremely talented, it will be difficult for anyone to have seriously high expectations for them in 2011.  That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Super Bowl-caliber teams win regardless of outside opinions.  At some point, champions must win when expectations are through the roof.  Low expectations might help the Cowboys early, but what’s going to save them once they’re a “great” team again?

3.  Dallas could secure a high draft pick.

The Cowboys need to get young on the offensive line in a hurry.  Unlike some other positions, rookie offensive linemen can come into the NFL and often make a fairly significant impact.  The Cowboys figure to have a top 15 (and probably top 10) pick in the upcoming draft, which should be more than enough to obtain a very talented offensive lineman.

2.  The ‘Boys have an opportunity to discover what some young players can do.

I have a feeling the Cowboys are going to continue to give the bulk of reps to the usual suspects–Marion Barber, Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Keith Brooking, and so on.  But now is a perfect time to uncover some possible gems hidden in the back end of the roster.  Players like Phil Costa, Sam Young, Brandon Williams, Victor Butler, Jason Williams, Sean Lee, and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah need to acquire significant playing time before season’s end.  The first step in moving in a positive direction as an organization is knowing where you currently stand.

1.  Dallas can attempt exotic schemes/plays they normally wouldn’t try.

I thought the Cowboys should bring a unique approach to both sides of the ball to start the 2010 season, but it didn’t happen.  The major problem here is that the coaches, who are all trying to save their jobs, will be hesitant to attempt anything too outlandish.  They’ll want to remain conservative and implement what has worked in the past to try to win as many games as possible right now.

But that approach is only valuable to the coaches, not the entire team.  The 2011 Cowboys would benefit from offensive and defensive experimentation in 2010.  Jerry Jones might want to step in here and give the coaches some sort of incentive to be a little “crazy” (i.e. innovative) in their play-calling and overall approach to games.

Because if I see another punt on 4th and 3 from the opponent’s 39-yard line. . .

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By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys vs. Jaguars, Week 8 Preview: DOs and DON’Ts for Dallas

Jonathan Bales

With a change in expectations comes an alteration in objectives.  The chances of Dallas making the playoffs is almost zero.  While the goal going into every game is always to win, the Cowboys must take into account their current record and how their decisions this season will affect their fortunes in 2011 and beyond.

In my opinion, the balance between present and future in decision-making has shifted.  If the Cowboys were 5-1, they may be more willing to slightly sacrifice the future if it means a higher probability of winning now.  At 1-5, however, the future cannot be sacrificed.  The Cowboys always need to have winning in mind, but at this point, choices should be made according to how they’ll affect the team’s ability to win in 2011, not 2010.

DO call plays that mesh with Jon Kitna’s skill set.

Kitna is a serviceable quarterback and, despite the opinions of most fans, an above average backup.  Having said that, he isn’t Tony Romo.  He has a completely different skill set, and Jason Garrett needs to alter the playbook a bit to fit those skills.  Each week’s game plan should be about accommodating Kitna first, and exposing weaknesses in the opponent’s defense second.

Kitna can make most NFL throws, but he seems to excel with in-breaking routes–slants, posts, digs, etc.  He’s also very good at throwing back-shoulder fades.  He is going to have trouble throwing deep outs, comebacks, and so on.

If you notice, that skill set meshes exactly with what Roy Williams does well.  There are reasons Kitna and Williams were so productive during their time together in Detroit, and offensive coordinator Mike Martz isn’t the only one.  Williams has regained his confidence and Kitna is actually a better quarterback for him than Romo.

I also think getting the running game on track will really help Kitna.  If the Cowboys can do that, it will set up playaction passes on which Kitna, if properly protected, can make easier throws.  The key is that “properly protected” part.

DON’T respect the Jags’ passing game until they force it.

The Jaguars’ offense basically revolves around Maurice Jones-Drew.  He’s much like Ahmad Bradshaw of the Giants in that he can beat you a variety of ways–on the ground and in the passing game.   He’s the sort of running back with which the Cowboys generally struggle, meaning they really need to focus on stopping him first and foremost.

DO keep an eye on Marcedes Lewis, though.

The key to halting the Jaguars is limiting MJD’s production, but tight end Marcedes Lewis is a threat as well.  2010 has been a breakout season for him.  I think the Cowboys should place Bradie James on him during early downs and either Gerald Sensabaugh or Barry Church during nickel situations.  Lewis is still a mismatch on James, but Keith Brooking isn’t even an option and Dallas should do the following with Sensabaugh. . .

DO put Gerald Sensabaugh on Maurice Jones-Drew.

MJD is a bigger threat in the passing game than any Jaguars receiver or tight end, so I think Sensabaugh should stick with him during early downs.  He’ll have much more success than either James or Brooking, and he can go back to covering Lewis during nickel situations with rookie safety Barry Church manning Jones-Drew.

DO play a lot of Cover 1 (again).

The Cowboys can go into this game with a defensive game plan very similar to that which they used versus the Vikings.  In that game, they played Cover 1 (below) nearly every play, stacking the box to stop Adrian Peterson and doubling Randy Moss outside.

Against the Jags, there’s really no extraordinary receiving threat outside, meaning Alan Ball doesn’t have to shade one side of the field so heavily.  He can stay toward the middle of the field more frequently to help James/Church on Marcedes Lewis.  Take out MJD and Lewis and you win this football game.

Cover 1 also allows flexibility with pre-snap alignments.  The Cowboys implemented some unique blitz packages early on against the Giants and they worked well.  Keep that up, please.  Now is the time to try unique things on both sides of the ball, even if they are risky.

DO run the ball early and often.

Unless the running game is getting completely stuffed, the Cowboys need to stick with it this week.  Not only will it set up the playaction game, but this offensive line cannot be asked to properly protect an immobile quarterback on a consistent basis.  The Jaguars aren’t the Giants on defense, but they will still get to Kitna if the Cowboys continually run seven-step drops.

DON’T be afraid to air it out from time to time.

Kitna isn’t John Elway back there, but he can make most throws.  An efficient running game will aid in Dallas’ ability to get the ball down the field.  Plus, with the offensive line’s probable inability to provide consistent protection and the high likelihood of a boatload of runs, the Cowboys could really benefit from a quick score.

DO run the ball behind Phil Costa to see what he’s made of.

I hate to say the season is “over” because it isn’t.  There are 10 games remaining and the Cowboys need to play solid football.  Losing is never acceptable.

However, that doesn’t mean the team’s objectives should remain stagnant.  The ‘Boys should try lots of new things in an attempt to discover where they stand in relation to the 2011 season.  Is Phil Costa a legitimate option at guard?  Can AOA start at free safety?  Can Sam Young eventually replace Marc Colombo?  These are the sort of questions the Cowboys need to answer by season’s end.

DO take advantage of Kitna’s experience with Roy Williams.

Like I said above, Williams has been Kitna’s “go-to-guy” in the past.  He’ll likely be that to begin Kitna’s stint as Dallas’ starting quarterback as well.  Routes like slants and back-shoulder fades suit both players well and are quick-hitting enough that the offensive line shouldn’t have too much trouble (hopefully) providing protection.

DON’T play for anyone but each other.

I firmly believe character is revealed during times of adversity.  Will this team continue to fight for one another knowing that the opportunity for a trip to the playoffs is all but non-existent?

DO get the ball to Dez Bryant as often as possible.

He’s simply incredible.  Even if the Cowboys were 5-1 at this point, getting the ball to Bryant would be a priority.  He’s a true playmaker and the future for the Cowboys in the passing game.  At 1-5, the future is now.

DON’T run so much Shotgun.

Eight of the 10 sacks the ‘Boys have yielded have come from Shotgun.  I think a major reason for that is the fact that they haven’t run the ball much out of passing formations.  If defensive ends know a pass is on the way, it is awfully hard to protect the quarterback.  The ‘Boys need to run the ball more frequently from Shotgun and on 3rd down to keep defenses honest.

Kitna is also more comfortable from under center than in Shotgun.  The last time he started he played in Mike Martz’s seven-step drop offense, not a spread.

DON’T play so conservatively–go for it on 4th down and play ultra-aggressively.

Why not?  I think Dallas should do this anyway, but now is a particularly good time.  Call “trick” plays, blitz often, try new coverages, attempt onside kicks, and so on.  There’s really nothing to lose.

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By Jonathan Bales

Tony Romo Mic’d Up: Cowboys vs. Giants

Check out this video of Tony Romo mic’d up during Monday night’s game.  For all the Romo haters, listen to his initial question to the trainers after breaking his collarbone.

By Jonathan Bales

DC Times Reader Comments

One of my favorite parts about running this site is the quality of comments I receive.  I appreciate all of your thoughts and the clarity with which everyone writes.  DC Times must have the most intelligent base of readers of any NFL-related website.  Here are some of the recent comments regarding the Cowboys’ 1-5 start. . .

Tyrone Jenkins:

As pitiful as the situation is, there is a bright side.

Part of the reason Dallas drafted Dez Bryant is because all of the quality lineman worthy of helping Dallas in the near future were gone by their pick. Dez fell to 24 and they scooped him up. I’ve been critical of this move but it seems as if Dez was a quality pick at that spot regardless of whether Dallas didn’t need another receiver (much better and quality special team returner and receiver).

But now, it’s clear that Dallas will probably win around 4-6 games this year netting them a probable top 6-10 pick next year. They CLEARLY need solutions along ALL the interior line positions and at RT for the future.

The Boys are 1-5 w/ their starting QB out, their backup QB is accurate and smart but much less mobile and the O line is riddled with need (including Gurode). No other team will take a trade for Gurode or Davis so they’re probably outright cuts. Holland is serviceable at backup G but not center (and even he’s hurt now).

Yep, at 1-5, things are looking up for next season.

All good comments by all.

But Jonathon, I’d like to see an article that states this season clearly as it is. As fans (and analysts), we look at the season of football with apirations of playoffs and then the Superbowl. Wade made comments during his press conference that he’s got one game. The next one. That’s not a viewpoint all of us have (nor should Jerry Jones). I mean, I can understand Wade’s desire to keep everyone focused on the next task at hand, but he’s an idiot to think that the “collection” or body of works the Boys have amassed this season have all but eliminated their chance at the postseason. Statistically, they can still make it, but who (including the head coach, Gen Mgr/Owner, player or fan) thinks that is probable or likely. Again, it’s possible, but I could be struck by lightning while I write this comment as well. I’d give both of them the same chance of occurrence.

It is unwise to put stock into events that have a low probability of occurring. I understand that it’s sports and the will to compete is what drives everyone to strive to win. I agree with that mentality completely when I’m playing poker in a tournament. But, when I have a franchise worth billions of dollars and the likelyhood of that business being undervalued this year but worth much more in the future, I take the hit initially for the chance at much more later. Jerry Jones didn’t plan this but his team is 1-5 w/ the starting QB out for 8 weeks. Ticket prices have dropped significantly and will continue to. Redskins, Eagles and the Thanksgiving game will probably still sell out, but look for less than full houses at other games as well as a drop in sales of Cowboys merchandise for the remainder of the season (I say this as a season ticket holder who will be at the games).

Sometimes admitting defeat allows for preparation for the next battle. It’s not cowardly to admit when you’re beat, it’s smart. And simply put, the combination of scheme (playcalling on both offense and defense), special teams coverage on kickoff (and to some degree punts) and lack of discipline play has landed the Boys at 1-5.

So, let’s put out an article about what to do next with regard to rest of the season. Perhaps the Boys should look into trading away some “expendable” talent for better prospects in areas of weakness. I know the fans love Keith Brooking but he really isn’t a viable option for the next 2 years and the limited play of the pre-season really isn’t enough to evaluate who the replacement ILB should be (or even if the future ILB is on the team right now). And, I know the fans love all 3 RBs but that’s really 1 too many. Felix is a lock so either MBIII or TC needs to go. Excellent trade bait if yuou ask me and personnally, TC is a more complete back and ischeaper and younger so MBIII should go for a 3rd or better (we got him for a 4th) – San Diego needs another back and Buffalo could use a complement to that shifty rookie of theirs. Lastly, some of the coaching staff needs to go. I’m not saying its Wade as his style might work with hard-nose coordinators and other staff members. Maybe Garrett could be considered worthwhile to a fledgling team or offense (I remember Jon Gruden was “traded” to the Bucs for pics when he took over for Dungy).

To me, the only viable move that makes the most sense and has the highest potential for payoff for the future is to swallow our pride and realize our best strategy at this points is to invest in it now by giving our young talent more experience, cutting some salary for the obvious high draft pick we’ll receive and installing more discipline through more hard line position coaches. I just hope that Jerry Jones thinks the same…

The Cowboys are 30th in the league in rushing (even w/ the 3 good backs we have). As I posted earlier, I think one of these backs should go and it should be MBIII. He’s the most expensive and while still holding good value.

The Detroit Lions are one of the few teams worse than the Cowboys in rushing. Their starting RB is Jahvid Best, a rookie who’s a quick, shifty back. MBIII would be a perfect complement. The Lions have 4 RBs on their roster now, one being Maurice Morris (#4). He’s a 9 yr veteran who at one time had 600 yds in a season w/ Seattle. I say trade MBIII to Detroit for a 4th rd pick and Morris or a outright for a 3rd.

If not, the only other team worse than the Cowboys in rushing is Denver who actually is in need of another back given their starter, Knowshon Moreno, is injury prone as he has only played 4 games this year and was hurt much of last year. The Broncos tried to recruit a power back earlier in picking up LenDale White but ended up placing him on IR. I’m sure they’d jump at the chance to get MBIII (or maybe even TC) and cut ties w/ LenDale. Only thing is they do have 2 other backs, Corey Buckhalter and Laurence Maroney, that are decent. But trading for MBIII would reunite Maroney and Barber who were a tandem at U of Minnessota. Again, at least a 3rd pick would be needed I think but given that the Boys would be trading him out of conference (much like Patrick Crayton), I could see taking a little less (high 4th rd pick) for him.

I’ve read much about getting rid of Wade Phillips. The more I think about it, the more I don’t like it. Why? Two reasons (1 explained below): Wade is a good D coordinator and is functioning in that capacity now. The defense is ranked 10th in total defense right now (and that’s after a gashing by a good NY football team). They’re 7th against the pass (in terms of yards) and 21st against the run (in terms of yards per carry). They created 5 turnovers vs. the Giants alone. Really, for being 1-5, that’s not bad.

The real issue w/ the team is the offensive play calling, the lack of discipline and special teams. So, the way to go about fixing the Boys is to address each problem specifically.

The offense play calling is about an identity and the Cowboys seem to want the identity of a throw first (vertical passing) type of style identity. I think that is OK if you have the equipment to do that – which the Boys lack. The QB, WR, TE and RB positions are all suited for that but the most important one – the O line – is far from prepared. Therefore, you have 3 options: replace personnel w/ correct ones (takes time and is usually costlier) but at some point in time will be necessary, coach/train the current individuals to adequacy (I’m sure that’s what been tried up to this point – Hudson Houck is a well known as a good coach but that might not be enough) or change the identity of the offense; namely to a running team. Last year, the Boys were 1st in rushing 3 games into the season but seemed to abandon their commitment to the run in favor of their identy. Nevertheless, with the current personnel, option #3 seems to be the best but I doubt Jerry Jones wants the unexciting, grind it out, punt the ball and rely on your defense type of style. That’s also why I don’t think Cowher would be a good candidate for the job nor do I think the Boys should adopt one identity for a total of 12 games only to change it next season. So, one of the 1st 2 options needs to be implemented as soon as possible.

Special teams is another area. There have definitely been some highlights but definitely some low areas. A lot of special teams has to deal w/ backup LBs, TEs, WRs, CBs and Safeties and is basically a discipline thing w/ staying in your lane, blocking (and getting off them) and breaking down prior to the ball to make good form tackles. Last year, Patrick Crayton had 2 punt returns for TDs due primarily to blocking. The 2 this year by Dez seem to be more of individual effort on his part (there was some blocking done, I’m just saying it seemed to be better prior). I’ve high on AOA as a 4th CB/safety but he hasn’t really done much by way of KR since the pre-season. The fix: keep DeCalmus but emphasize more discipline (this can be done a # of ways which aren’t mentioned here). And, for the life of me, I can’t understand using Buehler any more for FGs. He can and should be the kickoff specialist and a FG kicker should be brought in. I know the Boys tried that last year and it didn’t really work but that seems to be the best option. Free up a roster spot by cutting, yes cutting, Leonard Davis (he’s old, overpaid and underachieving). And, just FYI, Nick Folk (NY Jets) has just as many touchbacks as Bueher right now while making 87 percent of his FGs (13-15) with more attempts while Buehler is making 73 percent (8-11). JJ should have known to put Folk on IR instead of cutting but I guess he didn’t want to have to pay 3 kickers salaries’.

Lastly is the area of lack of discipline. This is where firing Wade makes sense if you’re gonna do that. But, I think he should stay as mentioned previously because of his D coord skills (firing him means you essentially hire 2 new coaches). But also, the players know and like Wade. He’s basically a good guy and the players WANT to play for him (motivation is not something this team lacks). Wade is simply not a disciplinarian.

So, you fix that buy bringing (not promoting from within) a new O coordinator and Asst D coordinator who are hard nose, tough as nails, won’t except anything less than perfection type of people. They can be the “bad” guys while Wade gets to save face, still have a hand (read that as final say) in the defense, and continue the continuity already established between him and his players.

JJ:

Jonathan,

Like most, I simply cannot believe the season is where it is right now. I must admit that every week I cannot shake items that stand out in my mind ,game after game (plus, my comments just provide some therapy for me):

1. The team takes the personality of the coach. We must be honest, which defense would we rather have right now? The Giants seem to be swarming everywhere with speed and physicality. The Cowboys…not so much. While Romo’s injury is tragic, the defense was getting torched even when Romo was in the game. Is it scheme or players? Or both?

2. I simply cannot fathom how the Cowboys brass thought Sensabaugh and Ball were formidable. Sensaugh is a fair coverage safety on RBs and TEs but I don’t see anything “strong” or “free” about the safties. They just don’t make plays. The DEs are here to stop the run, I get that but they do little else and didn’t stop the run yesterday. We have no third CB and our top two are seemingly injured often. Scandrick is simply regressing.

3. So, I think our D is just far overrated. The really sad part is that Wade is not getting the most out of this D. There is little passion and if fans are being honest, the playmakers, Spencer, Ratliff, Ware, Jenkins, and Newman are not at the peak of their game. They folded yesterday…early and that was very discouraging.

4. As for the offense, it remains very obvious that our offensive line is a liability not only in pass protection but the running game.

To me, emotion is a big part of the game particularly on special teams and defense. Coach D showed that playing with emotion sparked his special teams. We just don’t see it often in the defense and that is reflected in Wade Phillips…”we played hard…we never game up…blah blah blah.”

The tragic 09 draft leaves us with no seemingly capable upstarts at LB, CB or OL. After 6 games, I think it’s become clearer that the Cowboys may not have the talent everyone thought they did and the Coach is not getting the best of his players.

Omar:

I’m optimistic about next season and the offseason. The Cowboy STILL haven’t lost a game by more than a tocuhdown, and if you look at their yards forced versus yards allowed they were way a head prior to tonight. Every loss you can point to an awful call or a stupid penalty that cost them the game, I think that will change with a new coaching staff. More importantly, Jerry Jones is a bright guy…I really think he’ll fix his mistakes and pick up either an elite tackle or corner prospect with his first pick, and then go OL for the rest of the draft. With a better line and another corner I think this team, with Romo, can win a Super Bowl next year. It may not be at home, but I like their chances.

Hopefully he’ll fix a few things this year, like give Wade the ax midseason and hire someone to at least rile up the fan base…next year he should be looking at either a bright new school type of guy or Bill Cower. That said, it’s time to start scouting OL and secondary talent in the college ranks.

John Coleman:

Go ahead and take a day off. I don’t really even want to watch the next game. As you, myself, and other have said, our oline is terrible. The game is still won and lost in the trenches. The Giants oline just absolutely dominated us. Collectively, our D was terrible. Our ILBs have been suspect all year and other than the INT, Brooking has looked to be done. Other than Newman our DBs have been terrible all year. Even Newman was bad last night. I agree that we have guys who are not willing to hit/tackle. BTW what was Olshansky doing with his little dance thing on a couple of occasions. We need a coach bad and no real coach will come here, Our meddling GM, won’t allow a FOOTBALL GUY to do his thing. I would like Gruden because of his offensive mind, but I just don’t see it happening. JJ is standing behind Wade. Are you kidding me. IMO Wade has clearly lost this team. I think Kitna can get the job done if we can protect him. I MISS BILL! Boy, Keyshawn told it like it was in the pregame regarding Bill and Jerry. Bill built what we had and piece by piece it is being destroyed, again. We need a talent evaluator badly. If not we will make some terrible mistakes in cutting/resigning free agents next spring. Several linemen on both sides of the ball will be due and at this point who would you want to keep?

bW:

Hey Jonathan…what were your thoughts on the Boys going for the TD down 18 instead of kicking a FG. I know lots of fans and the media were all over it. But I personally wouldn’t have wanted them to kick a FG. They are down 18 and are going to need 2 TD’s regardless. I’d rather they go for broke.
I’m sure fans that complain bout not kicking the FG would be the same people complaining that the Boys had no guts and quit by kicking a FG instead of going for a TD had they did kick it. Same way fans boo when teams kneel the ball to end the 1st half.

By Jonathan Bales

Should the Cowboys have kicked a field goal when down 18 against New York?

Jonathan Bales

The Field Goal

Midway through the fourth quarter of Monday night’s Cowboys-Giants matchup, Dallas had a 4th and Goal from the six-yard line, down 18.  Once the Cowboys failed on their 3rd down conversion, I said “Gotta go for it.”  The Cowboys agreed, but ESPN’s Mike Tirico and Ron Jaworski did not.  They went into a tirade about how awful the Cowboys’ decision was and how you “just want to keep yourself in the game.”

Like many ill-informed announcers who have little statistical background, they’re just dead wrong.  Down 18 points, the Cowboys obviously needed to score three times.  Two touchdowns, an extra point, a two-point conversion, and a field goal would obviously tie up the game, but let’s not forget that would only be the case if the Cowboys held the Giants to no more points.  Sure, you could argue they’d have to do that to win the game anyway, but it was certainly possible to allow just a field goal and still have a shot at victory.

If the Cowboys kicked the field goal and then subsequently allowed one themselves, they’d be right back where they started (down 18), but with less time left.  If they scored a touchdown, though, they’d be down either 10, 11, or 12 (depending if they went for two and if they made it).  A Giants’ field goal in that scenario still leaves them within two scores.

Plus, the math of the situation supports my opinion.  The graph above shows that, in regular game situations, kicking a field goal would yield slightly more expected points than going for a touchdown.  But this wasn’t a regular game situation, for the reasons mentioned above (and because New York was moving the ball up and down the field).

Let’s also not forget that the Cowboys gave the Giants the ball at their own six-yard line.  I don’t know if Dallas would have kicked the ball deep or tried an onside kick following a touchdown, but either way, New York would have winded up with much better field position than their own six-yard line.  That alone negates the slight statistical advantage of kicking a field goal in “normal” game situations.

The Two-Point Conversion

Later, the Cowboys did score a touchdown to close within 12 points.  They decided to go for a two-point conversion, and Tirico immediately went off about “awful” the decision was.  I normally like Tirico, but he needs to stick to play-by-play and keep his nose out of matters of football theory.  On this topic, he was again as wrong as could be.

You’ll often hear announcers say it’s “too early to go for two.”  But what does that even mean?  How is it ever “too early?”  The decision to go for a two-point conversion should be based on a variety of factors, including the score, a coach’s confidence in his two-point play, and so on.  Actually, if the probability of Team X converting on a two-point attempt is 50.1 percent, they should almost always go for two.  The expected points of 1.002 is greater than that of an extra point (which can obviously only be as high as 1, even with 100 percent accuracy).

Thus, you’d only want to go for an extra point in non-normal game situations.  Suppose Team X scores a late touchdown to tie the game.  They’d clearly want to attempt the extra point to secure the win.  Going for two points would be quite disadvantageous in that scenario.  If football commentators knew the statistics and theory behind two-point attempts, perhaps they’d be saying “It’s too early to try the extra point.”

There are more reasons that Tirico was unjustified in his stance.  Down 12, the decision of whether or not to attempt a two-point try is indeed a “no-brainer,” but Tirico is on the wrong side of the debate.  If you go for two points and succeed, you’re down 10 points and now know that a touchdown and field goal will tie the game.  If you go for two and fail, you now know that you need two touchdowns to win.  If you kick the extra point, however, you might later kick a field goal that will turn out to be meaningless.

The idea that you want to “keep yourself in the game” by kicking an extra point is preposterous.  You actually want to determine what scores you’ll need as early as possible.  If you kick the extra point, then a field goal, you’re down eight points.  If you then score a touchdown and fail on the two-point attempt, you’re still another score away from winning the game.  The field goal attempt in between touchdowns becomes all but meaningless, and this is due solely to the fact that you didn’t attempt the two-point conversion as early as possible.  Failing the two-point try earlier, as I said above, provides you with the knowledge that you need two touchdowns to win.

Tirico and Jaws used the outcome of the game as justification for their view, but that’s wrong as well.  If you roll a six-sided die and bet even money on a specific number coming up, your bet is a dumb one regardless of the outcome of the roll.  The fact that you will win money one time out of six doesn’t justify the decision ex post facto.  When I listen to the Monday Night Football crew, I feel like I am betting that an even number will come up on my roll of the die–but all the commentators, I mean numbers, are odd.

Dallas Cowboys Times is on Twitter.

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By Jonathan Bales

Amber Leigh Hartman and “The Blonde Side” Around the Web

Our little girl is growing up.  “The Blonde Side” blogger Amber Leigh has been featured all over the internet of late, including on SI.com, coedmagazine.com, and FHM.com.

She’s also been interviewing Cowboys stars, including Tashard Choice and Martellus Bennett, prior to the home games this season.  At these events, many fans have come out just to see A.L. and get their 2011 “The Blonde Side” Calendars autographed.

You can purchase your copy of A.L.’s calendar at TheBlondeSideStore.com.

Follow Amber Leigh on Twitter or Facebook.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys vs. Giants Post-Film Study Review: What We Learned About Dallas

Jonathan Bales

This week’s game review isn’t going to be the same as those prior.  The Cowboys managed all of 13 offensive plays on Monday night before Tony Romo broke his collarbone.  The entire landscape of the game changed at that point, including a drastic shift in both offensive and defensive philosophy.

I normally review my pre-game Manifesto after watching the film, but there aren’t many insights to be gained from that task this week.  Does it really matter how many counters Dallas ran, for example, if the entire mindset of the offense was flipped upside-down after Romo’s injury?

Instead, I will answer a few of my pre-game “DOs and DON’Ts” (the ones that aren’t just specific to the Giants game but relate to the ‘Boys moving forward).  I’ve also read each and every one of your comments and spent the majority of my film study time looking at players/scenarios for which many of you asked.  The majority of these reader requests came in comments in my initial Cowboys-Giants post-game notes.

Let me first start by breaking down “The Play.”

The Cowboys came out in “3 Wide Strong Left” with Jason Witten in the slot and Chris Gronkowski at fullback.  The Giants were in a fairly straightforward defense–they rushed their four defensive linemen and also came with a “Sam blitz.”  This meant strong side linebacker Michael Boley was coming through the “B-gap”–the area between Doug Free and Montrae Holland.

Boley obviously got through clean to pummel Romo.  As the MNF announcers pointed out, Gronkowski was at fault.  He had a “check-flat” responsibility, which means he was to pick up any blitzers on the left side of the offensive formation, and if none came he could leak out into the flat.  The confusion for Gronkowski came because Boley did not show blitz pre-snap.  He actually had his head turned out toward Witten as the ball was snapped.

The offensive line had tremendous protection on the play, and Gronkowski felt he didn’t need to help.  As he made his way past the line of scrimmage, though, he noticed Boley rushing and turned around.  It was obviously too late.

Analyzing (Some) DOs and DON’Ts

DO blitz a little more this week–but disguise them PLEASE!

Wade Phillips actually did this quite well to start the game.  The Cowboys showed blitz when they weren’t coming and lined up in “regular” looks before blitzing.  It worked wonders to start the game, as Eli Manning threw two off-target passes that resulted in Cowboys interceptions.

Phillips got away from this after the first quarter, though.  Romo’s injury may have forced Phillips to become more conservative in his play-calling to try to speed up the game (less possessions means less chance of the Giants taking a big lead).

Moving forward, I think the Cowboys need to continue to disguise their intentions defensively.  The silver lining of this nightmare season is that Dallas is now free to try unique things in all phases of the game.  They can give backups more playing time and experiment with different schemes.  Will Coach Phillips and the rest of the staff play “vanilla” to maximize wins so the season “looks” better than it was, or will they concede defeat (which isn’t always a bad thing) and experiment with innovative scenarios/lineups/schemes–a task that may not be conducive to winning this season, but would surely aid the Cowboys in 2011?

DON’T screw up on kick coverage.

To me, kick coverage is all about heart.  You have to want to fly down the field and make a tackle.  The Cowboys were excited to play special teams on Monday night (at least early) and it showed.  Sam Hurd and Danny McCray were all over the place.

So why couldn’t this team have that same mentality all season?  Had that been the case, they may not be in this position.

DO call some designed rollouts OR throw some back-shoulder fades.

The reason I bring this up is because, despite attempting both rollouts and back-shoulder throws all preseason, Jason Garrett seemed reluctant to dial them up during the season.  Instead, he stuck with the status quo.  The only problem?  The status quo isn’t working.

For the Cowboys to go to the next level in 2011, they need coaches who aren’t afraid to try new, even “dangerous” things.  Look at Sean Payton in New Orleans.  He goes for it on fourth down, attempts onside kicks in the Super Bowl, and calls “trick” plays at the most crucial of moments.  His players love it.

The Cowboys seem to have adopted the attitude that they will do everything to not lose football games.  Next year, they need to do everything possible to win football games, and that starts with the coaches believing in the players enough to let them stray from the norm.  What has worked in the past won’t necessarily work in the future, and what hasn’t worked in the past, well, that probably won’t work either.

DON’T worry about offensive balance–simply stick with what is working.

When Romo was in the game on Monday, the Cowboys ran the ball six times for 10 yards.  A huge reason for the team’s struggles on offense this season is their inability to run the ball effectively.  But fans get efficient running confused with frequent running.  The Cowboys do not need to run the ball 50 percent of the time (or even 40 percent) to be effective on offense.  They need to run it well to keep defenses honest and to set up the passing game.

I bring this up because it seems as though Garrett & Co. sometimes listen to the fans a bit too much (and listening at all is too much).  For things to change in 2011, the coaches, whoever they may be, need to coach. . .not succumb to the demands of ill-informed fans.

DON’T be afraid to run the ball more often out of “passing personnel.”

I just spoke about the importance of an efficient running game.  The best way to find success on offense is to surprise the defense.  It’s tough to do that when passes tend to come out of different personnel packages/formations than runs.  Predictability will kill an offense.  The 2011 version of this team needs a complete overhaul in play-calling philosophy.

DO give Tashard Choice some work.

I know a lot of you like Marion Barber, and I do too.  As a person.  As a football player, he doesn’t deserve to be starting.  Wade Phillips’ assertion that Barber provides something special as a starter is ridiculous.  If he’s that good, why does he start and then get immediately replaced by Felix Jones?

The coaches seem afraid to make changes, but a team that doesn’t adapt is one that will ultimately lose.  Like evolution, the NFL is survival of the fittest (sorry creationists), and the Cowboys aren’t putting their “fittest” players on the field at all times.

DO target Dez Bryant at least five times.

You saw what this kid can do.  Bryant needs to become a focal point of the offense effective immediately.

Player Observations (at the request of DC Times readers)

  • Phil Costa: I watched Costa quite intently and saw from him about what I expected.  He got overpowered at times, but didn’t do a bad job at all.  He looked good in space, particularly on screen passes.  He was late on a couple blitz pick-ups and missed one Giants twist, but that is to be expected from an undrafted rookie.  I thought he held his own when matched up on Chris Canty.
  • Doug Free: It was a strange night for Free in that he struggled a bit in pass protection but excelled in the running game.  I think the qualms about him being sub-par in run blocking are unjustified.  He’s the Cowboys’ best offensive lineman.
  • Andre Gurode: I’ve seen a rather steep decline from Gurode since the beginning of last season.  Most concerning is that he doesn’t play intelligently.  He misses stunts and, after all of the concerns over “dumb” penalties, he got flagged for a late hit against New York (although it was a bogus call).
  • Leonard Davis: I had Davis marked for just three “really bad” plays, but it was far from a solid game for him.  He gets beat with speed rushers inside, and that’s just what Chris Canty is for the Giants.  I still think he can be effective in the running game, but it’s difficult when the Cowboys run behind him out of the same formations again and again.
  • Marc Colombo: Really awful game for Colombo.  He looked horrendous in pass protection and really bad in the run game as well.  People criticize Free’s run blocking ability, but he has been far superior to Colombo all season.  At this point, I think Colombo is Dallas’ worst lineman on either side of the ball.
  • Jon Kitna: Kitna started off poorly but rebounded to lead the Cowboys to within a score.  Some of that had to do with the Giants’ conservative defense in the second half, but Kitna also showed that he’s still a serviceable quarterback.  He got way too many balls batted down and needs to put the ball in positions where receivers can catch and run, though.  The Cowboys are going to have serious trouble keeping Kitna on his feet all season.
  • Igor Olshansky: This was one of Olshansky’s worst games as a Cowboy in my opinion.  He looked like he didn’t want to be on the field.  He freelanced way, way too much, which shouldn’t really happen since his only objective is to stop the run.  He got zero penetration and took himself out of plays again and again in an effort to get around defenders.
  • Marcus Spears: Spears was one of the lone bright spots for the Cowboys’ defense on Monday.  I didn’t mark him with any “really bad” plays and had him down for two “really good” plays.  He was able to get solid penetration most of the night.
  • Stephen Bowen: It wasn’t a good night for Bowen at all.  He looked incredibly slow off of the line of scrimmage, particularly when at his normal defensive end position (as opposed to defensive tackle, which he plays in nickel situations).  He looks too eager to get upfield.  I know he only plays on 2nd and 3rd downs, but many of the 2nd down plays are still running situations.

Stay tuned for my upcoming post detailing the positives of this horrendous 1-5 start and how the Cowboys should move forward in 2010.

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By Jonathan Bales

NFL Week 8 Power Rankings: Did the Steelers take the top spot?

Biggest Riser:  Oakland Raiders (Six spots)

Biggest Faller:  New Orleans Saints (Seven spots)

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1. New York Jets (5-1); Last Week- 1

No game=no movement.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (5-1); Last Week- 2

Some are claiming the Steelers “stole” one against Miami, but the officials made the right call.

3. New England Patriots (5-1); Last Week- 4

The Pats jump the Ravens because a victory in San Diego is a whole lot more impressive than squeaking by the Bills.  Plus New England beat the Ravens head-to-head.

4. Baltimore Ravens (5-2); Last Week- 3

Every team is allowed to slip up once in awhile, but the Ravens almost fell to 4-3 against the worst team in the NFL.

5. Indianapolis Colts (4-2); Last Week- 6

The Colts will be coming off of their bye to face Houston in a gigantic matchup next week.

6. Atlanta Falcons (5-2); Last Week- 8

The Falcons are the best team in the NFC in my opinion, but the AFC sure looks a whole lot better.

7. New York Giants (5-2); Last Week- 9

What can I say about the Giants that you didn’t witness on Monday night?

8. Tennessee Titans (5-2); Last Week- 11

The Titans are a perfect example of how important dominant offensive and defensive lines are in the NFL.  The Cowboys could learn from Tennessee.

9. Houston Texans (4-2); Last Week- 10

The schedule-makers got next Monday night’s Texans-Colts game right.  It should be an awesome duel.

10. Green Bay Packers (4-3); Last Week- 13

Green Bay really would have been in trouble had they lost to Minnesota on Sunday night, but instead they’re once again leading their division.  The entire NFC is wacky.

11. Philadelphia Eagles (4-3); Last Week- 7

With Philly’s loss to the Titans, it really is a shame how things turned out for Dallas against the Giants.  It sure would be a “good” year to be 2-4.

12. New Orleans Saints (4-3); Last Week- 5

The difference between the Saints’ offense with and without Reggie Bush is incredible.  The guy is anything but overrated, except maybe in fantasy football.

13. Miami Dolphins (3-3); Last Week- 12

The Dolphins are far from out of it, but their loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday was a heartbreaker.

14. Washington Redskins (4-3); Last Week- 17

Like I’ve said, Donovan will play well enough to put the Redskins at .500 or slightly above, but nothing more.

15. Kansas City Chiefs (4-2); Last Week- 18

The Chiefs have a firm grasp on the AFC West lead and with only Oakland currently in their rear-view mirror, they are sitting pretty.

16. Seattle Seahawks (4-2); Last Week- 16

Are the Seahawks a legitimate threat in the NFC?  Anything can happen once you make the playoffs.  It must be nice to play out west.

17. Tampa Bay Bucs (4-2); Last Week- 20

Raheem Morris has declared the Bucs the “best team in the NFC.”  Wow, the Cowboys really suck.

18. Minnesota Vikings (2-4); Last Week- 14

Brett Favre’s fairytale final season heads to New England this weekend.  Well, I guess it’s really more of a fairytale for me than for Brett.

19. Chicago Bears (4-3); Last Week- 15

Watching this Bears team struggle is excruciating since they basically dismantled the Cowboys in Big D.

20. San Diego Chargers (2-5); Last Week- 19

If the Chargers don’t take down the Titans this week, they’re in serious, serious trouble.  I have a feeling they’ll step up.

21. Arizona Cardinals (3-3); Last Week- 21

Arizona faces the Bucs this week in a contest that could propel the winner toward the postseason.

22. Oakland Raiders (3-4); Last Week- 28

Where in the helllll did that come from?  The Raiders are the only team in NFL history to put up 59 points without having a reliable starting quarterback.

23. St. Louis Rams (3-4); Last Week- 23

St. Louis has a chance to get back on track this week when they host the Panthers.  Jimmy Clausen could be motivated to take down Sam Bradford, though.

24. Cincinnati Bengals (2-4); Last Week- 24

The NFL’s most “interesting” team is currently quite boring to watch.  They displayed great heart in Atlanta to come back from a huge deficit but still ultimately fell short.

25. Dallas Cowboys (1-5); Last Week- 22

Behind the Rams?  Behind the Raiders?  Behind the Cardinals? And with Jon Kitna likely starting the rest of the season, it could get worse.

26. Cleveland Browns (2-5); Last Week- 30

Cleveland is still only 2-5, but the combined record of their previous opponents is an astounding 29-16.  They could surprise some people in the second half of the year.

27. Carolina Panthers (1-5); Last Week- 31

The Panthers put up a win but they’re still very much in contention for the No. 1 overall pick next season.

28. San Francisco 49ers (1-6); Last Week- 25

What a disappointment for San Fran.  I actually still think they’re the best team in their division.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-4); Last Week- 26

I’m just not a believer in Jacksonville.  They have a sub-par defense, an offense that lacks any kind of explosion, and terrible uniforms.

30. Denver Broncos (2-5); Last Week- 27

Since his 6-0 start, Josh McDaniels is now 4-13 as head coach of the Broncos.

31. Detroit Lions (1-5); Last Week- 29

I think the Lions have a shot at taking down Washington this weekend.  They’ll need a healthy Jahvid Best, which it appears will be the case.

32. Buffalo Bills (0-6); Last Week 32

Tremendous effort against Baltimore on Sunday.

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Pick up your 2011 “The Blonde Side” Calendar featuring Amber Leigh and the hottest Cowboys fans from around the country at www.TheBlondeSideStore.com.

By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys vs. Giants Week 7 Initial Post-Game Notes, Observations

Jonathan Bales

Obviously this is a difficult one to swallow.  I will warn you now that it will take me awhile to study the film of this game.  I simply do not have the motivation or concentration needed to objectively look at the game tape.  I do feel a responsibility to the regular readers of DC Times, though, so if there’s anything in particular at which you’d like me to look, let me know and I’ll do my best.

  • Can this team win without Tony Romo?  We’re about to find out, but if it doesn’t happen next week against the Jaguars, it might not happen at all.  Romo looks to be out at least 6-8 weeks with his fractured clavicle, although the team probably won’t rush him back.
  • The play everyone will be talking about appeared to be a mistake on the part of Chris Gronkowski.  He looked to have a “check-flat” responsibility on the play, which means his initial duty is to pick up the blitz/chip on the defensive end.  He obviously misread the blitz and it cost Dallas.
  • The entire team lost all energy and motivation once Romo went down.  Obviously a broken collarbone to your starting quarterback is devastating, but the fact that no one stepped up is a problem.  There are 10 games left in the season and the Cowboys don’t really seem to have a leader.  Who is going to step up?
  • Sam Hurd and Danny McCray did a really nice job on kick coverage early.  It’s amazing what being “pumped up” can do for a player.
  • I don’t like Jason Garrett’s decision to call back-to-back draws inside the Giants’ 10-yard line.  The point of a draw is to fool the defense into thinking the play is a pass and get the linebackers and safeties to drop into their zones.  Where are they going to go down by the end zone?
  • Early in the game, the Cowboys did an awesome job of disguising their blitzes and faking others.  There was a play with 6:15 left in the first quarter in which Dallas used just two down linemen.  The other defenders were just kind of walking back and forth pre-snap without giving away their intentions.  That “Amoeba” look hasn’t happened all season.
  • The Cowboys got away from that creativity, though, and. . .surprise, surprise. . .the Giants started scoring points.  The players looked excited to be on the football field early, but that dissipated (even before Romo’s injury) once they went back into their boring, predictable base alignments.
  • One of the lone unique defensive calls after the first quarter was a blitz by Orlando Scandrick.  I loved the call and it worked to perfection.  Scandrick doesn’t seem like a great candidate to blitz, but remember that the offense thinks that too.  You could tell the Giants were unprepared for it and Scandrick got right in on Eli Manning to force a poor throw.
  • How in the world did Gerald Sensabaugh end up covering Hakeem Nicks one-on-one in the end zone?  I know the Giants were in a “Jumbo” offensive package, but with Nicks on the field, a cornerback must be as well.  There must have been some mistake in personnel, because the Cowboys had zero cornerbacks on the field and the Giants will take that match-up all day.
  • Doesn’t it seem as though Jason Garrett’s prime objective is to acquire first downs?  That might seem like a fine goal, but it isn’t.  His top priority should be scoring points.  That means it is often a smart idea to take shots deep on plays like 2nd and 1 or 2.  Garrett seems content to just run the ball and move the chains, though, and it forces the Cowboys to have to repeatedly beat defenses.  They’ve had three 2nd and 1 plays on the season–all runs.  I completed a study a few months ago on the importance of 2nd and 1 plays. . .

The value of a 2nd and 1 play is so incredible that, on average, a team will score .7 extra points each time they gain nine yards on 1st down as compared to gaining 10 yards.  Yes, gaining one less yard on 1st down provides a team with .7 more “expected points.”  In fact, 2nd and 1 plays are so valuable that they yield more expected points than any 1st down gain all the way up until 17 yards.  Thus, a nine-yard gain on 1st down is actually more valuable to an offense than a 16-yard gain.

The value of 2nd and 1 plays is even greater, though, if offensive coordinators take advantage of the situation.  This is not the case, however. League-wide, coaches called a run play on 78% of all 2nd and 1 plays.  That is evenmore than the 76% rate on 3rd and 1′s!

Jason Garrett’s 2009 play-calling on 2nd and 1 was nearly identical to the league average (he called a run on 80% of plays, compared to the 78% mean).  Garrett rarely exploited the high-reward opportunity of short-yardage 2nd down plays.  In fact, the Cowboys attempted just three passes of 15+ yards all season in 2nd or 3rd and 3 or less (3.22% of all plays in these situations).

  • I don’t understand why the Cowboys punted on 4th and 3 from the Giants’ 39-yard line.  In that situation, the math says to go for it with all the way up to 10 yards-to-go.  Even though the Cowboys were almost saved by an incredible diving play from Danny McCray (to keep the punt out of the end zone), it was a terrible call.

  • Like I predicted in my pre-game Manifesto, Sensabaugh did line up over Ahmad Bradshaw from time to time.  This was a smart move by Dallas, although it was basically negated by the stupidity of placing him over Nicks.
  • The largest problem with the Cowboys defense right now is their tackling.  I think it is less about their ability to tackle (although that is poor too), and more about their willingness to tackle.  I loved to see the Cowboys come out on fire and flying around to the football, but it was also depressing.  Why can’t that be the rule and not the exception?  This team is going to have to dig deep to find motivation to be competitive after a 1-5 start and no Romo for what could be the rest of the season.