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By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys vs. Redskins Week 3 Post-Game Notes: Have the ‘Boys Found a Kicker?

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Jonathan Bales

There are two ways to look at the Cowboys’ 18-16 win over the Washington Redskins on Monday night–as a sloppy offensive performance marred by a lack of concentration and execution that the team was lucky to win, or as a near-dominant defensive performance that led the way to victory.  In reality, it was probably a bit of both.  Here are some of my thoughts. . .

  • Tony Romo was obviously still affected by his broken rib, as the accuracy just wasn’t there.  Romo continually ducked out of the pocket or threw off of his back foot to avoid being hit, but you really can’t blame the guy.  While Michael Vick came out of the Eagles’ Week 3 game with what turned out to be a bruised hand, Romo returned to his with a broken rib and collapsed lung.  He gutted it out this week as well, and my hat is off to him for his toughness and leadership.

 

  • Dez Bryant is still hurt.  He made a few plays, but this was a game in which he had opportunities to take over.  Instead, he limped around the field quite a bit and was never really able to gain any sort of separation on his routes.  Look for him to have a monster game next week when fully healthy (hopefully).

 

  • Have the Cowboys found a placekicker?  That’s the hope as rookie Dan Bailey went 6-for-6 on field goals, with his team needing each and every one.  His kickoffs were lackluster, but that was expected.  Yes, I still think David Buehler’s leg warrants a roster spot (here is why), but Bailey has some real potential.

 

  • Rob Ryan really didn’t dial up much pressure.  In my preview of the game, I anticipated far more blitzes than we saw.  Obviously Ryan figured it would be best to sit back and force Rex Grossman to continually make good decisions.  One of his rare early blitzes came on a 3rd and 1 on which the Redskins called a fullback dive.  Ryan countered with a perfect safety blitz (Abram Elam) into the “two hole,” and Washington was forced to punt.  After the play, Ryan’s body language suggested he was expecting that exact play call from the ‘Skins.

 

  • I missed on my prediction of a lot of blitzes, but I hit on a far more specific one.  In my pre-game notes, I wrote:

Specifically, I think you’ll see both Bennett and Witten line up at receiver with Bennett eventually motioning into a traditional in-line tight end spot.  The Cowboys ran that look quite often last year against the ‘Skins, calling “3 Wide Strong Right Liz 26 Power” rather frequently.

  • I was right on.  According to my initial count, the Cowboys ran this exact play six times.  Six times.  And yes, the Cowboys did playaction off of the look a few times as well.

 

  • After struggling early against rookie Ryan Kerrigan, Tyron Smith responded nicely and turned in another strong performance.  The same can’t be said for Doug Free, who had a horrific night.  He was beat continually by Kerrigan, Brian Orakpo, and even backup Rob Jackson.  I have heard rumors that Free has an injured left arm or shoulder, and I really think there’s something to that theory.  This is the worst I’ve seen Free play during his entire career.

 

  • What. The. Hell. is wrong with Phil Costa?  Four premature e-snap-ulations.  I have watched those plays again and again, and I have no idea what he was thinking.  No one is firing off the ball, so it isn’t like Romo should be expecting the snaps.  This should be something which can be fixed immediately, but if it continues to happen for some reason, Costa has to sit.  I don’t want that to happen, but the Cowboys are dangerously close to turning the ball over because of his mental errors.

 

 

  • Sean Lee is turning into one of the top playmakers on this team.  His 31 tackles rank second in the NFL, and he’s thrown in two crucial picks as well.  Without him, there is no way the Cowboys would have won last night’s game.

 

  • The Cowboys stuck with the run last night, and they were lucky to win the game because of it.  The team was ineffective early before Felix Jones broke off two big runs, pumping up the average.  In reality, the majority of the runs were unsuccessful and took away from opportunities to get the ball downfield.  I realize the offense was having just as much trouble passing, but I’ll take my shots with a struggling passing game over pounding the ball into a pile of defenders.  The team isn’t going to win many games scoring only 18 points.

 

  • Jason Garrett made three bad decision on 4th down, twice kicking a field goal and once opting to punt.  The first came on 4th and 1 at the 9-yard line, where the numbers suggest average offenses should go for it with around four or five yards-to-go in normal game situations.  The same is true for the team’s 4th and 3 at the 14-yard line.  Garrett also decided to punt on a 4th and 6 from the Redskins’ 41-yard line while down four points in the fourth quarter.  That was his biggest mistake of all, as the statistics show offenses have historically had just as much success going for it on 4th and 10 in that range as they do punting.

  • If you need more math as to why the graph above (provided by Advanced NFL Stats) is correct, check out the expected points graph below.  Had the Cowboys gained a single yard on their 4th and 1 play, for example, they would have an expected point total of around 4.1 for that drive.  That is, over an unlimited number of trials, an average offense can be expected to score 4.1 points per drive when given a 1st and Goal at the opposition’s eight-yard line.

  • Assuming Dan Bailey is about a 95% kicker from the nine-yard line (giving the offense an expected point total of 3 x 0.95 = 2.85), the offense would need to be successful on around 69.5% of their 4th and 1 attempts for the expected points of going for it to exceed that of kicking the field goal.  Offenses have around a 60% success rate on two-point rushing attempts (from the two-yard line), and even with Dallas’ struggles on the ground, I have to think they can convert on 7 out of 10 tries with a single yard needed.  On top of all that, don’t forget  those numbers assume the Cowboys gain one and only one yard on the 4th down play AND a failed fourth down attempt leaves Washington at their own nine-yard line, whereas a made field goal gives them the ball (realistically) around the 20–a difference of around another 0.5 expected points.

  • One of the most overlooked areas of improvement for the ‘Boys (and the one I think is most responsible for their improved defensive play) is better tackling.  Everyone on this team other than Alan Ball is sticking their nose in there to bring down ball-carriers. . .even Mike Jenkins.  If Jenkins is tackling, you need to as well, Alan.  A nice hit on a defenseless player late in the game doesn’t make up for missing tackles on a consistent basis.

 

  • Terence Newman has a concussion, but he played really well in his first game this season.  When healthy, he’s extremely valuable to the defense.  His presence will allow Ryan to be more creative with his calls.

 

  • Even though the Cowboys ended up kicking a go-ahead field goal, I didn’t like the play-calling to end the final drive.  Garrett called three straight runs in an effort to milk the clock, but there was still plenty of time left for Washington to move down the field.  Why not call a playaction pass against a defense selling out against the run?  Of course, Garrett never could have expected Tashard Choice to run out of bounds, making one of the dumbest decisions I have seen in awhile.

 

  • Despite all of the mental mistakes and lack of execution, the Cowboys got the win and that’s all that really matters.  Having said that, this team is going to have trouble finishing better than .500 if they don’t pick up their level of play in a big way.  Getting healthy should go a long way in aiding them in that process.

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7 Responses to Cowboys vs. Redskins Week 3 Post-Game Notes: Have the ‘Boys Found a Kicker?

  1. Scott says:

    nice write up.

    Have to say I disagree somewhat on the running game. yes, the long runs boosted the average, but thatʻs part of what running is about, you have to try enough times to finally get some long one which will balance out the very short ones. And actually we did get 4-6 yards several times on 1st down runs, which is great to keep the playbook open on 2nd and 3rd downs. But I think even if youʻre just getting 2-3 yards, itʻs important not to give up on the run, not just within a game which wears the D down and keeps them honest, but for the season. After being stymied on the ground the last two games, it was important to get it going this game. Being able to keep trying enough to break those big runs, and put up a hefty total and average rushing, keeps DCs honest down the road, which helps open up the rest of the game. Iʻm not one who says you just need balance for the sake of balance, and if throwing is working better and is a better way to win the game, by all means throw more, but we canʻt just give up on the run completely.

    And not to take anything away from Romo of course, but he didn’t actually have a collapsed lung. Punctured yes, collapsed no. For the lung to collapse the pneumothorax has to be a lot more substantial, and he absolutely would not have been back on the field if his lung was collapsed.

  2. Mark Watkins says:

    I too believe that there is something to be said for running to keep the defense off balance. I sure hope they can start to do it more effectively. I had been wondering what was up with Free. I hope it’s an injury and it goes away soon. You’ve probably already heard, but I guess the Skins were calling out snap counts to confuse Costa. It obviously worked well. I don’t know what can be done about that if the refs don’t call it. Ideas?
    It did seem like the refs had a terrible game overall. I was particularly peeved on that non call when Ware got tackled in the Skins backfield. How the hell do they miss that?
    Also, shouldn’t Ogletree have a clue about the playbook by now. I have some serious doubts about his value going forward now….
    I agree that the run out of bounds by Choice was really stupid. And I also was surprised that Garrett didn’t go for it on 4th and 6 at the 41 late in the game. He must trust his defense a lot though. I think they should have gone for another first down to milk the clock in the end too. That was a big mistake and could have cost them the game.

  3. JJ says:

    A few things for consumption:

    Does anyone have confidence with Cowboys running the ball on 4th and short? Even 3rd and short? The running game is still average at best right now.

    Why is Alan Ball on the field?

    What is up with M. Bennett? He looks stoned out there.

    I’m a Garrett fan but think he will be a better Head Coach than O-Coordinator. Last week with the trick plays. This week his WRs looked like they’ve never been coached. Wasted timeouts. Curious play calls. Lack of ability to punch ball in the red zone…

    If Lee keeps this up and Spencer can continue a surge, the LB corp sure looks good.

    Does a sore quad really cause a player to go from a beast to a bug? (yes, except for the near game end freelance play)

    The Cowboys failure to bring in a WR is hurting them right now.

    Here is what is keeping the Cowboys alive right now. The D, Witten and Romo.

    I still don’t know the answer to this after 3 weeks, “is the failure in the running game the Oline or the RB?” Of the backs, I see Felix with the need for space but he lacks vision and misses holes. Choice looks awfully pedestrian with little ability to create. And, outside of the fact that he runs a bit “straight up” and has some moves, not sure we have much sample size for Murray.

  4. Tom H says:

    I agree with you on making Bailey the K. I’m a little biased because I went to OSU and watched Bailey, he improved each year and was reliable. He reminds me a bit of early Folk, he puts the ball right down the middle of the uprights and doesn’t seem fazed by the game/importance of the kicks, little bit of the ice water in the veins. I like Buehler as a player, but Dallas needs a kicker they can count on, and Buehler ain’t it, even though he is a very good ST player. They might be able to release him now. Dallas needs that roster spot for another DB, WR, or TE (sign Rucker to the 53 man squad before some other team grabs him.)

    Second point I agree with you on is Sean Lee, he is proving it on the field, a legitimate star ILB in the making. He just needed to get healthy. We should thank Wade Phillips for that one. If Spencer revives his career under Rob Ryan, then I rank our LB’s up there among the best group in the NFL. Spencer saved that game for us, and already has 3 sacks & 2 forced fumbles on the season. Lee already has 2 INT’s and is/was leading the NFL in tackles, plus he recovered the game winning fumble Mon night.

    Next point, Costa’s embarrassing performance confirms my belief that they let Gurode go too soon. He took a lot of crap from the fan base, but he was a big, strong, durable center. Maybe he had lost some mobility, but still, the guy is better than a lot of starters in the league. Wish they’d have kept him, and let Costa play LG if they like him that much. But as a center, he’s not there yet.
    No excuse for what could have and should have ‘Costa’ Dallas a must win home divisional game.

    Ogletree needs to pull his head out of his arse. I wondered why he was riding the bench most of last season, and now I see why. I am rooting hard for Dwayne Harris to take that #3 spot away. Fumbles and not knowing your WR responsibilities equals back to the bench, if not into the doghouse.

    Finally, where is Dee Murray? So far he’s been invisible. Is he not healthy, or just as I feared, overrated? With Felix’s shoulder injury, and the lack of depth at WR, I thought we would get a good look at Murray in this game. But he did nothing for the 3rd game in a row. I’m not worried yet, but he needs to step it up if he is healthy.

  5. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Overall, I think the Cowboys are in a fairly good spot. Althougth they didn’t score a TD, they found a way to win. Not sure if they’ve found a kicker, but I was impressed w/ the poise and manner which ST went about their business. Even to go as far as Beuhler kickoffs which are intentionally higher and shorter and toward the corners as to entice a run back (I think there were 2 or 3 that resulted in starting postion inside the 20). I understand now what they’re doing and think that once that strategy is practiced more, it will pay dividends.

    The running game is SOLID – that’s exactly how you run the ball. If you look back at some of the best runners ever (Emmit, Thurman Thomas, Barry Sanders, etc.) they have runs of the same type: 1 yd, 3.5 yds, 2 yds, 7 yds, 4 yd then 35 yds….

    I thought Alan Ball’s game, outside the personal foul penalty, wasn’t all that bad. Mike Jenkins seemed to tackle well but his coverage was worse than Ball’s IMO. Moss got plenty of separation on him. The Skins seemed to line up in lots of 1 WR sets and purposely aligned the receiver to Jenkins side (w/ Newman playing simple outside run contain). Newman looked good in coverage.

    I’ve been HIGHLY critical of the pick of Sean Lee last year and of Carter this year. It seems as if I have a considerable amount of crow to eat as Lee was EVERYWHERE. I don’t know the final tally of tackles he was credited with but it seemed he was Hightower’s twin. They called his name (and Kenyon Coleman’s) name a lot over the loudspeaker. I sure hope Carter becomes another Lee – that 4some will rival the Steeler’s LBs.

    Yes, Free looked bad. But, I really didn’t hear Kerrigan’s name a lot.

    Again, the Boys won. They played a better game vs. the Jets but lost – I’d much rather have what happened in this game. Keep in mind, there are 8 starters that are hurt – Tyron Smith, Romo, Austin, Bryant, Jenkins, Newman, Free and Jones – some to the degree that they can’t even play. And they’re 2-1 vs 3 other teams that are also 2-1. They have a tough 3-0 Detroit next (at home thankfully) then a bye week prior to going into New England. After that, they have the Rams at home, at Philly who isn’t as good as people (and themselves) think, then Buffalo and Seattle. Not a bad stretch to get players healthy and more familiar w/ the system.

  6. Jonny Danger says:

    Anyone else want to kick the shit out of the refs? Especially after seeing fing Trent williams tackling Ware right in front of the guy and not a damn thing thrown. He was being held all night. I know you can’t call em all and it happens but he was being hooked and everything just pissed me the hell off. One of the worst officiating I have seen and just before that we got a terrible call on Alan Ball. Costa needs to get his head in the game or put Kowalski in there. I would have pulled him and I have never liked ogletree at all. I remember all the fans with their “more ogletree please!” Chants and it drove me nuts. Jimmy probably would have cut him and Costa this week. Rant over.

    Offensively I was happy to see us running the ball yet are line got zero push and the few times they did Felix didn’t use the best vision to cut it back.

    Defensively I was again very happy. Imagine once we get Carter up to speed and assuming he develops quickly how amazing him and Sean Lee will be out there. Gives me goose bumps oooooohhhh!!! Alan Ball was Alan Ball he is a major liability. I pray Newman and Jenkins do not miss an extended period of time because this guy is killing us. Looked like Coleman gave up a few plays but I may be wrong have to watch the game again. Spencer played with some heart. Ware got beat sometimes but he was really screwed over in this game you could tell in his facial expression that frustration is an understatement. I would have pushed Trent Williams ass right into the Umpire the very next play. I can’t wait to see further development of this defense. Bring on the Lions :)

  7. Jeremiah Thompson says:

    Hey only part I think deserves second consideration is your point about Garrett kicking the field goals. The numbers showing it’s statistically better would be true when your offense is not littered with injuries. I’m sure if he felt confident he had a player he could count on he would have gone for it in at least one of those situations but the offense isn’t operating in the way that would give you confidence to say going for it is the right decision. Just my two cents. Very happy with the win!!!!

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