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By Jonathan Bales

Cowboys Squeak by Dolphins 20-19 on Thanksgiving

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Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys will eventually need to play better football as the season winds down, but for now, they’ll take wins however they can get them.  Although they got outplayed by Miami for a large portion of yesterday’s contest, Dallas’ 20-19 win is just as good as a 41-0 blowout.  There are a variety of areas in which they can and must improve, though.  Here are a few of my other thoughts from the game. . .

  • Why does Jason Garrett think it is smart to run basic, predictable plays when near the outer portion of field goal range and in position for a tying or go-ahead score?  When down three points or less late in games, Garrett gets ultra conservative once the offense crosses the opponent’s 30-yard line.  It is like he thinks a field goal is a sure thing (despite Dan Bailey’s success, it isn’t), and this is particularly detrimental when down just three points and a field goal only ties.  Stay with the normal offense and try to score a touchdown when down three, and at least run somewhat unpredictable plays if down by one or two.  It worked out yesterday, but eventually it will come back to bite Dallas.  I know this because the plays were–you guessed it–strong side dives from Double Tight Strong.

  • Although there may have been somewhat of a mix up on each of Tony Romo’s interceptions, both of them were really on him.  They were on the same route, although one should have been thrown deeper and one should have been back-shouldered.  You might recall that Romo was emphasizing back shoulder throws last preseason, but at this point it still remains perhaps his weakest throw.  With Dez Bryant on the team, Romo’s improvement in that area could be valuable for the offense.

  • What the heck is up with Doug Free?  He committed three false start penalties, likely in an effort to get a step on Cameron Wake.  I called for the Cowboys to double Wake quite often in my pre-game DOs and DON’Ts, but Dallas didn’t go overboard with it.  Wake had a solid game, and the Cowboys won in spite of his efforts.

  • Another reason this contest was so close is because the Cowboys really played horribly at cornerback, letting Brandon Marshall go off a bit.  Terence Newman had a really weak game, Orlando Scandrick was bad, and Alan Ball was again horrific.  In my opinion, Ball needs to be cut.

  • I wasn’t at all shocked Rob Ryan called so many blitzes, but I was a little surprised he didn’t dial up many zone blitzes.  I counted just a couple, but I thought he would want to send pressure with Cover 2 and similar looks behind it to limit Marshall.  He probably thinks Gerald Sensabaugh is playing well enough that Cover 1 (man underneath with Sensy free in the deep middle) is a smart coverage, and he’s probably right.  Even Sensabaugh’s best play can’t make up for Ball getting continually harassed by players like Brian Hartline, though.

  • Victor Butler had a really good game, sans one play when he got absolutely embarrassed by Reggie Bush.  Bush took a pitch to the left and made Butler look like a fool.  Phil Simms was commentating the game and noted Butler “did his job” by forcing Bush inside, but Simms is about the dumbest announcer on television.  Sorry Victor, but falling on the ground from a move isn’t “doing your job.”

  • Maybe I was wrong on Matt Moore.  I thought he wouldn’t be able to continually beat Dallas deep, and he did.  Better play from the cornerbacks stops that, but offenses will take advantage of a defense’s weak link over and over.  Until Ball is gone, expect him to get abused.

  • A week after the Cowboys were incredible on third down, they turned in just a 2-for-9 performance on Thanksgiving.  A lot of that came because the team got in a few 3rd and very long situations due to penalties.  Dallas will be fine on third down moving forward.

  • DeMarco Murray’s efficiency seems to fluctuate based on the types of runs which are called for him.  I’m not sure why Garrett didn’t call more outside runs yesterday, particularly against a Miami defense that is very stout up the middle.  I realize runs like counters are “riskier” than dives and not necessarily options in short-yardage situations, but Murray has been dominating on the perimeter.  Even the dives which were successful yesterday came as a result of Murray bouncing them outside.

  • Tyron Smith seems to have one bad penalty every game, but he’s still doing a nice job on the right side.  Surprisingly, his pass protection is what needs the most work, as he’s been dominating in the running game.

  • Kenyon Coleman continues to play really good football, reinforcing the decision to cut Igor Olshansky.  He’s been the Cowboys’ top defensive end in 2011, even outperforming a rejuvenated Marcus Spears.

  • I still love Dan Bailey.

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5 Responses to Cowboys Squeak by Dolphins 20-19 on Thanksgiving

  1. Vince_Grey says:

    As so far as color analysts go, I like Mayock, Tim Ryan the best, and Aikman’s good, but Simms is far from the worst out there. That’s not saying much however, as the sad fact is, most of these guys either say dumb things, or say nothing worth listening to.

    TR started badly, though I think the first INT to Bennett was a bad route more than a bad throw. Looked as though Romo thought Marty was running a back door and he didn’t. The other one was just a great play by the CB.

    Both were risky throws, but that’s Romo. Look at that TD drive early in the 4th quarter: TR was getting blitzed and was making all kinds of wild, off balance, last-split-second-before-going-down throws that could have turned out badly, but instead got us a TD.

    Speaking of that drive, how about Witten taking down that cheerleader hottie (Way way way) out of bounds? Personally, I don’t blame the guy one bit. Can’t think of a softer, nicer, place to land. ;-) Doubt his wife was very amused however!

    Once again, I thought Dallas caught the Dolphins “A” game, while the Cowboys probably played a C+ game at best. Nice to see that we can win with that, but the team shouldn’t get too used to relying on Romo to bail them out on last minute drives all the time.

    I know JB will undoubtedly disagree, but I thought Murray was running very well early but for some reason Garrett forgot about him for a long time until late in the 4th. IMO, this was a mistake and we paid for it with bad offensive football for most of the game.

    I really like Robinson, but I think we really miss Austin’s speed and explosiveness. When he’s back, and Murray’s still producing, this will be a very difficult offense to stop… as long as Doug Free get’s his act together. His day made me have bad Flozell “False Start” Adams flashbacks.

    The defense continues to worry me. Sure, they miss Jenkins, but I can’t put it all on him. Everyone else seems to worship at the feet of DeMarcus Ware, but his play disappoints me more than impresses. He makes 3-4 “wow” plays every game but disappears for long stretches and it would be nice to see some real pressure from him stopping these late half and late game drives. Of course, some consistent help from Spencer, Butler, or anyone else would be nice.

    What I see is a lack of pressure up the middle, which has always, (IMO) been a weakness of the 3-4. Our inside blitzes rarely work out. QB’s constantly step up in the pocket and drill us. Hate to see what happens when we face a real QB like Eli.

    It won’t happen, but I’d love to go back to the 4-3. Sean Lee would be outstanding as a MLB in that set up and it would get our weakest front seven players (Brooking and James) off the field as well as free up Ratliff from NT duties. Oh well, it’s fun to dream. Maybe one day JJ and Garrett will remember we won 5 SB’s with the 4-3 and zip, zero, nada with the 3-4.

  2. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Technically, Simms is correct; the LBs jobs IS to turn the RB inside. But, I don’t think that’s a point worth making after that play was made and Butler was embarrased.

    It took me a while to understand why the Cowboys always seem to draw every other teams “A” game. I think I know why now – the SECONDARY. Whenever a QB drops back and scans the field for the 1st time, he gets a “feel” for how the defense is playing the pass. And, when that QB sees his WRs open by a step to a step and a half and makes a few throws, he gains confidence. Then, once on the sidelines and he talks to his WR and fine tunes their routes, he gains even more confidence. Couple that with a fairly anemic pass rush, you get continuous “A” game. And that’s from QBs like Moore, Grossman, Sanchez, Stafford and Vick.

    I still haven’t figured out if it’s scheme (cover 1 vs zone blitz vs full man while doubling the X or Z) but the defensive secondary is certainly the achilles heel of this team. I realize no team allows 0 completions per game, but this team gives up far to many pass plays of 20+ yards (25th in the league). Newman is iffy. Scandrick actually has fairly decent coverage but has lapses. Ball is horrible – not even a 4th CB at this point. Elam may be decent at play calling but he’s had 1 game this year that he seemed to shine.

    Lee’s had some great games, Ware is Ware and even Rat and Hatcher have shown to be fairly valuable . . . when was the last time anyone other than Newman did anything impressive in the secondary?

  3. john coleman says:

    I would have to hit the middle of the roadd on the play calling argument. In Thursday’s case, I liked the conservative, basic running calls. We only needed 3 for the win. Couple that with how erratic the offense had been and I say right call. That very instance could prove valuable later on as well. Maybe a changeup three games from now catches the opposition off guard and allows a game winning TD. ( Ex. Philly game- Reid pulled out all the stops and took supreme advantage of our aggressive defensive play calling. However he also gave the whole NFL a look at what they would have to do to be successful. In other words, he tipped his hand too early in a must win situation.)

    I would also have to disagree with the Butler comment. Bush is in the top 2 or 3 backs in the league concerning elusiveness. Butler was in the right position and simply made ONE false step. If he was getting the amount of snaps that his play dictates, he would have the patience from experience, not to take that step. Fact is that all he does is make plays. I would rate him as our 3rd best LB behind Ware and Lee. I also think Butler has the range and ability to play inside as well. IMO Simms called it right.

    I would have to question leaving Newman one on one with Marshall. Also as mentioned Ball made Hartline? look all world. Are you kidding me! Cover 2 was the right call and it didn’t happen. We should have made the reads more difficult and let the boys up front get pressure. Moore is not ready to win games with DB’s covering well. I too feel Ball is terrible, but Newman is the guy who has consistently been beaten deep for several years now. He is simply not a man corner and gives a huge cushion, only to still be ran by. ILB and secondary are easily the biggest needs on the team.

    Does Free have Flozell’s bad ear? Not sure what’s going on there. I thought maybe he was playing with an injury, then he looked pretty good, only to regress again. The lockout continues to hurt. We really needed the offseason with coach Wo.

    Please save the Dez Bryant stuff. The guy is in his 2nd year and still has no idea what he is doing. Great talent, peanut brain, and thug work ethic. He hasn’t done his homework and it shows. When Miles gets back, Dez becomes my #1 KR/PR guy. His athleticism will flourish there. He has been clearly outplayed by Robinson. I keep waiting for the light to come on. He probably has the best hands on the team and a ton of ability.

  4. willis says:

    I know its said again and again, but Jason Garrett is so predictable. I actually got excited when we did a play action pass on 2nd and 2 instead of running the ball. Sitting here watching the saints play I was thinking about that right before the fake field goal call by Sean Payton. They didn’t make it, but it was exciting, and I know as a fan I would feel good about my coach having some cajones to call that play and keep the other team guessing. I cant recall if JG has ever called a fake. I think his predictability is a liability, especially when we play good defenses.

  5. moses says:

    I thought that the Cowboys were pretty fortunate to get the muffed kick deep in the red zone and the fact that the Dolphin kicker missed a couple.

    I guess the ball has to bounce your way every now and then but this an early Christmas gift from Miami

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