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Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks, Week 9: What We Learned About Dallas

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Jonathan Bales

What we learned about Dallas this week is. . .not much.  They beat a team they should have beaten, and they did it in a manner which you would expect.  Despite my remaining uncertainty regarding the team, I had some thoughts on the game. . .

  • Jason Garrett finally called a deep playaction pass from “Double Tight Strong.”  Better yet, it came in a short-yardage situation.  The play didn’t work, but Garrett made a good call.  Maybe he read my article for Advanced NFL Stats on why his predictable play-calling is hurting the team.  Let’s hope he continues to utilize his running tendencies to develop big plays via the passing game.

 

  • Dez Bryant returned punts yesterday for the Cowboys, leading owner Jerry Jones to again publicly criticize Garrett’s coaching tactics.  Jones is concerned about the possibility of Bryant getting injured, and rightfully so.  Although the risk of injury on a punt return is not significantly higher than on offensive plays, Bryant’s punt return ability is not so incredible that it makes up for the risk involved with him lining up deep.  Others are bound to disagree, but Bryant is not a punt returner.  There is no doubt he has the ability to be electric with the ball in his hands, but he’s not the fast, shifty sort of player who thrives on returns.

 

  • DeMarco Murray is the real deal, and he should receive the bulk of touches even after Felix Jones returns.  We knew he was fast, we knew he was quick, but who knew he could run over defenders?  He hits holes much harder than Jones.  Here is my recent article and scouting report on Murray.

 

  • Tony Romo had a really nice day, throwing 31 times for 279 yards and two touchdowns.  Murray’s emergence has seemed to help set up playaction looks for Romo.

 

  • Bruce Carter got his first defensive snaps and looked good.  He had one play in particular on which he broke on the football, reaching around the receiver to knock it down.  I thought it was a safety at first, and it was a play neither Bradie James nor Keith Brooking would come close to making.  I’m excited about the future with Carter and Sean Lee inside.

 

  • Really nice job by the offensive line to control Chris Clemons.  There were some double-teams, but a lot of the success versus Clemons came because the offense ran right at him.  By overpowering him in the run game, Dallas was able to limit his ability to fly upfield at the snap of the ball, ultimately neutralizing his pass rush.

 

  • Phil Costa is really struggling.  He gets demolished in the running game and isn’t performing particularly well in pass protection.  He also had another premature snap.

 

  • The most underrated player on the 2011 Cowboys (and it isn’t even close) is Gerald Sensabaugh.  He is playing out of his mind, flying around in coverage and tackling better than just about anyone else on defense.  I thought the Cowboys should have signed him to a long-term deal this offseason, but forcing him to play in another contract year was a smart move.

 

  • Did you see Romo’s performance as a holder?  He was remarkable, catching the ball every time and putting it right down on the ground.  There isn’t another quarterback player in the league that can hold like him.

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9 Responses to Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks, Week 9: What We Learned About Dallas

  1. Rick says:

    Lol @ the Romo holder comment.

  2. Vince_Grey says:

    I have to disagree with you on Dez as a punt returner. While he doesn’t fit the typical “profile” of a p-returner (Small, quick, make-em-miss, good speed, fearless, etc…), he has some of those qualities (Speed, make-em-miss, fearless) and bottom line, he’s the best the Cowboys have at the moment. I think all this worry about him getting hurt is nonsense. If he’s healthy, he plays, period. That what he gets paid for, playing football. Also, let’s face it, Dez isn’t exactly full speed as a receiver right now anyway. The guys apparently doesn’t know the plays and he’s not on page with Romo just yet, so let him contribute as a returner. On this one, Jerry needs to shut up.

    The emergence of Murray is a huge deal. Takes pressure off of the O-line and Romo, opens up the passing lanes, controls the clock, and allows the defense to have to play fewer snaps. The advantages to having a running game and a stud RB are so many, it’s not even funny.

    Again, bottom line is, less Romo as a passer, makes Tony a far better QB overall and the Cowboys a better team.

    I don’t think we saw enough of Carter to say he’s going to be a player, but it’s way to early to make that call no matter what.

    Sensabaugh is indeed playing exceptional ball, but the fiasco with Ken Hamlin still makes me gun-shy about signing him to any long term deal that includes a substantial signing bonus.

    One final word about the game two weeks ago. As I expected, the Eagles lost this week. Philly has past history of playing these “Super Bowl” games and then flaming out. Back in `92 they destroyed Denver and Dallas at home by a combined score of 61-7 to go 4-0 and they looked like the best team of all time. The Eagles proceed to lose 3 of their next four and got drilled by Dallas both in the rematch and in the playoffs while of course the Cowboys won the SB.

    Not saying the Cowboys repeat that last part just yet, but I am saying not to get too upset about the Philly game, because it was apparent they were nigh unbeatable by anyone that day, but there’s a price to pay for that kind of emotional high.

    Dallas just needs to stay on an even keel, win these next four anyway they can, and then rev up for the final four in a big push.

  3. Greg says:

    You said it best with Dallas beating a team they should have beat. But similar to the Rams game, there was a sluggishness and sloppiness early on that could have given costly momentum to the Seahawks. The Laurent Robinson TD was more about a pathetic passrush of Seattle, allowing the Dallas WRs to run around and get open. The Seattle coverage worked initially, and nobody was open, but given enough time to run around in the back of the endzone, someone will inevitably get open. The Witten TD was not exactly a brilliantly designed route; Seattle had a coverage mistake. Its one thing for the offense to force the mismatch for the successful of a play but its quite another for a defense to misstep and allow an otherwise prosaic and insipid playcall to look intentionally dominant. Not many pro teams would allow Witten open like that – there’s this crazy little thing called film study which usually keys in on finding ways for him not to get open like that.

    This game could have been Dallas only booting 5 field goals to win, which is tragic seeing that Romo had 279 yards with 19 passes (not 31) and Murray had 139 yards. Those solid stats with 6 trips to the red zone (Dez fumble) should have been over 30 points easily.

    I still think it is one of the classic blunders that Jason Garrett is considered a smart coach. Going back to the Rams game, if the offense is a playaction vertical scheme that is fueled by a strong running game, how is it that when the RB runs for 253 yards, the QB is 14-24 for like 166 yards???

  4. Greg says:

    By the way, did anyone else notice that Green Bay could almost telegraph Phillip Rivers pass routes and were able to have 2 players at a time in position to make interceptions. Granted, Norv Turner is a master playcaller so Rivers got some TDs, but Green Bay won that game because they could tell where the River’s passes were going on a regular basis.

    Its the same scheme that Garrett runs and Green Bay was not really fooled by him either. That scheme needs to go the way of grunge, flannel shirts, Seattle-philia, and the tech bubble and be retired to “just another aspect of the 1990s that is no longer relevant”.

  5. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    The Dallas running game…

    The “emergence” of Demarco Murray will inevitably pay the “price” if it continues in present form. The price is injury. DM has always been injury prone and FJ has shown that he is as well. The problem is not with the RBs, but with their employment/use.

    Look at teams with good 2 back systems – Saints with P Thomas and D Sproles. Thomas has 66 attempts and Sproles has 49. The Texans with Foster and Tate. Foster has 157 attempts to date; Tate has 107 (Foster has missed 2 games due to injury, Tate has missed 1). Both backs used have different styles – the one key factor is that the “feature” back is durable and can gain yards after contact. Power back isn’t always associated w/ weight either; Foster is actually heavier than Tate by 10 lbs. FJ is the same weight as DM.

    JG needs to utilize a system where both players are essentially interchangeable but favors different plays that go with that particular players strengths. FJ can run between the tackles but that’s not his strong point. DM is good w/ screen passes, but I’d dare say FJ is probably a little more elusive.

    But neither back is a FEATUR back – both are complementary due to injury history. Using one back as a feature (ie. play that back more) will inevitably lead to an either/or situations due to injury – much like the Boys have right now.

  6. Vince_Grey says:

    Greg – If Dallas was 7-1, I’d be more interested in style points, as you seem to be, but at 4-4, I just want wins, any way, any how. Ugly, pretty, don’t care at all. As for Norv’s so-called “90’s” offense, both the Cowboys and the Bolts have been at-or-near-the-top offensive leaders for most of the past several years and I don’t think the league suddenly figured him out that quickly. Green Bay’s just on one of those rolls right now where everything and anything seems to work. Give it time. They’ll come back down to Earth.

    TJ – I don’t know about you, but if Murray’s not a “feature back”, for my money, he’ll sure as hell do until one comes along.

    He might get hurt, but then again he might not. Who knows? Between you and JB, I’ve never seen or heard of so many people worrying about how a player MIGHT get hurt if you *gasp* actually LET HIM PLAY. Good Lord, gimmie a break. It’s FOOTBALL people. Players play.

    Ride him out until he shows he can’t handle the load. It’s not even that much of a load. It’s not like Garrett is running the kid 30 times a game or even close. Tanner get’s some carries as well.

    As for Felix, I think it’s pretty stupid to sit a guy averaging 6.7 yards a carry and with 6 runs of 20+ yards (Murray) to give carries to a guy averaging barely 4 yards a pop with only two 20+ runs. Hell, even Tanner’s avg is better than that. I’m about done with FJ and his poor play. Used to blame the O-line, but no, it’s him.

  7. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Good points VG,

    I like your fire and passion but don’t trust your logic. Feature back has a lot to do with ability but also takes into account availability.

    DM was univerasally accepted as a RB with 1st round talent. That wasn’t in question. What was was his health and injury history. It happens every year – prospects with excellent speed/talent/ability that slip in the draft due to concerns over a knee or ankle or hamstring. Sean Lee is a good example. The most well known example of last year was the DeQuan Bowers (DE from Clemson) who was thought at on point to be a top 10 pick who was drafted in the 2nd round. It’s the age old question on draft day . . .

    Looking at DM’s injury history, he’s had knee and hamstring problems while at OU. He only missed 4 games but one of those games was the BCS bowl. And, all throughout every season, there’s been much speculation about whether or not he could be depended on to “carry the load.” Ultimately, it’s felt that his questionable status affected offensive play calling. After being drafted, he started the year on the non-football injury list and missed camp.

    And, because you’re absolutely correct – that it IS football, that’s why there has been so much concern. Guys are smashing into each other at top speeds trying to hurt/damage bones, tendons and muscles. I could understand your argument if EVERY back had an injury history like DM (and FJ for that matter) but they don’t. Look at Shonn Green. Look at MJD. Research Ray Rice, Frank Gore and Michael Turner. All have been in the league longer than FJ (some even more than MBII), all have more attempts per game than both and all have participated in more games per season than both. MJD and Rice were both 3nd round picks. Gore and Green were 3rd round picks. Turner was a 5th round pick.

    I hope DM and every player that Dallas drafts goes on to have a HOF career. Certainly, he has the talent. I think that the scheme is right for it as well. The million dollar question is – how will his UTILIZATION affect his ability to stay on the field.

  8. Tyrone Jenkins says:

    Correction: MJD and Rice were 2nd round picks (hit the wrong key).

  9. Greg says:

    Style points? The O-line and red zone has been a problem for years now with Garrett, mainly because his football cognitive wiring is more about finding ways of generating downfield routes than isolating protections and running the ball. He is like a airtraffic controller who is also responsible for dispatching cab service in the South Bronx: he can keep planes on the right route but has no idea how to safely carry anything in traffic in a timely or repetitive manner.

    But let’s go back to your thinking here Vince. I think if a team is 7-1 and squeeze out a victory there is not as a much a problem as when a team who can’t seem to identify itself as a winning presence somehow “foibles” its way to a victory. If you have no problem with Dallas somehow pulling out a sloppy victory and that a win is a win, then the opposite is also true. If you are saying that the ends justify the means and that the Jets and Lions game were just sloppy victories by the Jets and Lions that they should chalk up to their own skill and not Dallas’s blowing leads and making terrible plays. Dallas really had no recourse but to lose in those games.

    I really doubt you feel that way but my original point is that the airtraffic controller (Garrett) probably should have hired an OC with more experience dispatching the ground and air livery game so he can see the difference in thinking. He does not know that he does not know.

    “Just execute the plays I call and they will work every time, just like they worked in the early to mid 1990’s.”

    My guess is Jerry would start to lose patience with 400 yards of offense yielding 2 TDs and 3 FGs a game despite 6 trips to the red zone.

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