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

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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“Grading the’Boys,” Week 1: Cowboys at Redskins

Jonathan Bales

The Cowboys’ offense obviously didn’t execute well in Washington, while the defense was just the opposite.  Below are my individual player grades for the game, post-film review.

Player Grades

  • Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips:  C+

He gets an A- as a defensive coordinator, and a D as a head coach.  The Cowboys may have been prepared to play from an ‘Xs and Os’ standpoint, but not from an emotional one.

  • Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett:  C-

I actually liked the design of most of Garrett’s plays.  The Cowboys lined up in 25 different formations and, for the most part, ran unique, innovative plays out of them.  The reason this grade is low is because 1) the offense put up just seven points and 2) the decision to not take a knee before halftime was horrendous.

  • QB Tony Romo: B

Romo was good, but not spectacular.  He was off-target on eight passes, which is just about equal with his per-game average from 2009.  The decision to flip the ball out to Tashard Choice just before halftime may have been a poor one, but he also led a game-winning drive that turned out to be not-so-game-winning.

  • RB Marion Barber: B

Barber showed more explosion than he did in the preseason and his blitz pickup was solid, as usual.  Most importantly, he seems like he’s regained the fire which characterized his play from a few years ago.

  • RB Felix Jones: B-

I thought Jones would get used more than he did.  He received just 10 touches, and there’s really not much to report.

  • RB Tashard Choice:  C-

Normally I don’t put too much weight on any single play, but Choice’s fumble before halftime was a killer.  Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett should have called a quarterback kneel, but Choice has to play smarter as well.

  • WR Miles Austin: A

For anyone who was concerned about Austin’s play after receiving a big contract extension, Sunday night’s game is proof that Austin is the real deal and here to stay.  His blocking was good, too.

  • WR Roy Williams:  C

I’m convinced Williams is a receiver who can be good, but not in the Cowboys’ system.  He never gets particularly wide open, so he needs a quarterback who can put the ball on him and allow him to adjust.  Romo isn’t that–he scrambles and buys time to allow receivers to work their way open.

  • WR Dez Bryant: B+

I thought Bryant had a really good debut.  I was shocked by how often Romo targeted him, but he displayed his patented hands and excellent body control.  His catches to start the final drive were clutch.

  • TE Jason Witten:  C+

Witten did well in the run game (and in pass protection), but it almost seemed as if he wasn’t a part of the game plan on offense.  For whatever reason, he just wasn’t getting as open as usual.

  • TE Martellus Bennett:  B

Bennett was really solid in the run game, which is primarily where the Cowboys employed him.

  • LT Doug Free:  C+

You didn’t hear Free’s name called too much against the Redskins, which is a good thing.  He got overpowered at times by Brian Orakpo, but he responded by doing what he does best: using his speed and athleticism to lead the way on counters, screens, and so on.

  • LG Montrae Holland:  B

Not a bad night for the backup.  He missed a stunt on one occasion, but I thought he blocked pretty well in the run game.  The running backs ran behind him quite often, too.  He’s really not much of a downgrade from Kyle Kosier as a run blocker.

  • C Andre Gurode:  B+

I know Gurode gave up a sack, but that stemmed from confusion on his assignment (as opposed to getting beat physically).  Neither is better than the other, but Gurode thoroughly manhandled Albert Haynesworth most of the night.  Let’s hope he can keep that up against players who are trying.

  • RG Leonard Davis:  B+

I’ve heard that Davis is old and overrated, but he seems to be the Cowboys’ most consistent lineman to me.

  • RT Alex Barron:  H

For holding.  In all seriousness, Barron performed better than an ‘H’ grade.  He’s all the way up at ‘F.’

  • NT Jay Ratliff:  B-

Ratliff was good, but he got nailed for two costly penalties that really hurt Dallas.  You still want to see him keep his aggression up, though.

  • NT Josh Brent:  C-

Brent actually got a lot of snaps, but he didn’t make too much of an impact.

  • DE Marcus Spears:  B+

There’s a reason Spears is still starting.  He’s crucial to Dallas’ run defense.

  • OLB DeMarcus Ware: A

Ware was all over the place before going down with a neck strain.  Thankfully he’s okay.

  • OLB Anthony Spencer: C

The Redskins really didn’t double-team either outside linebacker that often, meaning Spencer had a rare off-night.

  • OLB Victor Butler:  C-

In his limited snaps, Butler was overpowered in the run game.

  • LB Keith Brooking:  B+

A high grade just for this.

  • LB Bradie James:  B

I’m not really sure why Coach Phillips blitzed the inside backers so often, but it didn’t seem to work.

  • CB Terence Newman:  B

Newman gave up a few completions to Santana Moss, but overall he played pretty well considering how much the ‘Boys blitzed.

  • CB Mike Jenkins:  B-

An ‘A’ in coverage and a ‘D’ against the run.  He’s quickly becoming Deion Sanders (kind of).

  • CB Orlando Scandrick:  B-

The entire secondary looked pretty good.  Scandrick still seems to be just a half step out of position, though.  He’s on the brink of a big-time game.

  • S Gerald Sensabaugh:  C

Sensy struggled some against Chris Cooley and wasn’t particularly devastating in run support.

  • S Alan Ball:  B

As was the case with former Cowboy Ken Hamlin, there really isn’t much to report on Ball.  He didn’t let anyone get deep, which is his primary objective, but he didn’t make any big plays either.

  • K David Buehler:  D

No touchbacks and 0-1 on field goals.

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Dallas Cowboys at Redskins Week 1: Final Film Study Observations

Jonathan Bales

I’ve already posted my initial game reactions and post-film study Cowboys-Redskins game review.  Today, I will discuss my film study and stat findings in even greater depth.

  • The Redskins’ blitz package was the primary reason the Cowboys had trouble on offense.  As I mentioned in my post-game notes and post-film study review, I thought Jason Garrett’s play-calling was actually pretty good.  However, the Redskins confused the Cowboys’ offensive line with constant stunts and surprise blitzes.  They showed blitz on 27 of 69 plays (39.1 percent) and also blitzed 15 times when they didn’t even show it.  Thus, they blitzed or showed blitz on a ridiculous 60.9 percent of plays.
  • You might be saying, “But Tony Romo is solid against the blitz, isn’t he?”  Yes, but Washington’s blitzes were much more difficult to block than “normal” blitzes.  Nearly every blitz came from players other than who was showing it, creating problems for Dallas and Romo.  Overall, I was really impressed with what I saw on film out of Washington.  I can honestly say that was one of the more innovative single game blitz packages I have seen in awhile.
  • One of my favorite plays of the night was the play the Cowboys ran with Barber, Jones, and Choice all in the backfield (below).  They motioned Jones into the backfield pre-snap to form a Power I, then handed the ball off to Choice on the weak side with Barber lead blocking. Meanwhile, Jones was trailing Choice as a pitch man. Choice ended up hanging onto the ball for a six-yard gain, but the ‘Boys could come back to that play down the road.

Disregard the fact that this diagram looks like it was drawn by a six-year old.

  • I’ve heard a lot of media and fans claiming that Marion Barber would have run for a touchdown on the team’s 3rd and 1 toss play on which Coach Phillips called a timeout.  This is simply not true.  Disregarding the fact that Barber doesn’t exactly have game-breaking speed, it was obvious that he wouldn’t have even broken into the open.  Of course it is impossible to tell if Barber would have broken a tackle, but even if he did, he would have presumably slowed up enough for another defender to reach him.  All in all, it probably would have been, at most, a 10 or 12-yard run.
  • Andre Gurode played well most of the night, but he did yield a sack.  Redskins linebacker Rocky McIntosh acted like he was going to drop into coverage pre-snap, then came on a slightly delayed blitz.  Gurode was fooled and lost his leverage, eventually holding McIntosh–a penalty which Washington declined because he sacked Romo anyway.
  • It appears the Cowboys will shift more this season.  There were three pre-snap shifts on Sunday night after only 15 in all of 2009.
  • The Cowboys called one particular play a few times, including twice in a row near the end of the third quarter.  The personnel is two tight ends, a wide receiver, a tailback, and a fullback.  The Cowboys lined up in 3 Wide Strong (shown below), with Jason Witten and Martellus Bennett both lined up out wide on the same side of the formation.  Bennett then motioned into a traditional tight end spot, and the offense ran a power run to the strong side.

The point of the play was to show a passing look before shifting into a more run-oriented formation, hopefully confusing the defense on their responsibilities in the process.  It also allowed for more “big boys” at the point of attack.

The play can be successful, but the ‘Boys need to be careful not to overdo it.  Look for a playaction pass out of the same formation within the next few weeks.

Random (and perhaps useless) stats

Yards by Down

  • First Down: 33 plays for 187 yards (5.67 yards-per-play)
  • Second Down: 23 plays for 104 yards (4.52 yards-per-play)
  • Third Down: 13 plays for 54 yards (4.15 yards-per-play)
  • Fourth Down: 1 play for 31 yards

Red Zone Play-Calling

  • Inside five-yard line: One run for zero yards, one pass for four yards (TD)
  • Inside 20-yard line: Three runs for 20 yards, three incomplete passes


  • Base (TE, 2 WR, RB, FB): Seven plays
  • 2 TE, 2 WR, RB: 17 plays
  • 2 TE, WR, RB, FB: 10 plays
  • TE, 3 WR, RB: 26 plays
  • TE, 4 WR: Nine plays
  • TE, WR, 3 RB: One play


As you can see below, Garrett did a really nice job of mixing up the formations.  The Cowboys lined up in an incredible 25 different formations on the night.

3 Wide Strong Right (1), 3 Wide Weak Left (1), Ace (4), Double Tight I (1), Double Tight Right Ace (1), Double Tight Left (or Right) Strong Left (or Right) (3), Double Tight Right Weak Left (1), Gun 3 Wide Pro (5), Gun Spread (1), Gun TE Quads Left (1), Gun TE Spread (4), Gun TE Trips (8), Gun TE Trips Empty (9), Gun Trips (4), Gun Trips Empty (1), I-Formation (3), Power I (1), Strong (8), TE Spread (5), TE Trips (1), Twins Left Strong Right (1), Twins Right (1), Unbalanced Ace (1), Weak (4), Wildcat (1)

  • The Cowboys motioned on 33 of 69 plays, gaining 160 yards on those plays (4.85 yards-per-play).  My 2009 study on Cowboys motions shows they weren’t particularly efficient then either.
  • As I detailed in my game recap, the Cowboys ran predominantly to the left on Sunday night (away from Alex Barron).  The chart below details the exact holes in which they called runs.

  • I predicted the Cowboys would run less draws this season, and they dialed up just three against Washington.  They went for a total of 14 yards.  The efficiency of draws will increase this season as they are called less often.
  • The Cowboys’ five playaction passes went for a total of 19 yards and a touchdown.
  • I counted eight of Romo’s passes as being off-target.  In my 2009 study of Romo’s throws, I noted he threw just over seven off-target passes per game.
  • The Cowboys were obviously concerned about their pass protection, because Jason Witten stayed in to block on 15 of the 47 passes (31.9 percent).  That’s up from last year’s rate.

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Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins: What We Learned

Jonathan Bales

Last week, I published my Week 1 Gameday Manifesto–a combination of “What to Watch” and DOs and DON’Ts” for Dallas in last night’s game.  Let’s review.  . .

What to Watch

How will Dallas use Dez Bryant and what sort of impact will he have?

The Cowboys didn’t phase Bryant into the offense at all, and that was a good thing.  He was targeted 13 times last night–the most of any player on the team.  While that won’t continue, it’s good to see the Cowboys aren’t afraid to use the rookie early in his career.  He’s NFL-ready right now.

Who will return kicks and punts?

The Cowboys used both Bryant and Akwasi Owusu-Ansah on punt returns, although I think they should choose one guy and stick with him, which I talked about in my initial post-game notes.

The same thing is true on kick returns, with AOA and Kevin Ogletree lining up back deep.  AOA is undoubtedly a better return man.

Will Redskins offensive tackles Jamaal Brown and Trent Williams be able to slow down DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer at all? Will Washington leave Chris Cooley or Fred Davis in on some passes to help them in protection?

Brown and Williams actually did a decent job on Ware and Spencer, considering the circumstances.  Ware had a sack and was all over the field all night, but Spencer was effectively contained most of the game.

I was surprised by how little the Redskins helped their tackles in pass protection.  Fred Davis stayed in to help a few plays and the running backs’ first read seemed to be outside (which is “backwards”), but the ‘Skins didn’t overdo it in protection.

Will Doug Free be able to contain Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo?

Sort of.  Free had an up and down night, as expected.  Orakpo bull-rushed him on a few plays and he’ll certainly be susceptible to that throughout the year.  The Cowboys really didn’t call any pass plays down the field until the second half, though, so Free’s job in pass protection wasn’t that difficult until then.

It isn’t going to get easier for Free in the next two weeks, as he’ll square off against Julius Peppers and Mario Williams.  Yikes.

Will Albert Haynesworth play?

He played, but not that well.  Andre Gurode really dominated him much of the night.  Let’s see how Gurode plays next week to determine if his solid play last night was due more to him or Haynesworth’s possible lack of effort.

How much will we see the dreaded “Double Tight Strong“?

Great news Cowboys fans.  The Cowboys lined up in the formation three times, but didn’t run a strong side dive once (after doing so nearly three-fourths of plays last season).  In fact, the first play they called from “Double Tight Strong” appeared to be a strong side dive, but Marion Barber ended up attempting a pass.  The play was unsuccessful, but I really like unique play-call.  It shows Garrett is aware of his tendencies from last season and trying to fix them.

The other two plays from the formation were a weak side power and a strong side toss.  The Cowboys also ran another weak side counter from “Double Tight Strong” but it got called back due to penalty.

How will Jason Garrett distribute touches among the running backs?

According to my numbers, Barber was on the field for 28 snaps and had eight carries for 39 yards.  Jones played 22 snaps and had eight carries for 38 yards, and Choice played 11 snaps and had five carries for 18 yards.  All three backs had two receptions.

The coolest play Garrett called all night was the option look with all three backs in the game at the same time.  The Cowboys motioned Jones into the backfield into a Power I.  They handed the ball off to Choice on the weak side with Barber lead blocking.  Meanwhile, Jones was trailing Choice as a pitch man.  Choice ended up hanging onto the ball for a six-yard gain, but the ‘Boys could come back to that play down the road.  I will examine it more in my final film observations.

With either Marc Colombo or Kyle Kosier suit up?

No, and it obviously hurt the Cowboys.  Enough said.

Will Andre Gurode be okay at guard if Dallas needs him?

They didn’t.  Other than one play, Gurode played really well.

DOs and DON’Ts for Dallas

DO run right at linebacker London Fletcher.

Surprisingly, the Cowboys didn’t run up the middle very often.  I have posted a graph below detailing how many times the Cowboys ran in each hole.

Obviously the Cowboys made it a priority to run outside against Washington.  I think you’ll see that trend continue against other teams as well, although I thought Dallas could have been slightly more effective last night running up the middle.  They averaged 4.68 yards-per-carry.

Result: Fail

DON’T blitz too frequently.

The Cowboys’ defense played well, but I was quite surprised at how often they brought pressure.  It wasn’t as much as Washington, but Dallas blitzed often on third down.  I still need to finish the defensive film, but a lot of the Redskins’ big plays in the first three quarters came against the blitz.

Now, the Cowboys didn’t get as much pressure with four rushers as I thought they might, so blitzing became a necessity at one point.  Coach Phillips came out blitzing, though, meaning it was part of the game plan.

Result: Fail

DON’T game-plan at all for any quarterback other than Donovan McNabb.

McNabb was declared near-1oo percent in the beginning of the week, so the ‘Boys surely didn’t game plan for anyone other than him.  They likely wouldn’t have done so even if McNabb’s status was more iffy.

Result: Pass

DO throw the ball early and often.

The Cowboys threw the ball on 47 of their 69 plays (68.1 percent).  They also came out of the gate throwing, attempting a pass on 12 of their first 14 plays.  I thought this was a really good strategy that, for whatever reason, simply didn’t work out.

The “whatever reason” may have been the variety of passes the Cowboys attempted–screens, rollouts, and other quick-hitting passes.  Actually, the Cowboys attempted eight screen passes on the night, including six of the first 13 plays.

This was obviously an attempt to compensate for a porous offensive line, but it severely limited the upside of the passing game.  Dallas obviously drifted away from this plan as the game proceeded.

Result: Pass

DON’T phase Dez Bryant into the game.

As I mentioned above, Bryant’s 13 targets led the team.  He will be a major factor this season.

Result: Pass

DO spell DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer with Victor Butler.

I still need to tally Butler’s total snap count, but it wasn’t very high.  When he was in, he got overpowered in the run game–something that didn’t happen much in the preseason. It is still imperative for the Cowboys to find a way to get Ware and Spencer some rest.

Result: Fail

DON’T try anything too risky.

Attempting a pass play from your own 36-yard line with four seconds remaining in the first half isn’t exactly the most conservative of calls.  There’s nearly zero upside in running a play, while the downside is monumental.  The worst-case scenario for Dallas came to fruition, and it was the primary reason the Cowboys deserved to lose last night’s football game.

Result:  Fail

Conclusions: Although the Cowboys obviously played very sloppily, they did some good things.  Garrett’s play-calling was actually pretty solid.  At the very least, it was less predictable.

They were only three-for-seven in my “DOs and DON’Ts,” though, and ended up losing the game because of it.  They say you can’t lose a game because of one play, but that’s simply untrue.  I would go as far as to say that most games are decided by one play.

For the Cowboys, that “one” play was actually quite a few plays, but that list is headlined by the Cowboys’ decision to pass the ball in their own territory with just four seconds remaining in the first half.  Kneel the ball, and you win the game.


I will finish reviewing the tape ASAP and provide my final film study observations by tomorrow, so check back then.

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Dallas Cowboys at Washington Redskins, Week 1: Initial Post-Game Notes


  • This will sound ridiculous, but other than two or three plays, I loved Jason Garrett’s play-calling.  He actually did a tremendous job of being unpredictable, but it just didn’t work out. . .this time.  If he continues to call plays in this manner, the Cowboys will be successful on offense.  Trust me.
  • The play-calling out of “Double Tight Strong” was tremendous.  Remember how the Cowboys ran a strong side dive out of the formation nearly three-fourths of all plays last year?  Well last night, they ran a toss, a counter, and my personal favorite. . .a strong side dive which turned into a halfback pass.  It didn’t work out, but that was simply because Washington was in the right defense for it.  That sort of innovative play-calling from Garrett is new and will help the Cowboys win an extra game or two this season.
  • The most obvious exception to Garrett’s success, and the primary reason the Cowboys deserved to lose the football game, was the decision to pass the ball with four seconds left before halftime.  Play-calling is all about risk/reward, and the possible reward in that situation was almost nothing.  It is a shame Garrett’s improvements the rest of the night were wiped away by one dumb decision.
  • The Cowboys need to stop throwing so many smoke screens.  Last night, they threw them against what appeared to be man coverage, when the cornerback was too close to the wide receiver for them to be successful.


  • You have to at least be somewhat excited about Tony Romo’s ability to bring the troops back down the field and in a position to win the game with about a minute to go in the game.  He didn’t play his best last night, but he was at his best when the Cowboys most needed it.
  • Who thought the rookie from Oklahoma State would be the Cowboys’ most-targeted receiver last night?  He did some good things, but he also appeared to miss a few hot reads.  That will come with time.
  • It is great to get Bryant involved, but if it comes at the cost of not throwing to Jason Witten, then the Cowboys might have a problem.  He had some favorable match-ups last night, but the Cowboys went other directions.
  • Can we agree Miles Austin is the real deal?  He is a running back playing receiver–and a Pro Bowl-caliber one at that.
  • It has to be said. . .Alex Barron was awful.  We all know it, so I won’t go into detail until I break down the tape.  If you feel bad right now though, imagine how he feels.
  • Tashard Choice’s first career fumble came at the worst possible time.  Still, I blame the coaches more for that play than Choice, even though he should have known to simply go down.
  • The Cowboys used undrafted rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski quite a lot.  He looked good on his lone carry, but Dallas needs to be careful with the play-calling when he’s in the game.  His presence could tip the defense to either a fullback dive or a pass (otherwise Deon Anderson would be in the game).
  • Other than one play, Andre Gurode had a good game.  He manhandled Albert Haynesworth at times.
  • Mike Jenkins showed why he’s probably the Cowboys’ best cover corner, but he still needs to tackle better.  His form is awful.


  • I was really shocked with how much playing time Josh Brent got.  He appeared to be in most of the time with the nickel defense and even some other situations.
  • Victor Butler was one of the few Cowboys who didn’t play well against the run.  He held up well during the preseason, but last night he got overpowered at the point-of-attack.
  • Did we all see how important Marcus Spears is to the Dallas’ run defense?
  • DeMarcus Ware was absolutely everywhere last night.  That’s true every game, but he looked particularly amped up for this one.  Let’s hope his injury isn’t serious.

Special Teams

  • I think the Cowboys need to pick a return man and stick with him.  The revolving door of Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Dez Bryant, and Felix Ogletree doesn’t allow one guy to get in a rhythm.  Akwasi should be the guy, in my opinion.

I am going to start breaking down the film.  I’ll post my findings within the next couple of days.

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