The Dallas Cowboys lost 34-18 last Monday to the Chicago Bears. If you’re new to my weekly Dallas Cowboys column, I share my initial thoughts on the game as I was watching, and then compare my immediate thoughts to the notes, observations, and grades I compile after re-watching the game a second time.
My first thoughts were:
- Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant had a bad game, his mental mistakes have been hurting the team all season. He dropped passes he should have caught, and it looked like he ran the wrong route occasionally. In general, he just looks undiscplined.
- The Cowboys offensive line didn’t run block well, but they were better in pass blocking.
- Romo will never learn the importance of ball security.
- Why doesn’t QB Tony Romo throw to WR Miles Austin more?
- WR Kevin Ogletree looked great after the catch, something I have never seen from him before.
- TE Jason Witten, after dropping an uncharacteristic number of passes last week against Bucs, seems to be back to his normal self; he was reliable, fought for tough yards after the catch.
- Why doesn’t Dez field punts on the fly? He gives up 5-10 yards every time he doesn’t.
- Why do we have a fullback (Felix Jones) returning kicks? When was the last time Jones took a kickoff beyond the 30?
- Not the best game for the defense, but the turnovers probably didn’t help,
After watching the game here is what I found:
The story with Tony Romo never changes for me. He will make some good plays, but those are more than offset by the absolutely unnecessary turnovers he causes. I prefer not to talk about him too much, because when I do I’m a “hater”, but frankly he has been subpar this season. If he isn’t going to make lots of great plays, then he has to cut down on the turnovers. He was no different in this game; he didn’t make too many mistakes, but the ones he did were really stupid turnovers.
The o-line has taken a lot of flack this preseason and during the season, but this is overblown. Against great d-lines our o-line gets beaten more than it wins, but most o-lines do nowadays. The o-line played really well against the Chicago Bears, relatively speaking. The run blocking wasn’t great, but it wasn’t terrible, either. Overall I graded roughly half of the team’s run blocks as good ones, and half bad (I only grade blocks “at the point of attack”). Against a strong Bears front 7, this was a good effort from a unit that still hasn’t played a lot together. I stopped grading when Romo threw his fourth interception, so some of Romo’s 41 pass attempts may have come after that, but I counted 9 pressures given up by the o-line against a strong d-line. That is extremely good. Of special note is Tyron Smith who gave up no pressures and had two good run blocks to no bad ones, very encouraging for sure. Free agent acquisitions Mackenzy Bernadeu and Nate Livings had subpar days, but they weren’t horrible like most would have you believe. RT Doug Free and the inexperienced Center Ryan Cook also played decently, even if they made mistakes.
Dallas Cowboy WR Dez Bryant had another bad game; the first 4 games of the 1012 season have been marked by multiple incompletions as a result of Bryant running the wrong route. I don’t know what excuse there is for not knowing the playbook after being with the team for more than two years. I think we have to start looking back at this pick and say….. Disappointment. As a player it is unlikely he is going to change; he will run the wrong route sometimes, he will very occasionally be penalised for not paying attention when someone is telling him to step back from the line of scrimmage, and he will make some great plays as a receiver and punt returner for you. The impact of him running the wrong route was considerable in this game.
Miles Austin had yet another great game, so I don’t know why Cowboys QB Tony Romo doesn’t throw him the ball more often. WR Kevin Ogletree played well besides the drop that resulted in an interception, but Witten has had his share of drops this year and he’s just been lucky that they haven’t been intercepted. I’m not going to criticise Ogletree more than someone else that has a drop for being unlucky. Dwayne Harris dropped his only target.
Witten played well, TE John Phillips had a nice run block. FB Lawrence Vickers was solid. RB DeMarco Murray had two fumbles, but outside of that played well given the blocking he had in front of him. Don’t worry about the fumbles unless they become a trend.
Overall, the Dallas Cowboys defense played well given what the offense forced them to deal with. They were hurt by some injuries, but held their own against a talented group. Against the run, they pretty much had a stalemate with the Bears’ blockers. Josh Brent got beaten a couple of times early on, but improved quickly, while ILB Sean Lee continued his history of shutting down the running game. Injuries really hurt the Cowboys’ pass rush in particular, which had a trickledown effect on the secondary. Ware had 3 pressures and Butler had 2, but the rest of the Dallas Cowboys defense only totalled 4 pressures. The main problem was that the d-line couldn’t get any push, meaning that the OLB’s were negated by Jay Cutler’s ability to step up. Hopefully NT Jay Ratliff gets better soon and can return to the field, cause we need him.
34 points sounds bad, but that is the result of a lot of offensive turnovers.
The secondary played average, but the pass rush was not much help. Rookie CB Morris Claiborne got beat on a double move by Chicago Bear WR Devin Hester. It happens to everyone occasionally. Gerald Sensabaugh and Brandon Carr gave up a couple of catches each; Scandrick gave up none. Mike Jenkins gave up a catch and Danny McCray had a pass deflection. Overall a relatively solid day.
The defensive line was decent against the run, but failed to get any pressure and as a group.. Worth noting is that rookie Tyrone Crawford looks much improved after struggling to get off blocks early in the season.
Of the linebackers, Ware and Butler got pressure, but would’ve been more effective with some help from the d-line. Carter did not have a gradeable play from me, so he was neither good nor bad. I’m not sure how many snaps he played, I do know he was injured for part of the game. Lee made some nice plays against the run. Victor Butler was criticised by some for consistently losing the edge in the running game, but this simply was not the case, as he only lost containment once. Where he was taken advantage of, though, was in coverage, as was Ware. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I think with Butler it’s a concern, as it is something he would have to do a lot of to supplant Spencer as the starter (which is not close to happening), but with Ware it was more of an anomaly due to how much he drops in to coverage.
Overall the team played relatively well, but turned the ball over far too much to expect to win. This was partly bad luck as the pass to Ogletree was deflected straight up in the air and gets intercepted for example. The o-line showed improvement which was very encouraging. Tony Romo either needs to be slapped silly or coached to take care of the ball (neither will happen), but his turnovers have to stop. After the biggest shellacking this team has had this year, I am still the most optimistic I have been all year. That is because the Dallas Cowboys have shown they have the talent across the board to compete with anyone. Before this game the O-line was a major question. It still has some concerns, but has now shown it can play good games against good d-lines twice. I am drinking the Cowboys kool-aid for sure.
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