Dallas Cowboys , Detroit Lions Standouts, Notes, and Observations


The Dallas Cowboys will live to play another day. After falling behind early to the Detroit Lions, the Dallas Cowboys were able to mount a comeback and move on to the next round of the 2015 Playoffs. The playoff win validated their regular season success and kept the season’s once-improbable success rolling forward.

It took until the end to get it done, but the offense and the defense both stepped up to stop the Lions, take the lead, and secure the win. The game was sloppy and weaknesses were exposed. Before we dive deeply into game tape analysis, let’s look at some quick notes and observations:

DE Anthony Spencer is really hitting his stride. After earning negative grades through the majority of the season’s first 2/3, Spencer has logged positive performances almost every week. He’s becoming a strong player in run-stopping and pass-blocking alike.

DE Jeremy Mincey is every bit of Spencer and more. His season has been one of the most underrated performances by any Cowboy and he’s been at the absolute top of his game. Don’t pay attention to sack numbers – Mincey’s making a difference for the Dallas Cowboys.

With the stellar play of the Cowboys’ bookends, and the loss of Henry Melton, the #1 defensive line is set. LDE Spencer, RDE Jeremy Mincey, 1 Tech DT Nick Hayden, 3 Tech DT Tyrone Crawford. This is now head and shoulders above the second unit (Hayden is debatable) and will be leaned on heavily in the next round.

The Detroit Lions clearly were intent on stopping the run. Last week the Lions stayed back in varying coverages, and focused on stopping the Packers’ passing game. In turn, they gave up big yardage to the the Green Bay running game. This week the Lions decided to stack the box and stop the run first and foremost. The Dallas Cowboys responded to the Lions’ 8-man fronts with questionable play-calling and an atypical pass-heavy offense.

The first drive of the game the Cowboys responded to the Lions’ 8-man fronts by unsuccessfully passing. The highly regarded offensive line struggled picking up inside blitzes, outside blitzes, and basic linemen stunts. Romo was out of sync early and the pass protection did little to help him remedy the situation.

  • The Golden Tate TD was against a 2-man Cowboys blitz. The blitz was largely successful but the final execution was poor. Kyle Wilber was caught by the hard count and gave his blitzing intensions away. He was lined up on Tate, making Tate the obvious “hot route”. Rolando McClain was able to break through but he overran Stafford as Stafford slid up in the pocked. The call was good, the players just need to execute it better.
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    Jermey Parnell struggled early on outside blitzes and stunts. He improved as the game progressed but his total performance was a bit disappointing nonetheless. Doug Free still remains a possibility to return next week and the Cowboys could certainly use him.

    Rolondo McClain got to the ball but he was clearly missing some “pop”, failing to wrap up or complete routine tackles.

    WR Terrance Williams had the best poor performance of the day. I haven’t broken down every play of his yet but I can confidently say he has a negative grade on the day, despite collecting 2 TDs.

  • The defense is clearly only as good as the offense allows it to be. They need to be fresh in order to play which means the offense needs to control the ball and convert 3rd downs. As the offense improved, the defense improved. That has been a trend all year and is not just a coincidence.
  • Tony Romo often let the play clock tick all the way down before snapping the ball. The Lions would show blitz but it was usually too late for Romo to point out a “hot route”. Combine the lack of an adequate “hot route” with the offensive line’s inability to pick up the blitz, and Romo was a sitting duck left holding the bag.

    The Lions’ blitzing wasn’t exotic and should have been handled much easier than what we saw yesterday. You can bet the Packers are preparing to do the same thing and more. This is highly intelligent offensive line and you can be assured they will work hard this week to see this doesn’t happen again.

    The Lions packed the box early to stop the run but backed off as the game progressed. In the second half, the Cowboys could have run the ball more than they did, making the play-calling extremely curious all game long.

    Why are the Cowboys going empty backfield so often on 2nd down? Just having a RB in the backfield forces teams to respect the draw. Empty backfield just says one thing.

    The Dallas Cowboys dropped an easy INT (Carter), missed wrapping up sacks (multiple times), and fumbled a fumble recovery. These are missed opportunities they cannot afford to blow.