Monday, September 08, 2008
For those of us who have predicted the Dallas Cowboys as the best team in the NFC, and maybe the best team in the NFL, yesterday served as a show of force. For those that doubted the Cowboys were really “all that good”, yesterday must serve as a disconcerting example of a possible miscalculation.
We know this much: The Cowboys offense has so many weapons from which to choose, and a QB that seems to know how to utilize them more than not, that they scored 28 points in Cleveland, while looking like they should have had 40+. And when the defense begins to get comfortable, with its many weapons, you would be hard pressed to expect most NFL offenses to score at will against them.
One week down in an ever-evolving National Football League (Tom Brady). The Cowboys overwhelmed the Browns in what was supposed to be a tricky day, and now prepare for an equally impressive Eagles team next week at Texas Stadium on Monday Night Football. Both teams are very good. And the Cowboys haven’t won at Texas Stadium against the Eagles in the Tony Romo era. But, more on that later; For now, let’s discuss the events at Browns Stadium – week 1 of the Cowboys season:
• So much for dipping your toe in the water. So much for needing to look in sync in the preseason. The fact is that as soon as the Cowboys touched the ball yesterday, Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Jason Witten, and Terrell Owens looked as sharp as ever. Add in Patrick Crayton, and the strong offensive line, and you have a team that will give every opponent on the schedule fits. I said this last week, how can anyone think the Browns have a chance in a game if they cannot tell me how they were going to get pressure on Romo? If you give Romo 4 seconds every drop back, he will destroy you. The Browns have no pass rush without a blitz, and they had almost no pass rush at all yesterday.
• And, looking back, isn’t it somewhat amusing to suggest that looking at the Browns big 3 (Derek Anderson, Kellen Winslow, and Braylon Edwards) is like looking in the mirror? Sorry, those three are nice – although I would like to nominate Anderson as a QB without staying power – but give me Romo, Witten, and Owens over any 3-some in the game right now. To think that the Browns would be able to handle that “big game” atmosphere that they seldom see – and that the Cowboys see 8 times a year – sure appears to be folly in retrospect.
• All sorts of things to consider on the Browns Touchdown pass in the 2nd Quarter, not the least of which would have to be “what was Ken Hamlin thinking”? Take a look at a replay of that rollout right and try to figure out what his plan was on that play. It looked like Winslow was his responsibility and to leave Anderson to Greg Ellis. When the play developed, it then appeared that he didn’t think Ellis had him, so he left Winslow to go get him. In the meantime, Anthony Henry saw that Hamlin had Winslow, so Henry looked for someone else to help with, and both players left 80, who ended up making the secondary look like the Keystone Cops. Thankfully, aside from that play and the PA pass that Braylon dropped on the same drive (where once again it appeared to be Hamlin’s bust) the secondary looked pretty solid. With 2 rookies and a player who has been suspended since 2006 on the field quite a bit, pretty solid is very good.
• Joe Thomas is awesome. But DeMarcus Ware got him. 2007 sacks allowed in 16 games for Thomas: 1. 2008 sacks allowed in 1 game: 1.
• Marion the Barbarian ran like a guy who doesn’t respect his body. And then his body responded with some bruised ribs. I hope he can play next week, and this is the slippery slope of counting on him for 16 games. There are some guys who play in a manner that doesn’t seem to appear susceptible to injuries. And then there are player who seem to beg for injuries by trying to maul every opponent on the field. Meet the Barbarian. But his quality is such (30 Touchdowns in 32 games) that he may be forced to dial it down a bit to stay on the field. It is a
• Those of us who follow the Cowboys closely have wondered what the defense might look like with consistent inside pressure from the interior of the defensive line. With a motivated Tank Johnson, a motivated Marcus Spears, and an always-solid Jay Ratliff, something tells me that we may not have to wonder any longer. Insider pressure was happening on Sunday against the run and pass. Especially on 3rd downs where Cleveland went 3-9. At least twice, I saw the Cowboys in the Nickel, blitzing their slot corner, Anthony Henry, to get even more pressure. I love it. If the QB is running for his life, he will not burn you often.
• Should we be reading anything into the fact that Orlando Scandrick played way more than Mike Jenkins?
• Should we be reading anything into the fact that Roy Williams seemed to play less than ever before?
• Review of Cory Procter, who is starting his first game at Left Guard for the injured Kyle Kosier: Mixed reviews for Procter, who had his hands full with big Shaun Rogers. It appears in space, especially when pulling on run plays, Procter is very effective. He had many blocks where the defender never had a chance. However, most young OLmen worth their salt are better on the run game. Against the pass, when you blow an assignment, everyone notices, and there were at least 2-3 times where he was clearly smoked. One time, in particular, he had a very confusing holding penalty where a 360-pound Rogers is sprinting by him and Procter’s only solution is to try to hold him back by grabbing Rogers’ shirt tail. I am not here to attempt to team Procter about physics, but when he is past you, you might as well let him go. All in all, he is a capable backup, and as long as you account for his man beating him occasionally, you can survive in the short term.
• Lots of penalties on the Cowboys, and plenty on the Offensive Line as Adams, Davis, Procter, and Colombo all had flags thrown at them. Add in a couple from Owens and Dallas had 11 penalties for 82 yards. Incidentally, what exactly did Owens do wrong on his offensive pass interference? On a day where you can only nit-pick, there is the big item of disappointment. That will need to be cleaned up for Week 2.
• Tony Romo is still amazing. His INT was just a simple loss of focus, as he occasionally gets so hot that he ignores his reads, but overall, his day of 24-32-320 was simply great. If you are a safety against the Boys, how do you let Owens over the top? Isn't that objective #1? As we approach 30 career starts (this was #27 in the regular season), isn’t it safe to suggest that his bad days only happen about twice a season? Look at his game log, and last year you had his game at Buffalo and his home performance against Philadelphia (with the hurt finger) as his only two poor games. And please don’t even try telling me his playoff performances were bad. At Seattle and against the Giants, the QB play of Romo was plenty good to win both games. They didn’t lose because of their Jedi. He is the best QB in the NFC.
• Looks like Greg Ellis gets credit for carrying out the scheme of the defense yesterday, which required him to get physical with TE Kellen Winslow rather than rush the QB. The idea of “bracketing” a TE with a LB tight and a Safety over the top is the best way to handle things. Isn’t it odd that it still doesn’t work with Witten?
• And then, Felix Jones is unleashed. I might have to forget my wishes for Rashard Mendenhall. It looks like Felix might be a bit more special than I thought. Of course, he will get goofed on for his “blitz pickup” on Willie McGinest. Not text-book, Felix. But amusing!
• Romeo, Romeo. What the heck are you kicking a FG down 21 in the 4th Quarter? 4th and 3? Do you want to get booed?
• All in all, a simple butt kicking. Very impressive show of strength. Now, how about showing some strength at home with the Eagles? Since the famous Pickle Juice Game of 2000 the Eagles are 6-2 in Dallas! This needs to stop. Monday Night.