How about some further thoughts and observations following the Cowboys 5th win of the 2010 campaign?
* Perhaps there is nothing more remarkable to talk about in this game than the fact that the Cowboys had some of the greatest field position you could ever dream of. Part of the credit must go to the Cowboys defense for generating some takeaways and the rest of the credit goes to the special teams but the Cowboys never really had to deal with a long field all day. And you know, with the Cowboys offense in the shape it is in health-wise, that is a great accomplishment. The Cowboys had 70 offensive snaps and according to my numbers, they took 48 of them (69%) in Washington territory! As they built their 27-7 lead early in the 3rd Quarter, Dallas only took 8 of their first 47 snaps on their own end of the field. Sometimes the field gets tilted in your direction and sometimes it doesn't. On Sunday, the Cowboys really enjoyed the field being tilted their way. Bryan McCann did a nice job again and the takeaways under Paul Pasqualoni continue to be a bright spot.
* It sure seems like we have gone way too far with this roughing the passer business. I don't mean to complain about this each week, but at some point we are going to have to decide if we are still playing football or not. I have no issues with trying to get the safeties across this league to stop launching themselves as projectiles into the jaws of defenseless receivers. There is no reason for that nonsense. But, the impossible rules that are put down to protect QBs have just gone too far. The flags yesterday are another example of having the right intention but just going way to far with the rules. Nobody wants to lose QBs to injuries, but these rules require a player like Anthony Spencer to sit down and consider his options to take down a QB in a game that happens in a blink of an eye. It is just not practical or reasonable. We have gone too far.
* Mat McBriar is so solid most times that we only notice him when he does something ordinary. And his 28 yard punt in the 4th Quarter was horrid and set up the Redskins game-tying score with a very nice, short field. But, I love his ability to bounce back because moments later he needed another punt to help prevent a loss. From the Cowboys 42 yard line, he stuck a punt down to the Washington 4 yard line. It was an excellent moment to dust off a nice 54-yarder that pinned the Redskins very deep. Meanwhile, his buddy and former camp-mate in San Antonio, Sam Paulescu, who now punts for Washington had an incredibly dubious moment where he tried, succeeded, and got away with a punting foul on McCann. Someone will have to explain to me how a team of refs thought that was a legal maneuver.
* Victor Butler continues to demonstrate that when he is on the field, he gets sacks. 5 sacks in 2 seasons in very, very few plays would certainly calculate to a far greater sack percentage than Anthony Spencer who has 9 sacks in the last 2 years. Not saying he is better than Spencer, but I am saying we can consider a bit more of a rotation because obviously the defense is not as good in the 2nd half, partly because the pass rush is not doing the job. Perhaps that relates to fatigue. And if you have a depth guy who gets sacks when he gets the chance, should we not consider giving him more of a chance? If he is a 1-trick pony, isn't that a very impressive trick?
* I certainly don't want to be the old man here (geez, I am only 38!), but wasn't it a better day when Wide Receivers wore the proper Wide Receiver numbers? The Cowboys had 3 WRs active yesterday and they wore #15, #17, and #19. Come on, those are all punter and back-up QB numbers! Why not something in the 80s anymore? I guess I sound old, but the NFL has some traditions that are pretty solid. And, I also like my roof open on a nice weather day. Of course, Good Old Days Syndrome would never allow for a giant TV inside a retractable roof stadium so I guess I better get with the program.
* What has happened to Miles Austin? Well, 2 things really. 1) - The opponent works all week on a game plan to limit you from doing what you want to do against them. They are not going to let your most obvious weapon have his way with them if they can help it. And 2) - The Cowboys are rolling with a QB who does not throw the ball down the field well. I feel like I need to put together a throw chart - like a shot chart in basketball - to demonstrate the differences in attack of Jon Kitna and Tony Romo. It might help fans see the difference rather than deciding that because one of these guys does more yelling and fist pumping that he must be better. I guarantee you that the WRs don't need a throw chart. They realize when they run one of their vertical patterns that they are just doing it to give Felix Jones and Jason Witten space underneath. And the truth is that despite the idea that most of the throws are either quick outs to WRs or dump offs to RBs and TEs, the Kitna to Witten combination has been very effective. Surely the defense knows that is where Kitna wants to go on 3rd Down, and yet, they can't seem to stop #82. I am starting to think that rumors of his diminishing skills might be greatly exaggerated. Regardless, I would not worry about Miles Austin and I would not blame his attitude or his love life. I think his production is down because they have a deep threat with a QB who doesn't need a deep threat because he doesn't throw deep. Romo will be back and then Austin will go back to dominating, I assume.
* The Cowboys safety position is just not where it needs to be. Gerald Sensabaugh played better this week but still no physical presence across the middle. I think the hardest hit he has had all year was when he took out Orlando Scandrick in Indianapolis. Meanwhile, Alan Ball gets played like a game of chess all over the field by opposing QBs. This is a conversion project that has just not worked like they planned. It would be one thing if these two were on the field because of injuries, but this pair of safeties were the plan all along. They were the starters from April on, and I just think the Cowboys demonstrated that they do not always have a shrewd eye for talent if this was their plan. Must address this spot posthaste.
* The running game looked better yesterday. It is difficult to measure the ability of the running game when you play teams like the Colts or Redskins who do not stop anyone on the ground, but I do believe we are seeing some signs at times (although last week against Philadelphia was horrific). But, if you do squint your eyes a bit, you can see how a Felix Jones/Tashard Choice combo could at least give you a chance in 2011.
* How do you bench Donovan McNabb and then make him your captain for the day? That is cold and heartless. Come on, Shanahan. It is like you want everyone to hate you when you do stuff like that to a pro who has always acted like a pro.
* Penalties were back in big numbers yesterday. 9 penalties for 70 yards brings us back to the games early in the season when the Cowboys were running away with the league lead. We don't need a relapse in that direction. Discipline is a must for this team under Jason Garrett.
* I thought DeMarcus Ware was very good again and congrats to him for getting to double digits yet again. Here are his year by year sack totals since 2005 when he was drafted: 8, 11.5, 14, 20, 11, and this year, 11.5. In 2009 and 2010, he has seen more double teams than ever before and has still been quite productive. I am concerned that his flank seems to be attacked quite a bit because of his sack focus, but I can take the minimal bad that comes with all of the good that he brings to the table. Only 1 other player in NFL History has had 5 double digit sack totals in a row if I heard Fox correctly (Simeon Rice, 2001-2005) so we know that Ware is beyond special. Good work from the 28 year old LB who still has plenty of good season to go.
5-9, and a Christmas Night trip to Arizona is next. The newness of Jason Garrett is not so new, so it will be very interesting to see how he gets this team to focus with offseason right around the corner and traveling on a holiday where nobody wants to be away. Their effort level on Saturday will be quite telling.