I'd say it was sometime in the second quarter of the Cowboys and Falcons game when an idea occurred to me. I have no idea if the Cowboys actually worked on this during the bye week, but something was different for the Cowboys offense on Sunday. And it's one of the most basic elements of offensive football that we don't really discuss.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys offense were getting to the line of scrimmage with plenty of time left on the play-clock. They were as efficient as I've seen them in a long time in terms of getting plays and personnel into the game. I can't recall a play where we were frantically jumping around to get set trying to avoid a delay of game penalty. We didn't waste a bunch of time-outs because we couldn't get set, either.
Why is that so important?
Because it gives Romo time to observe the defense, wait to see if any blitzers tip their hands, and then call out protections to his line and check to audibles if needed. By some quirk of microphone technology (and a quiet Cowboys crowd), we got to hear some of that going on. We got to see Romo stand at the line and very carefully point out everything he wanted done in a calm, cool manner. No frantic shifting or screaming, and no running to his spot in the shotgun to get the snap at the last second. He spent his last second before the snap looking at the defense, instead of watching the play-clock and screaming at Andre Gurode to snap the ball. No distractions let him focus on the defense entirely.
And on Sunday the Cowboys were very good about picking up Atlanta's blitzes, something that has bedeviled the offensive line for a while. Sure, we all remember Romo's amazing escapes during the game, but there were only a few, most of the time Romo was getting great protection and the running backs were right on cue in picking up the free blitzers.
A couple of weeks ago, the Broncos got a free blitzer from the edge that sacked Romo and created a costly turnover.
It was at some point in the second quarter of this game, when I noticed a secondary player for the Falcons creeping up on the edge. This time, Romo looked at him, and turned to the tackle and then the running back and pointed him out. They ran the play and the Cowboys picked up the blitz without a hitch.
I can't say it was all because Dallas was efficient in calling their plays and substituting personnel, but I don't think it hurt, either.