The Cowboys must come out from under their own dark cloud of mistake-filled football.
It's rant day if you're a fan of the Cowboys. After we've waited months for the season opener, our favorite team struggled mightily against one of our least favorite teams. Now, the Redskins sit atop "the Beast" with the Giants while the Cowboys join the Eagles in the 0-1 cellar.
Before I roll out a "bright side-type" post, let's vent. The disappointment of losing 13-7 to the Redskins will sting through this week, especially seeing that the Cowboys came so close to escaping FedEx Field with a win. The dark side of the Dallas loss will be discussed incessantly on every NFL news outlet, so let's prepare for what we should expect to hear.
The Alex Barron Holding Call
Obviously, the first thing on everyone's mind about last night's game will focus on Alex Barron. His stranglehold on Brian Orakpo sent a buzzkill deep into Cowboys nation. As Paul points out, Roy Williams was primed to be the hero. Instead, Barron will be the goat.
Peeking down at this list, the Barron penalty was not the only thing that cost the Cowboys the game. But he will get the blame. Folks will be calling for him to turn his cockeyed hat forward and realize the responsibility he has with a team that has high expectations.
All eyes will focus on Marc Colombo's return. Heck, I'd bet a bunch of you will take Robert Brewster or Sam Young instead. Now Orakpo is a top-notch player, so he's a handful for many tackles in the league. Have to give credit where credit is due.
Penalties, Penalties, Penalties
The crowd was loud. 12 penalties for 91 yards, though, is unacceptable. It's tough not to search the TV screen for yellow after Dallas makes a play, but this is an area of concern we fans are all too familiar with. Solutions to this problem seem to escape this team in recent years. Perhaps the Barron play will draw the coaches' focus even more on how the Cowboys tend to be their own worst enemy.
The Tashard Choice Fumble
The first fumble of Choice's career ends up going for a last second touchdown to end the half--a bummer, to say the least. Instead of going into halftime down by a field goal, the Cowboys go in down by 10. It could be argued that the game could've ended with a 7-6 Dallas victory.
Questions abound on this play. Sure, Choice should have held on to the ball. But should Tony Romo even have thrown that with four seconds left on the clock for such a minimal gain? Should Garrett have had his squad take a knee and look to regroup in the locker room? Is a Hail Mary even worth taking the chance from 1st-and-20 at your own 36?
The Timeout on the Marion Barber Carry
Who called this? Only Wade Phillips has that option from the sideline, as far as I know. But why would Wade call an offensive timeout when it looked as if they had the Redskins right where they wanted them? Somebody must've lined up wrong or something because Dallas was gaining momentum, which makes me wonder why you would call a timeout to allow the defense to adjust on 3rd-and-1.
Barber was "on" last night and looked as if he may have even scored a long touchdown there. He did end up getting the first down on the next play, which was nice; although, that toss looked very similar to the previous one before the timeout. Huh. Give me a little more variation please when the running game is succeeding.
Too Much Running Back Rotation?
Barber averaged 4.9 yards on 8 carries; Felix Jones 4.8 on 8 carries. 8 carries a piece, really? This is the same playcalling that drove many BTBers insane last season. The offense does have a plethora of weapons in the passing game, but the three-headed monster needs food badly. You could tell that Barber was pumped. Keep him in. He's the type of back that will wear down a defense, especially seeing that the interior offensive linemen were doing their jobs up front. Personally, it was disappointing to see Barber watching from the sidelines when you know he thrives off each carry.
Felix is a game breaker so you have to get him involved. He looked good as a receiver too catching a couple of passes for 26 yards. He also looked to have improved in the pass protection department. When he has a hot hand, keep him in. In my opinion, the rotation between him and Barber felt a little premature.
Garrett seems to have formations for each of his backs with the third-down duties going to Choice. It would be nice to see him stick with a guy until that guy gets tired and needs a breather. Then rotate until the next guy needs a breather and so on, especially between the 20-yard lines.
David Buehler's Missed Field Goal
Wide right from 34 in a tight, defensive game. Sigh.
More Special Teams Breakdowns
Without Buehler booming kickoffs through the end zone, he had to come up in support because Devin Thomas was flying through Joe DeCamillis' coverage team. Thomas averaged 38 yards on two returns.
On punts, I was surprised to see Mat McBriar hit two into the end zone for touchbacks. Danny McCray nearly stopped one short of the goalline though. The four other punts were either downed or kicked out of bounds so we didn't have a chance to see whether McBriar would have to cover his own kicks like Buehler did. Overall, McBriar's 6 punts netted just a 34-yard average.
Somebody pour DeCamillis decaf this week.
Orlando Scandrick's Rough Night
In college, Scandrick was known to block a kick or two for Boise St. His anticipation got the best of him when he jumped offsides on Washington's 4th-and-4 field goal try at the Dallas 18. Fortunately, Scandrick's '08 cornerback mate, Mike Jenkins, twice prevented a McNabb touchdown pass. And the botched snap on the 'Skins next field goal was surely another relief for Scandrick.
Working the slot CB position is no field day, so this is where I start to get a bit nit-picky. Scandrick has to cover the tight end at times, and then he will sometimes see the team's top WR as he did last night against Santana Moss. Moss was everywhere like he usually is against the Cowboys. For once, I would like to see Scandrick make a play on the ball instead of trailing a receiver. Giving up 10 to Moss on that 3rd-and-2 in the 4th quarter was hard to stomach.
Keith Brooking's Rough Night
Rough is the operative word here. Again, I'm being nit-picky because I really like Brooking; however, Clinton Portis was absolutely stonewalling Brooking on his blitzes. Portis is certainly one of the better backs in the league at blitz pickups, but for as many times as I saw Brooking charge in, you would think he'd be able to bust through a couple of times.
The Cowboys could use a nickel linebacker other than Brooking or Bradie James. It's a long season and these two veterans don't need to be running around after a guy like Moss in the middle of the field. Hopefully one of the youngsters, Sean Lee or Jason Williams, will be ready to help out in the next game or two.
Pass Rush Can't Get to Donovan McNabb
McNabb is an escape artist and tough to bring down. His offensive line played pretty well last night too. Nevertheless, the pressure from the Dallas defense frustrated me. I don't expect a sack every play (well, maybe I do), but McNabb didn't seem rushed into many bad decisions or play breakdowns. DeMarcus Ware did end up sacking him in the fourth quarter, and he and James each got a hit on him.
Jay Ratliff was doing his all to beat double teams and winning many of his battles. That makes me think that a guy like Stephen Bowen or Anthony Spencer would be able to make a play. In a tight game like that, a sack or forced bad throw can make the difference. It looked to me like Wade was dialing up the blitzes; the defenders just couldn't get there.
A tough loss like last night's brings up many more questions than answers. There were some positives to come out of the game, which I will cover in another post. For now, it's gripe time. It's nitpicking time. It's natural to accentuate the negatives after losing a game in such sloppy fashion.
I'm sure many of you have more gripes to add to this list. Bring them on...can't find solutions until you recognize the problems!