I started this FanPost after last weeks game against the Cardinals and as I mentioned then, reviewing games after a loss sucks something awful. Believe or not there are some bright spots in this game. Last week we all hated the play calling of Jason Garrett that didn't include any screens and the running game faltering without the presence of the 2011 version of "Moose", Tony Fiammetta. After reviewing this game (and thanks again to Kilyin over at www.cowboyszone.com for posting the game) there is but one culprit for this loss and we'll get to that after the jump.
I'd like to start with the offensive line; when DeMarco Murray emerged as "the man" many of us said that he was hiding the ineptitude of this young offensive line (our Yuglies). Without analyzing each individual player on the offensive line as someone always puts up the numbers after every game, what I have taken away from the last two games is that Tyron Smith will undoubtedly be the left tackle for this team next year. Whatever the reason, Doug Free has been the worst offensive linemen this season. After reviewing this game I noticed that Smith wasn't given much help in pass blocking, but John Phillips was consistently lining up on the left side, either in motion or by design. Left tackles aren't supposed to get that much help in protection because they're supposed to be the best. Additionally, Kevin Kowalski has played significantly well whenever he was called upon during the season. We learned during the broadcast of Sunday night's game that Garrett gives him practice reps with the first team offensive line. I think there should be an open battle for the center position next year and one of my pet cat (yes I'm looking ahead to next season, but not giving up on this one) for camp will be Kowalski.
It was tough to see DeMarco Murray lost for the season with a broken ankle, but I'm glad we have this kid. What's most important I found was the running game welcoming Tony Fiammetta back into the lineup. Without Fiammetta in at fullback, the running game was putrid at best, averaging 3.2 yards per carry, with him and that average goes up to 5.6 yards per carry. In this game the average yards per carry was 5.8, one tackle for a loss for -1 yard. Out of 24 rushing attempts only 1 went for negative yardage.
The biggest beneficiary from the return of Miles Austin was Laurent Robinson. The Giants were determined to keep Dez Bryant and Miles Austin from beating them and for most of the game that gameplan worked. But when you try to play man underneath with some type of safety help over top you're bound to get beat some kind of way. Forced to bring the SS down into the box to stop the running game because of poor LB play, the Giants were vulnerable on the back end. On the 74 yard pass to Robinson, the Giants had a safety rolled to Dez Bryant's side and were trying to keep everything in front of them. From the endzone view, Romo could have thrown the ball to Miles on a intermediate crossing route with a little room to run. With Dez keeping the safety occupied, Phillips and Miles underneath and Jason Witten running an out, Laurent Robinson keep running and credit Romo for seeing it and the offensive line for giving him the ability to throw it to him. This is really how dangerous the offense can be, we just hope and pray that they can be consistently dangerous, a la Green Bay, which is to say, no matter what defense you throw at us we can make you pay.
If I told you that Tony Romo was going to throw for 321 yards, 4TDs, no interceptions and the offense would give up 3 sacks and 1 negative rushing play, there no way anyone would say the Cowboys lose that game. But, with a HORRENDOUS defense, that was the case. There are some bright spots to this defense, although the real one is Sean Lee (Please God, let Bruce Carter be as good as Sean Lee, I'll even settle for comparable or 50-75% of what Lee is). The Giants racked up 510 yards of offense, Eli Manning throw for 400 yards, 2TDs, 1 interception and wasn't sacked at all. Before you say, sacks aren't that important, consider that Eli dropped back to pass 47 times.
After reviewing this game, Mike Jenkins was the best player in coverage. Terence Newman, as I have said in the past, is not a liability in coverage, but rather a liability on the field. After that (would be) pick-6, Eli targeted and abused Terence Newman the rest of the night. By my count, Newman was giving up 7-9 yards of cushion to the WR lined up on his side. The pass rush, or lack thereof, was despicable and Rob Ryan's defense couldn't generate pressure even when he sent 6 men at a make-shift offensive line that had a guards playing LT and a 1 game starter at center.
At some point, defenses have to make a stop. So Miles lost the ball in the lights; what more accurate is he didn't get to the hash where he should have gone -- but the defense was handed a 12 point lead and faltered. It's like a closer in baseball, you don't blame the offense for not score more runs when all the closer has to do is get 3-5 outs. He knows not to hang curve balls over the heart of the plate. Rob Ryan's defense, more than Jason Garrett's questionable decision making/play calling has been a major problem. The secondary isn't the best and we've known that for quite some time, but even with that put them in a position to succeed. If you're not getting there with blitzing do something different, please. If this continues, look for Mike Nolan to get a phone call at the end of the season. Any other team in the league, who's offense hands the defense a 12 point lead 5:41 to play in the game gives up a field goal at the most.
Anyway, watch it for yourself. Links are below. I'd really like to start reviewing games after a win, especially in December. Comments and constructive criticism are always welcomed. Thanks.