Dallas – Three Performances of Note
Stepping up: Part 1
When DeMarco Murray went down against the Giants last week, there was a a collective gasp, and then moment of silence from Cowboys fans that showcased their fear of losing Murray. Well, fear no more if Felix Jones (+2.9) continues to play the way he did in this game. The former first-round pick was good last Sunday but hurt his team by coughing up the ball, so this was a much needed game with little to be disappointed by (though he was somewhat fortunate to fumble a ball out of bounds). He forced six missed tackles, picked up 83 of his 108 yards after contact, and had a number of impressive runs–none more so than his jaunt down the field with 7:04 to go in the second quarter. Jones was given plenty of room to work with but hit the (large) hole with authority, before making Sean Jones miss in the open field and causing a huge panic in the Bucs’ defense on his way to a 37-yard gain. Has the performance of Murray lit a fire under Jones? Can he carry on? The answer to the latter could be what defines the Dallas season.
Stepping up: Part 2
Going into the game it was touch-and-go whether or not DeMarcus Ware (+2.3) would be able to suit up. Given that he only played seven snaps, it’s safe to say the Cowboys were taking a cautious approach with their stud defender, which meant Victor Butler (+3.2) got plenty of action opposite Anthony Spencer (+2.4). Neither man picked up a sack, but they were both able to get some pressure, with Butler tallying four hurries and Spencer, two hurries and a hit. Neither man is going to be confused with Ware when it comes to rushing the passer, but it’s encouraging that the Dallas defense didn’t give Freeman an easy time of things with Ware watching from the side.
Brilliant Bennett: Part 1
Mike Mayock made the point that Martellus Bennett (+5.8) hasn’t become the player Dallas expected him to be after he picked up a rare first down. It’s a valid point but one that maybe plays down what Bennett has become; one of the best blocking tight ends in all of football. The only player to get the better of him was his older brother Michael (who we’ll get to later) as Bennett had his way with Da’quan Bowers, Mason Foster and any other Buccaneer he could get his hand on. You don’t often see tight ends do as much quality blocking in one game but Bennett, who dominated Bowers at the line of scrimmage (putting him on the floor at 2:14 in Q1) and Foster at the second level (Q3, 10:28), had one of the best blocking performances of any tight end all year. Kudos to doing a job that goes unnoticed.