Hate week is a special time of year where some of the oldest rivalries in the NFL shape up into good old fashioned physical football games. I called into DCFanatic's radio show last week hoping to get a chance to speak with him and my personal cult hero Raf. DC didn't realize I had called in and said he would make it up to me this week. I really wanted to harp on the importance of hate week and how ugly this game could get. Fortunately both of my esteemed counterparts realize the importance of hate week and both predicted a tough football game.
Most of us realized how tough that game was going to be and expected a close game. If you would have told me before the game Dan Bailey would kick six field goals, I would have said your probably spot on about that prediction. It's just the type of game we see when we play the Redskins. They are a team that always plays up to our level and make it a physical football game where every point counts.
As always I will be highlighting individual performances, but I want to point out the defense. During the preseason I was not overly impressed with this unit as a whole, but as the regular season progresses I am beginning to see the value of Rob Ryan. In theory, I think this is going to be a unit that improves each week. The shortened offseason is a big reason for this. Ryan and company had limited time to install the defense during the lockout. Now we are beginning to see a more unified defense, we are seeing a defense playing as one, instead of 11 guys running around out there for themselves we are seeing selfless play.
You have to credit Ryan for taking some pieces that aren't exactly top notch and putting them into places where they can succeed. Ryan is also putting our good players into opportunities where they can succeed and have a strategical edge themselves. This was something Wade Phillips never fully accomplished as the leader of this defense. Can anyone actually say with a straight face that Wade gave our players an edge strategically? This is why Rob Ryan is a great coach, he puts his players in places where they have a strategical edge and a chance to succeed.
This defense is beginning to gel and come together. After years of not having faith in our defense to get the opposing team off the field in key situations, we are stepping up and making big plays when they are needed in key segments of the game. This defense was a HUGE factor in the last two wins, and even during week one where we should have won. They are stuffing the run like we did in 2009 and are not letting up the big passing plays that absolutely killed us last year. Credit Rob Ryan, but also credit the players. They have totally bought into the scheme and are giving maximum effort.
Okay now that I have bashed Wade Phillips for the week, let us move on and hand out some game balls. Without further delay, here is the original game ball series.
Tony Romo's performance last night is exactly why I am not a big fan of stats, except for in fantasy football. Romo finished with a QB rating of 70.9, while his counterpart Rex Grossman finished with a QB rating of 77.5. Now tell me who had the better game? Rex Grossman or Tony Romo? It's clearly obvious who had the better football game and the guy with the lower QB rating led his team to victory. Romo finished the game 22-36, completing 61 percent of his passes and threw for 255 yards. Romo's streak of throwing for a TD ended last night and threw one interception, but I will credit that pick to Kevin Ogletree.
On a side note, Kevin Ogletree needs to do a better job there. He didn't hustle and he quit on his route. That isn't the Cowboy Way or the RKG, not one bit. Personally I am done with Ogletree and I am giving up on him. He is far too inconsistent and his lack of emotional drive is not my cup of tea. I begged for a veteran wide receiver to be signed over the summer, I suggested Derek Mason as an option because of his route running and professionalism on the field. I still cannot believe this organization trusted Kevin Ogletree as their #3 WR. I am moving on from Ogletree, he will never be what some of us though he could be.
Moving back to Tony Romo, I want to point out his leadership last night. Now I have seen Tony do sideline coaching for a few years now, but it's something the MNF crew is just picking up. Romo is constantly involved with his offensive lineman, running backs and wide receivers on the sideline. Even last year when he could have been at home relaxing it up, he was one the sidelines with a clipboard and headset. There was even a bit of coaching on the field, another tactic Romo has been doing for a few years but again it's just being pointed out by the MNF crew.
Being a leader isn't necessarily yelling and screaming at people. That is the exact point I made about Bill Cowher and how people wanted him. Yelling and screaming doesn't make you a leader, yes I wanted to see more emotion out of Wade Phillips, but screaming at a player doesn't garner leadership in my eyes. Romo may get loud with a player like Phil Costa, but he won't dismantle the man and scream at him excessively to the point where Costa looks like a child.
Romo has been the only offensive player, sometimes THE only player keeping the Cowboys in games for a long time now. Romo's leadership and ability on the field last night basically won this team the game. He managed to keep his composure under constant pressure from the Redskins on full out blitzes, sloppy route running by our wide receivers and the mishaps of second year wonder boy Phil Costa. That is what impressed me most about his performance last night. Romo wasn't crisp and precise by any means over the full course of the game, but when we needed a play he made it count.
The Cowboys managed to come out of this football game with a victory and kept Romo pretty clean. The Redskins only had 1 sack and 4 QB hits. Romo survives and leads the Cowboys to a huge win on Monday night over a division rival. If that doesn't garner a game ball, than I don't know what will. All across the nation Romo haters are eating more crow by the week, man this is great. Keep up the good work Tony.
Felix Jones deserves a game ball in my book because he finally managed to get some big plays going last night. During the preseason I thought Felix was well on his way to a breakout year, maybe he still will have one, but for the first two weeks it didn't look good. Granted his first two performances came against top 3-4 defenses, but Felix didn't look like the same player I saw in the preseason tearing teams up. Keeping in mind Felix entered the game with a separated shoulder, I really wasn't expecting much from him.
The problem I have with people bashing Felix this year is mainly because of the fact that the offensive line is not doing their job in the run game. The shift towards the smaller and athletic lineman has not paid dividends in the run game until last night. We are not seeing the plays I thought we would see under a more athletic offensive line. Where are the plays where we get our athletic guys out on the run down the field? Where are these screen plays we all thought were going to be a focal point of the offense this year? I saw more of those types of plays last night, but we are still not executing or implementing them enough for my taste.
A truly underrated aspect of Felix's game is the ability to run in between the guards and earn the tough yards. Everyone raves about Felix's ability to get on the outside and cut up field, but people rarely mention his ability up the middle. I have noticed that Felix can work in between the guards and push forward, maintaining the fight to push forward for extra yardage.
The area where I have been critical of Jason Garrett's play calling has been in the second half of games. I don't have the stats in front of me and I don't need them either. Our run game really isn't all that effective in the first half of the games so far, but as the game wears on, the run game becomes more effective. Felix finally busted off a run longer than ten yards for the first time this season with two runs of 29 and 40 yards. In the fourth quarter we need to stay committed to the run game because it is working. Felix was earning his money in the second half and was finally starting to wear down the Redskins defense.
Felix had a great game on the box score finishing with 14 carries for 115 yards, that's 8.2 yards per carry folks. That is exactly the type of Felix we came to love in 2009 and parts of 2010. He has the ability to average big chunks of yards and take a play 30-40 yards with ease. Felix was also productive in the pass game finishing with 3 catches for 40 yards. Felix's two big runs of 29 and 40 yards and his big catch went for 27 yards. Felix can lead this league with plays over 20 yards folks, we just need to get him some space and holes by our blockers.
For being so "soft", Felix looked pretty tough. Here is your game ball Felix the Cat, enjoy it because it was well earned.
I am going to keep this one short and simple. As many of you know, I promoted and pushed this kid hard during the long cold months of the winter leading into the draft in April. I pushed hard for a reason, Tyron has the skills to become one of the best offensive lineman in the NFL. Now I don't care if you say he is just a right tackle, this kid goes against top pass rushers and is getting no help. The Cowboys trust him one on one and so far so good.
Tyron is simply doing his job and doing a great job doing it. The pressure isn't coming from the right side, it's coming from the left side. This kid is just the complete package and it's scary to think he is just 20 years old. He continues to get better and improve each game. I have seen only one penalty called on #77 this year, a false start. If he can continue to play like this, he should be mentioned for Rookie Of The Year. Of course he won't come close to winning that because he is a Dallas Cowboy and a offensive lineman.
Marc Columbo was hot garbage last year, and that's being nice. I love Tyron Smith, there I said it. I have a man crush on this dinosaur because he is the real deal. He is getting a game ball from me and I would give him one every week because that is just how good this 20 year old rookie has been. He was too small right? He was too much of a project right? USC offensive lineman suck right? He was too young right? Yeah that's what I thought, all you TRON haters go hide in your holes, straight up. He has been our best offensive lineman and it wouldn't shock me to say he WILL be our best offensive lineman this year. When you see talent, you see talent and that's just how it is.
The game ball weekly series might as well be called the Sean Lee man love fan post. How seriously good is this kid? He had another huge game and filled the box score up with 8 tackles, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery, 1 tackle for loss and 2 pass deflections. His 31 tackles are good for 2nd in the NFL and his partner in crime from Penn State NaVorro Bowman has 30 tackles just behind him. Looks like Linebacker U is officially back to producing linebackers again.
At halftime I went to the Cowboys official website and ordered my authentic white Sean Lee jersey. I was tempted to get the throwback, but the white jersey is pretty fresh too. That is how much I am in love with how this kid is playing. All the hard work Sean put into the offseason is paying off. The long hard hours in the weight room by himself is the exact reason towards his success in shedding off blockers with ease. He is blowing up plays in the backfield on the regular, like it's too easy for him. He is flying around the field and is becoming a true sideline to sideline player. Not bad for a kid who wasn't "athletic" enough for some Cowboys fans on here.
I won't take credit for predicting a breakout season from Lee, because many predicted a breakout season for him. If you watched him play in college or watched him towards the end of last season you could just tell. Sometimes it's ridiculously easy to spot stud talent, just like the case with Tyron Smith. Their play on tape just jumps off the screen and if you don't see it, then you just don't have the eye.
You know what amazes me even more? It's how Wade Phillips obviously loved this kid in the war room and drafted him. Wade always had a major input on the defensive players drafted here under his reign. But how does this man come out and say Sean Lee isn't a nickel linebacker last year? This kid is absolutely amazing in pass coverage, he has the speed, but he has the instincts of a good safety in my opinion. He just understands routes and what the quarterback is going to do. Not everyone is blessed with that gift, it's a sixth sense in many ways.
His fumble recovery on Anthony Spencer's strip sack to seal the game epitomizes the work Lee put in over the summer. Watch that play again and see how fast he gets to that ball. Nobody and I mean NOBODY was beating him to that ball last night. Man Sean Lee is becoming a star overnight.
I really could go on for 2,000 words about how good Sean Lee is becoming, but let's end it here. Another game, another game ball for Lee. If you want to go back and look at what was said about Sean Lee during draft time on here in 2010, I posted the links below. Terry is not only a Romo fan, but a huge Sean Lee fan and I found that to be very cool that Terry was behind Lee since day one. I have supported Lee since day one myself, kudos to Terry for standing tall.
DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer
One of the most important pieces of the 3-4 defense is your outside linebackers. Rob Ryan made that clear when he came to Dallas. You cannot win football games if you don't get pressure from your outside linebackers in a 3-4 defense and so far BOTH of our guys have been bringing it.
DeMarcus Ware was a monster once again last night racking up another sack to his league leading 5 sacks. Once again we saw Ware lined up all over the field, too bad Wade didn't use that theory. Wade's theory was DeMarcus was so good, he didn't have to line him up anywhere else. In Rob Ryan's scheme, he puts Ware all over the field to create mismatches for Ware. This would be my theory of putting your players in a place to succeed.
Ware was held all night long and I am not one to complain about not getting calls because frankly I am used to it. I honestly believe we don't get calls because of who we are, the Dallas Cowboys. But last night was absurd and over the line. Ware was being tackles, tripped and held all night long. It just goes to show you how good he is and certifies many of our belief in Ware truly being the best defensive player in the NFL.
Now while Ware was doing the best he could, his counterpart the Ware Wolfe Anthony Spencer was putting in work too. Spencer appears to be the player we saw in 2009 again and is generating pressure again. The best part about his game for me is his ability to set the contain in the run game and not get overextended. I just see a different Anthony Spencer this year and that's a good thing folks.
Both of our Ware Wolves are playing at a high level. Ware leads the league in sacks and Spencer is just behind him with 3 sacks. I won't call out any names specifically here, but if your interested in where the other 3-4 outside linebackers are ranked, then check the link out. http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?tabSeq=0&statisticCategory=SACKS&conference=null&season=2011&seasonType=REG
Both of these guys deserve game balls. Ware owned the night and Spencer finished the night with a Ware like strip sack. Congratulations boys, please keep it up because the Ware Wolves are on pace to lead the league in the representation of the best 3-4 linebackers in football again. Move over Steelers, Redskins and Ravens!
Buehler? Buehler? Buehler? Has anyone seen David Buehler? Oh we did Coach Garrett, he called in sick today. Buehler called in sick and once again Dan Bailey rose to the challenge. I really hyped this kid up during the preseason because of what I saw from him at Oklahoma State. The kid can kick, he is a real kicker. He isn't one of these gimmicks, COUGH Buehler COUGH, that play another position and just happen to kick. He is a kicker and that is what he will always be. He won't run 50 yards down the field and make a nice tackle, but he will nail all six kicks, something Buehler may only have nailed 3-4 off.
Bailey went from goat to hero in the matter of a game last week in San Francisco. I rewarded his performance last week for his courage and his rise under pressure. This week was no different. In a game against a bitter division rival, that also happened to be our 2011 home opener, Bailey nailed all six kicks and won us the game with his precision kicking last night. His kickoffs weren't terrible and nothing developed into a big return for the Redskins special teams unit.
Kicking 6 field goals like that is never easy, especially for a rookie place kicker. But Bailey nailed every single kick last night. 41 yards, good. 27 yards, good. 32 yards, good. 41 yards, good. 23 yards, good. Then with the game on the line, the pressure at it's peak he nails a 40 yard field goal to put the Cowboys up 2 points with under 2 minutes left to go in the game.
I think we have found our kicker and I am proud to say that. Kicking has been an issue for this team for a long time. Dan Bailey you deserved it kid, keep up this level of play and you will be a Dallas Cowboy for a long time son.
Last night was not a pretty win and that doesn't mean it is any less of a win or accomplishment. I knew this game was going to be a nail biter that went down to the last possession. You have to remember, this is the NFC East and that is how those type of games usually play out. I believe winning a close and hard fought game like that is just as good as winning a pretty game so to speak. DeAngelo Hall ran his mouth all week, and was burned by our boy Dez Bryant on a key third down conversion. We maintained blocking to the point where Romo didn't take too many unnecessary shots. Our offense was sloppy, but we are down our biggest playmaker and our second biggest playmaker is only at 70 percent. The offensive line needs to step it up, I am talking to you Doug Free. Seriously what the heck is going on? Are you hurt or something? Because Doug, we all know you are better than that, your a great football player so step it up man.
This defense is starting to gel and click at the right time. Every week this defense as a unit improves and that is great to see development like that after so much heartache during the lockout. Guys are stepping up all over the roster. One guy gets hurt, the next steps up. We are seeing the best safety play in recent memory here. Abram Elam has been a godsend for this defense with his leadership and understanding of the system put in place by Rob Ryan. There haven't been big plays over the top and the cornerbacks are banged up, but continue to play at a good level. The defensive front seven is getting pressure and our linebackers are making plays. This defense is only going to get better and better of the course of the season. So sit back and enjoy the ride folks.
We have finally found our kicker and that is a huge relief knowing we got a kicker who can come in and nail the kick down the middle.
Everything is looking up at 2-1, tied for the division lead. We should be 3-0 in my opinion, but let's move on from that game and look towards the future, which looks very bright. Up next is the Lions and that is the only thing we should be focusing on right now. The Lions are a good young team, but we are a better team people. We have too much skill on this team to lose this game. Our offense is good, our defense is good and we have great coaching. Let's go out there this week, have a great week of practice and film sessions and be prepared for Sunday.
I am so proud of this team right now, man does this feel great.
My Two Rants For The Evening
Enough about Martellus Bennett too, he sucks. Jermichael Finely makes that catch, easy TD. People say Bennett is behind Witten etc etc, but he gets his golden chance and blows it every single time. I wanted to draft Finley that year and the Cowboys drafted Bennett to open up the offense, imagine Finley in Bennett's role? Keep on defending Bennett, but I am done with that guy. Straight B U S T.
Tashard Choice? What in the hell were you thinking running out of bounds? That is why he will never get reps and because of the fact he looks slower than ever.