Yes, I know you don't want to hear this right now, and I really don't want to write this right now. I really want to stay home from work, catch a plane to Dallas, and visit every player personally and give them a piece of my mind. Or, just stay home and lick my wounds like a wounded puppy.
But life goes on, and I did see some positives. Am I stretching a bit to get to five? Definitely. Might my early impressions be wrong? Definitely. Is asking myself questions annoying? Without a doubt.
Again, I reserve the right to change these after I re-watch the game, but these are my first impressions.
1. Doug Free played a lot better than he has so far this season. Now, that's not great praise, considering how putrid he's been so far, but he did not seem to fold at the first sign of a bull rush or an inside move. I think he played pretty good when asked to block Peppers - who didn't get a sack. I also don't think that he got a whole lot of help. Free's improvement gives me great hope. This is the biggest positive I saw last night, without a doubt.
2. Tyron Smith improved as well. Tyron has played better than Free up to this point, but the outside speed rush was giving him the most problems - although he has given up pressure on inside moves as well. Tyron - in his fourth game as a starting left tackle since probably high school - seemed to play considerably better.
3. There was only one called penalty on the offense. That penalty was an illegal shift on Dez during what was essentially garbage time in the fourth quarter. The line committed no pre-snap penalties. I think the line played better in pass protection as a whole as well - Tony usually had a pocket to step up into, which can't really be said in the first three games. Tony also took a lot less hits than usual. Don't get me wrong though - more improvement from the o-line is needed.
4. Witten is back. No more needs to be said - and he seemed to have a little attitude as well.
5. The defense - which did not play well enough - should improve. The secondary missed Barry Church, but it will get better as the players get more experience - which includes McCray, and Carr and Jenkins playing some safety and slot. Jay Ratliff is coming back. And, from first impressions, Sean Lee played his best game of the year against the run - he was awesome.
6. BONUS: Romo got his real bad game out of his system. Even though Romo got hung out to dry by his receivers, his stat line does read 5 interceptions (even though it should be 4 picks and a fumble). Now, I actually think that Romo played well (until the game got out of hand), but Romo usually responds well to a bad early season turnover-fest; I think it reminds him that he is human and that he needs to play more responsibly sometimes. See the Giants game a few years ago (I think 3 years ago) and the Detroit game last year. After those performances, he went on a low turnover run for the rest of the season.
I can't be totally upbeat, so here are my two biggest concerns:
1. The o-line's run blocking was pitiful. This has a cascading effect in that the pass game becomes too prominent, and Murray becomes more hesitant in his play, because he has no trust that the hole will be where it is supposed to be. This causes him to cut back too soon, or to press when he thinks there might be a chance at a big play. Murray's development is being negatively affected by the run blocking.
2. Dez Bryant's physical mistakes. The two drops by Dez were inexcusable. His physical prowess is the one trump card that he should be able to rely on.
So, I've said my piece. I'd love to hear your comments below. Rip me apart, or give me further reasons for optimism. My opinion may even change after I have time to watch the all-22. Allow me to reiterate once more though: I think Doug Free's play was - without question - the biggest positive I saw last night. His arrow is pointing up (finally), and if he can continue to improve (which he still needs to do), this team becomes much better.