As an expatriate in Taiwan (and no, that doesn't mean I used to be a Brady fan), I'm forced to receive my seasonal Cowboys fix by dragging myself out of bed on Monday morning either at 1:00 am or 4:00 am and seeking out the best possible stream on my outdated computer. I do this surreptitiously of course, so as not to wake the wife and kiddies. Because I work nearly 10 hours/day, it’s no small sacrifice, but one I make gladly for the team. Needless to say, this past matchup with the Hawks made for a miserable shift at the office. Now, I’m no analyst, but there were one aspect of the game that continually had me stomping my feet and wondering behind gritted teeth: Why, oh why were there no adjustments being made to correct a glaring mistake in strategy?
The biggest mistake of the game, in my opinion, lands squarely on DC Ryan’s shoulders. His soft defensive plan, though initially and arguably a justifiable call, was responsible, in this fan’s opinion, for much more than just a collapse in coverage. But first, consider that for 25 drop backs by Russell, Dallas responded with blitz only six times. SIX!! With the likes of Demarcus Ware being wasted on coverage instead of flattening a Rookie quarterback slow to read a defense but allowed nevertheless to throw at will from the pocket, this is the epitome of soft game play. I understand Ryan expecting the errant pass, the tipped ball, the misread and ensuing turnover. But it just-wasn’t-happening. Granted, the prevailing theory of some NFL punditry was that Russell’s height and inexperience could be a hindrance from the pocket, and it might be better to keep his running skills contained therein. But Russell completed nearly 90% of his passes for over 150 yards when Dallas failed to blitz. Say what? Considering what the Cardinals did to him the previous week by sending 4 and 5 man blitz packages his way for multiple sacks and a net yardage below 50 yards on 18 attempts, it had me pulling my hair and left me stupefied as to why Ryan PERSISTED in a defensive strategy that was clearly a losing hand.
Here’s an interesting stat: less than three yards per attempt on blitz; about 8 yards per attempt without. At what point is a defensive coordinator supposed to pull his head out of his rectum and recognize a failed policy when he sees it? And it is this continued soft strategy which I believe trickled down to the hearts and heartiness of the defense as a whole. As KD mentioned, who could possibly know the hearts of men on a gridiron. But it isn’t farfetched to presume. After all, where was that “pop” the Seahawks were so happy to serve up to the likes of Lee and Witten and Bryant? If the only hit you can muster is on a receiver “after” he’s caught the ball for a first down, believe me, the wind will go out of a sail pretty darn quickly. Not an excuse, I know, but it’s beginning to look like Jason Cole of Yahoo Sports may be right about Dallas’ lack of mental toughness as a team. I certainly hope not, and recognize that those types of intangibles can be reversed with the right coaching and game plan. Let’s hope Ryan and Garrett get it together sooner instead of later, and get these Boyz amped to be the champions I know they can be. Thanks.