In this series I will pose an idea, stat, decision, play, performance or any other imagineable concept pertaining to the sport of football.
NOTE: Please keep a mental note of all commented topics as there will be a poll at the end of the article.
Sean Lee is playing a brand of football that hasn't been witnessed from a middle linebacker standpoint here with the Dallas Cowboys. He has taken advantage of turnover opportunities by playing with an instinct for the ball or the flight of the pass. At the halfway point he is tied for first in the league with four interceptions and in first with 174 return yards as well as second with 81 tackles. He accumulated for half of the turnovers from this past game with two interceptions and almost took one to the house as he was tackled at the four yard line after returning it for 74 yards.
Special teams is the only phase of the game where the Cowboys clearly had the advantage in this game. Dan Bailey had not one but two field goals of 53 yards as well as a 44 yarder to go 3/3. He also helped out on kickoffs by kicking six of seven for touchbacks. Dwayne Harris was up to is usual self in the return game even though he didn't return one for a TD he had a nice 56 yarder. In total he had three kick returns for 113 yards and two punt returns for 25 yards.
Jeff Heath, the undrafted rookie, made his first NFL start in his home state of Michigan. He not only made the start but had an impact as well with nine tackles which was good for a tie for second on the team. The most memorable was the Calvin Johnson catch and run for 87 yards in the first quarter. Heath caught up to "Megatron" and made the push out of bounds at the three yard line. He then forced a fumble of Reggie Bush near the sideline as he tackled him it was recovered by the former Detroit Lion Justin Durant. Heath made the most of his opportunity with more than 80 friends and family in attendance to witness his phenomenal play.
The Defense gave Matthew Stafford all kind of time as he was only hit seven times and sacked just once. Stafford is an excellent QB with a quick release but definitely not the quickest. He is no Peyton Manningin that regard, but without any pressure he was able to go off for 480 yards passing on 33/48 passes. One thing he has been great at is his fourth quarter play with six TD's and a 123.3 rating(before the game). The overall redzone D was nothing to be proud of as all of their scores looked too easy. The runs by Bell and Bush and of course the slant to Johnson in the first quarter but the killer was the Stafford one yard leap with :12 left as he faked everyone on a spike to kill the clock. Calvin Johnson had an all time receiving record vs. the Cowboys with 329 yards that was also good for second all time to Willie "Flipper" Anderson in NFL history. The total yardage that Detroit accumulated was 623 which is starting to be more than a concern at this point considering the 422 yard average which is a league worst.
The Offense had very mediocre play throughout the game and other than Romo's three TD passes nothing else to be positive about. They were 3/13 on third downs and this was probably why the time of possession was won by the Lions as they managed to keep the ball for 35:11 of the game. Dez Bryant had his first catch a (TD) with :46 remaining in the first half, this approach isn't going to be very effective if he isn't utilized within the offensive gameplan. The late possession in the fourth quarter was absolutely mind boggling as they only used :55 of game clock(3:27-2:32). The Lions used only one timeout after two rushes of -3 yards. After a quick turnover on downs they received the ball in great field position with 1:24 remaining on the clock and only used :22 seconds after again running twice for negative yards. The key play on this drive was when Tyron Smith was flagged for a hold on third down forcing a FG on the next play.
Coaching will always be criticized in a game like this but for great reason. If you need to adapt offensively or defensively it shouldn't be a problem to implement a contingency plan. The offense was out gained 254 yards to 95 in the first half and it didn't improve in the second half. Callahan didn't put the pressure on the Lions weak secondary as they did to the Cowboys. They only scored ten points off the four turnovers created which is completely unacceptable and absolutely supports the 4-4 record. The defense is setting too many records that are nothing to be proud of and Kiffin's scheme is getting exposed by the upper echelon QB's. The passing yards allowed is not even close to championship caliber and will be hard to overcome or duel against the good teams/QB's. Garrett is very patient and almost to a fault, this may be his downfall considering the mediocrity.