Looking at the offensive stats of both teams, it's pretty hard to imagine that the Cowboys lost the game of the year yesterday. When you look at the roll call of heavy hitters, the Cowboys skill position players had bigger days than those of the Broncos. Save for the timing of the turnover, quarterback Romo outdueled the already-crowned MVP Peyton Manning. While the Cowboys executed the games only punt, amazing in itself, the team only faced third down six times for the entire game.
Six! But alas, it wasn't meant to be.
While we sit and lament the defense's shortcomings, and try to tell anyone that will listen that most NFL folks will tell you it takes approximately 1.5 years to learn a new defense... we can still appreciate those who did everything they could to win a game that will be talked about for a long time coming. Here are my Three Stars for the game.
Allow me to admit that I was making a serious case that Jason Witten has in fact, slowed down. There are several categories that I feel are good indicators of individual performances that have declined steadily over the last six seasons for Witten. My sentiment goes beyond the decline of his YPR suffered last season, which continued through the first four games of 2013.
While I'm nowhere near ready to throw in the towel on that argument, for one game, Witten provided me with a big can of shut the front door. Due to the Broncos defensive woes, the attention they had to pay to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams and some Romo-Magic, Witten had a renaissance day. 7 catches on 10 targets, good for 121 yards and a score. Beyond the stats, Witten made crucial plays at crucial times.
After Morris Claiborne intercepted Manning and once the fourth quarter started, Romo went to Witten four consecutive plays. Complete for 15, complete for 26, incompletion, 10 yard touchdown to take the lead; coming all the way back after a 28-3 Denver run. Who recovers from an opponents 28-3 run? The Cowboys do, that's who.
What a coming out party for the rookie. Our own Rabblerousr spoke to how defenses would change how they play the Cowboys once Dallas could actually put on film the ability of Williams to take the top off a defense. Welp, that has now happened.
Williams was spectacular in the game on Sunday, building on the positives he displayed in the Chargers game and leaving behind the drop and the fumble. 4 targets, 4 catches, 151 yards. The 82 yard touchdown wasn't enough... it was the way that he accelerated once he caught the ball. I swear he had a 5-yard cushion only 7 yards after he caught the pass with a defender step-for-step with him.
I've been a vocal supporter of Dwayne Harris getting more snaps, even though I loved the pick of Williams to eventually replace Miles Austin. If he can do what he did today (the yardage totals will be hard to duplicate), than this offense has a chance to be consistently great.
It would seem that Tony Romo simply can't escape his own mojo in some cases, if you believe in that sort of thing. Really? The left tackle foot gets in the way of the throwing motion at that point of the game? Right when they can't have an interception?
An undrafted quarterback out of Eastern Illinois just turned in the 12th highest passing yardage total in NFL history, in addition to five touchdowns. It was the game of all games, regular season-wise of course, that any quarterback could ask for. However, on his final pass, his foot got caught up in his tackle's, and he made a throw with no zip. The linebacker made a great break on the ball and zoomed past the target of rookie TE Gavin Escobar, who didn't seem to attack the ball like you'd think he should.
But lawd, look at the rest of the game Romo had. It was Romodini over and over again, escaping pressure like a guy no older than 32. Romo had at least two escapes worthy of making his career highlight reel. He had an 80 yard pass, a 70 yard pass and 9 (!) total passes of at least 20 yards. He averaged 14.1 yards a throw, bringing his season average all the way up to 8.1 ypa. This wasn't all run after the catch, either. His Average depth of target was 11.3 yards past the line of scrimmage per PFF. Here's what SB Nation's James Dator had to say about Romo's 2013 season, in which he's now passed for 13 touchdowns against just two picks.
Tony Romo threw another late interception which will unfortunately overshadow his play. It wasn't just that Romo threw for over 500 yards, it's that he found every one of the team's receivers. The difference in his play is noticeable, even with the turnover. If Manning is the NFL's best quarterback in 2013, Romo is the second best -- and it's not close.