This is the time of year where I get sports-bored and re-watch a few games here and there. It's interesting because you go into these games with a completely different mind-set knowing how the season played out and what the off-season discussion topics are. Sometimes you find yourself surprised to see things in games that don't line up to how people remember the season in the spring. With that I'd like to share some observations from the Falcons game. If you guys like them maybe I'll post up a few more game review notes of other important 2012 performances.
Let me start off with the Doug Free report. I'd say he had a solid game. With all the talk about Free this off-season I went into this game expecting to see him just completely crap the bed. But instead he looked like an average right tackle in the NFL who did his job. If we get him to play like this for 16 games he won't earn his big contract, but he won't be the weak link many expect him to be.
But with Free out of the way, I do need to turn to the most frightening thing about re-watching this game which was just how bad both guards were. I don't mean to sound hyperbolic but on this day Livings and Bernie looked to be the worst pair of guards in the NFL. I am in the "you need to run the ball" camp but on this day the running game was so stifled by the inability of these two to move anyone I honestly think they should have just passed the ball on virtually every snap. The worst run play was a 2nd and 10 in the 4th quarter where Felix was dropped 3 yards behind the line of scrimmage and Romo seemed to be yelling at Garrett for calling a run play.
But the one play I really want to highlight was a sack on Romo, you can check it out here.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words here is a still I want to show you.
On this 3rd down the Falcons rush 5 and the Cowboys have 7 in to protect, which should give Tony Romo tons of time to beat the Falcons. The Falcons choose to loop their DEs wide. The tackles did a fine job picking them up, Phillips and Tyron are working a double team giving 55 zero chance at doing anything and Doug Free is exactly where he should be. Even the somewhat maligned Vickers picked up his blitzer cleanly. But by looping the DEs wide the design of this blitz means that the guards have to work in a lot of space, notice how much room there is between Smith and Free to work. Now look at how Livings and Bernie are handling the situation. Livings is already beat, holding on feebly to the arm of his DT. Bernie? Oh my god, he's hopping around on one foot!
In still #2 you can see Livings is completely turned around with his man having a free shot on Romo and Bernie is now executing a choke-hold on his man.
In the end Tony has to lay down to prevent another broken clavicle as both DTs swarm him. Both guards let free sacks through and both should have been flagged for holding. Oh, by the way, Miles Austin is open for a 20 yard gain.
It seems some Cowboys fans think Bernie is the weak link and needs to get excommunicated from the team. Others insist it's Livings that needs to be a camp cut. After watching this game it seems like that's a coke vs. pepsi argument, neither was playing at an NFL level at all and it worries me that both are expected back in 2013.
DeMarcus Ware was just abusing the tackles throughout this game. The worst came when the protection call got messed up, somehow leaving Ware unblocked. He killed Matt Ryan with a blindside shot. He may have slowed down towards the end of the season but he was in prime form for this game.
Gerald Sensabaugh was just terrible in this game. Big Atlanta plays came with crossing routes across the middle where the CBs can't keep up with WR and it's up to the safety to make the play. Sensabaugh was juked out of his shoes by Julio Jones on one play. In run support he's have the chance to make the stop on multiple plays including a TD and just bounced off Michael Turner.
Alex Albright stepped in this game with Sean Lee out and didn't make much of an impact. I didn't see him make any plays but I also didn't notice him make any big busts.
Falcons ball, 3rd and 6, Cowboys down by 3 points and 3:55 left in the 4th quarter. Cowboys just need to stop the long 3rd down to get the ball in Romo's hands for a game-winning drive. Coverage down the field is good so Matt Ryan's only chance is to dump it off to his RB. Orlando Scandrick dives at his ankles and grabs nothing but air with what was so bad I don't know if it was a business decision or just terrible play. The RB gains 30. I'll never understand the people that think Scandrick is somehow an asset to this team.
Thanks mostly do the defense, this was a close game that the Cowboys had a good chance at winning. So when I think about why the team wasn't victorious on this day I lay this loss at the feet of the safeties and the guards. While some might question the Cowboys' plans at safety, at least we will see 2 different safeties next year than we saw in this game; the team is trying to fix that aspect of its performance. But at guard, I'm concerned that the problems I saw in this game will bleed over into 2013 and those problems are not insubstantial.