clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

First Impressions Post Chargers

New, comments

The full game narrative will come tomorrow, but in case you've been living in a cave, the Cowboys won a thriller, 28-24 over San Diego.

In no particular order:

  • On ESPN late this week an NFL linebacker was asked to name the hardest QB to bring down. He mentioned Drew Bledsoe. The announcer was incredulous. "You didn't ask if he was the easiest to get to. You asked me who was the hardest to bring down. He's a big guy," the LB said. Bledsoe used that redwood stature to good effect yesterday. He took lots of shots and kept pitching. He made several key throws with guys hanging on him that kept drives going. He did it on the opening series, hitting Julius Jones with a Charger in his face. He found Jason Witten on the second TD drive with a guy hanging on his back to convert a third and six. He took a Juan Castillo head slap and didn't lose his focus. Most of us would likely spend the rest of the day trying to remember who we were.
  • Keyshawn Johnson takes a lot of abuse on this group for his lack of speed. He probably wouldn't win too many footraces among NFL receivers, but give the man his due. He makes plays. His first TD catch was an amazing limbo-like move, where Keyshawn reached behind his head to grab one of Bledsoe's few poor throws of the day. On the third drive, he planted his feet inside the sideline and made a controlled fall to snag a Bledsoe stop fade at the Chargers four. Raymond Berry would have been proud. Keyshawn had receptions for 17, 25 and 19 yards. Not bad for a guy who apparently can't run anymore.
  • Dallas used a no huddle offense when they made big plays to get inside the ten. This kept the Chargers from bringing in the goalline defense and let Julius Jones run more effectively. The first use came immediately after Keyshawn's catch at the four. Dallas was able to catch the Chargers in a base defense and beat them with a pitch to Jones for a TD. On the final TD drive, Dallas rushed to the line after Jones had gained 13 yards to the six and quick-counted another Jones blast to the two yard line.
  • What's a horsecollar? On Witten's big third down catch in the second quarter, he was grabbed by the back of his shoulder pads and jerked down hard. His legs were pulled under him but no flag was thrown. This seems to be exactly the type of tackle the rule was intended to prevent.
  • Rent, Jose, don't buy -- at least not yet. Jose Cortez was challenging Billy Cundiff this summer because Cortez was consistently booming kicks deep into the end zone. Yesterday, only one of his kickoffs came near the goal line. The rest were short. What's worse, they were line drives, that contributed to Darren Sproles long set of returns. He's not the only guy to blame for the poor coverage, but he did his share. I'm guessing the scouts are still watching the waiver wires intently. Don't be surprised if the Cowboys keep bringing in kickers the next few weeks. Baltimore's Matt Stover has been an accuracy leader in the AFC recently, but missed three medium range kicks in the Ravens loss to the Colts last night. If the Ravens are impulsive and cut him, I think the Cowboys would snap him up.
  • It was a tough debut for Keith Davis, whose uncertainty contributed to the Chargers' first two TD passes. In the second quarter the Chargers caught the Cowboys in a mismatch; San Diego had a three wide package and the Cowboys were in base. That put Demarcus Ware in the slot against Keenan McCardell, the Chargers top wideout. Ware tried to jam McCardell short and then released him to Davis, who had coverage over the top. Davis stayed in his backpedal and did not switch on McCardell who caught a touchdown in the giant hole Davis left. In the third quarter, Drew Brees stepped forward in the pocket and avoided a hard backside rush from Demarcus Ware. As he ran towards the line, Davis, who had the deep left half of the Cowboys zone, ran forward and gave up deep contain. This allowed McCardell, who was running a crossing route towards Davis, to get behind him easily and catch his second touchdown.
  • Davis redeemed himself on the Chargers final sequence of passes, blanketing a Chargers TE on second and goal and forcing an incompletion. On the next play, he flipped McCardell and prevented him from catching a Brees floater in the middle of the end zone. Davis earned a hug from Parcells when the series was over. He's got grit, but he also has a lot of work to do.

  • There was some concern that the Peerless Price signing would cut into Patrick Crayton's plays. Forget about it. Crayton was as clutch and as essential a receiver as Keyshawn or Terry Glenn. He's not going anywhere. In fact, he may get more reps spelling Glenn. He had quite a few yesterday.
  • A few months ago, I caused some commotion by stating that Sean Payton's passing offense is a version of the West Coast offense. I saw a lot more yesterday to prove that point. Dallas ran a lot of split back formations, something it did not show in the preseason. The Cowboys ran from this package, showing a stripped-down version of the traditional sweep, but with only one guard leading Julius Jones around end. Dallas also passed from this formation and used both backs to chip San Diego's outside rush. Jones and either Lousaka Polite or a tight end would put a shoulder to the Chargers' outside rushers then run delayed routes.
  • The signature WCO play was Patrick Crayton's touchdown catch early in the second quarter. The Cowboys were facing a third and thirteen from the San Diego 20 after a delay of game penalty. Dallas lined up in a three receiver formation, with Glenn flanking Witten on the left side of the formation and Crayton in the right slot inside Keyshawn. The outside receivers and Witten ran downfield routes to clear the short middle for Crayton. He ran what looked like a hook at seven yards, hesitated a count to freeze linebacker Donnie Edwards, then proceeded on a crossing route. He left Edwards in his dust and took Bledsoe's throw in for a score.

    If you followed the Cowboys in the '90s, you are certainly familiar with this play -- from the wrong side of business. The 49ers ran it at Dallas every time the teams met. When the Niners embarrassed Dallas at Texas Stadium in November of '95, they got Jerry Rice matched up against Bill Bates and tortured him with this play. Mike Holmgren's Packers always used it against the Cowboys to great effect. Robert Brooks caught a TD pass against the Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game that same season running this same play.

    Payton was mentored early in his career by Jim Fassel, who was an assistant on the '49ers staff in the early '90s. Whatever you think of the WCO, it was good to be the team delivering that play, rather than being on the receiving end again.

  • Oh yeah. The Eagles will need to beat the Falcons tonight to avoid the NFC basement, at least for one week.