I slogged through the Giants game again this afternoon and it felt like the Eagles game all over again, except this time Tony Romo was thrown into the mix. This game was a total team meltdown. There was hardly a player on the field for the Dallas Cowboys who didn't make at least a couple of mistakes. But you have to give the prize to the offensive line for the most consistent bad plays of the evening. In contrast to the Eagles game, when the left side of the line was the problem, this time the right side of the line was the main culprit. It's disturbing when your offensive line is taking turns in blowing games.
After weeks of pretty solid play, Marc Colombo chose the Giants game to come back down to earth. He landed with a Giant thud. On Bledsoe's first sack of the game, Strahan lined up outside of the TE Fasano, who went into the pattern. Colombo didn't even bother to block Strahan who went straight to Bledsoe and put him on the ground. In the 2nd half the Giants ran a LB blitz from the outside and Colombo was nowhere to be found and Romo went down. Later in the same series, he picked up the pass rush but got run over on a bull-rush and Romo was sacked again. Strahan also got another sack against him, but that was more Bledsoe's fault than it was Colombo's. He also got beat on another play but Bledsoe unloaded the ball to Crayton before he was hit. Add in some awful run blocks and Colombo's night was complete.
Marco Rivera wasn't as bad, but he was bad enough. On the blitz that resulted in a safety Arrington went right through the B-gap and Rivera acted like he didn't even see him coming. He blocked down to help Gurode, and the play ended before it began. On another play, he missed the block and Romo had to unload the ball in a hurry to avoid the sack. He also ran right by his man on two run blocks that ended up killing the play.
Kyle Kosier was directly responsible for one sack, when Osi Umenyiora gave him a quick move at the line of scrimmage and blew on by to grab Bledsoe. Surprisingly, Flozell Adams wasn't that bad. He had a couple of bad run blocks and let the pressure get close to the QB on a couple of occasions, but wasn't guilty of any egregious errors. The same can be said for Andre Gurode and you have to credit him with a nice block on the successful Julius Jones screen. But the line as a whole was not very good at blowing the Giants defenders off the line in the run game. When you can't run the ball, and you're giving up 6 sacks, it's a miracle we still scored 22 points.
It's hard to figure out what's wrong with our line. The just aren't in sync with the protection schemes. When guys are flying through untouched, then the players aren't on the same page. It happens in the run game, too. Once again, mental errors are leading to easy shots on our QB's and our RB's.
The line wasn't the only culprit in the running game woes. I saw three different run plays where Terry Glenn missed a block on a LB or DB who ended up making the tackle. Terrell Owens did it once. Jason Witten had a couple. Anthony Fasano ran right past the guy who made the tackle on a Julius Jones sweep. It was brutal to watch on tape.
On the unsuccessful flea-flicker play, credit Witten with the failure because he couldn't hold his block on Arrington.
Then there were plays like the one that preceded the safety. Before the play the CB who was covering Owens creeps up to the line for a blitz. The safety behind him is playing at least 10 yards off of Owens. Bledsoe drops back and acts like he never saw it, because he throws downfield to nobody while Owens runs a short route towards the middle and was uncovered. I don't know who made the error, but it's indicative of how the offense seems to be on two different pages.
Here's my take on Tony Romo's night. He is elusive and has a pretty good sense of the pocket and when it's collapsing. He does remind me of a young Brett Favre, and that's not always good. He can make some great plays while moving around, but he's a risk-taker, and it showed. His first interception was a pass that he shouldn't have thrown. But the really bad one was the screen pass interception. There were three Giants players in between him and Julius, but instead of throwing the ball into the ground at Julius' feet, he threw it right to the Giants player. (Yes, JJ was held by the Giants, one of several blown calls by the refs on the evening). The last interception looked like bad communication between him and Crayton. And all those yards he racked up? The Giants were playing a soft zone and weren't blitzing very often. Both of Romo's sacks came by way of the blitz. So while he showed potential, let's wait until we see him against a regular defense, which we will this week in Carolina if Parcells' starts him. Still, he had a couple of nice drives and when he's on he looks really good.
On defense, it was ugly, especially along the line. Chris Canty had his worst game against the run all year. He got moved off the line regularly and only DeMarcus Ware's nice run defense saved us from an epic embarrassment, instead of a regular embarrassment. On the other side, Marcus Spears was not great, but the main problem over there was Greg Ellis not keeping outside contain.
A good example of losing contain are the two 3rd down plays right before the half after Bledsoe made his idiotic interception. The Cowboys had the Giants pinned deep and could've gotten the ball back with over a minute left. But on two consecutive 3rd down plays, Tiki Barber got around the edges, once on a 3rd and 16, to get the first down. Both times Ellis lost contain on the edges, on one of them he had lined up on the right side of the defense. On the second one, Roy Williams took an awful angle or he could've made the play, too.
Pat Watkins is good against the run; he'll stick his nose in there and make the tackle, but he can't cover worth a lick yet. He can get himself into position but he doesn't seem to be able to pick up the ball in flight and make a play on it. I fear Parcells is going to have to make a change back there or team are going to continue to attack him on the field.
In the pass rush, it's the same old story. Only Greg Ellis and DeMarcus Ware can get any kind of pass rush and it's not enough to turn the game in our favor. Ware got a sack and had 8 tackles, so he played a pretty good game. Ellis should've had a sack (another blown call by the refs) and did get some pressure on occasion along with a blocked pass. But Canty, Spears and Ratliff did virtually nothing in the pass rush while Kenyon Coleman managed a sack. During the 2nd half, the Cowboys blitzed a lot more than usual, but it wasn't effective. Most of the time they couldn't get to Manning, and the times that they did Manning was able to unload the ball for a reception. In my opinion, Henry and Newman were playing a little soft in coverage allowing the receivers to get open in time for Manning to get rid of the ball. Besides his interception, Newman didn't have a great night.
Even the special teams let us down in this game. Patrick Crayton stood and watched as a punt hit on the 16-yard line and rolled to the one foot line. Predictably, the Cowboys gave up a safety. Tyson Thompson, who has been stellar this year in providing good field position on kickoff returns, only averaged 22 yards per return and none of them put us in good field position.
If you want to look for the positives in the game, here are my few examples. Tony Romo showed some potential if he can quit his gun-slinging ways. Terrell Owens had some very nice grabs and was the prime mover of the Cowboys offense - I know, he dropped the crucial 4th and 2 pass, I'm still mad about that one. And Jason Witten came to life in the 2nd half once Romo took the field, and Patrick Crayton also got some work from Romo. Also, the defense caused two turnovers; one to stop a potential TD or FG, the other set the offense up for an excellent scoring opportunity - which Bledsoe promptly blew.