After watching the film of the Titans game, I could see why the defense had some problems in the first half containing the running game. They also had some problems covering the Titans TE's with LB's and safeties. But they did an excellent job of containing Vince Young's scrambling and the corners took the WR's out of the game. It was a good effort and it showed well on the scoreboard - allowing only 14 points - but there were just enough problems for Parcells to get on them about for the upcoming week.
Let's start with the pass rush, which drew some criticism after the game in some corners. On the contrary, I believe the pass rush did exactly what they were asked to do. The Cowboys brain-trust figured that Vince Young wasn't going to beat them through the air, so they were very concerned about stopping him from running. The Cowboys instructed their lineman to rush straight up the field and maintain their lanes at all costs. They didn't run any stunts where players looped around each other and the individual players didn't use a lot of misdirection moves or spin moves to lose the offensive linemen. Everything was geared to straight ahead bull-rushes even if they weren't getting penetration. They formed a nice "U" around Young on almost every play and Young ended up with 5 rushes for 3 yards, with the longest run 9 yards. And that came on a play when Chris Canty looped inside of Ferguson - a move that probably didn't sit well with the coaches - leaving a huge lane to run through. Even the blitzes run by Dallas, which were few and far between, were very structured and the blitzers stayed in their lanes. That was a disiplined defense on Sunday in terms of containing Vince Young.
Dallas had some problems stopping the run in the first half and a lot of the problem came on the left side of the defense. Marcus Spears didn't have his best game and was moved off the line on quite a few occasions. Parcells explained it perfectly in Monday's press conference; the Titans were using the tackle and guard to double-team the end and they used a TE to work on the OLB. The Dallas line and LB's were also over-pursuing the ball carrier and the Titans were cutting back to the middle and picking up good yardage. The left-side of the line, Ferguson, Spears and Ellis had problems with this attack in the first half. DeMarcus Ware and Chris Canty did a much better job on their side. The Cowboys finally got this under control and shut down the running attack after the first few drives.
Roy Williams made a few really good tackles in the game, but he struggled a little in coverage. Especially on the play when he had to cover TE Ben Troupe one-on-one during a Cowboys blitz, and Troupe beat him for a TD. Both Troupe and Bo Scaife gave Williams, Bradie James and the rest of the interior coverage fits. 3rd WR Bobby Wade also did most of his damage over the middle. Dallas needs to lock this down before they travel to see L.J. Smith this week.
It was good to see Akin Ayodele so active in this game. He led the team in tackles and cleaned up a lot of the runs that were troubling the Cowboys in the first half. Bradie James can give thanks to Kevin Burnett who provided the pressure that caused Vince Young to dump a pass right into James' lap, which he promptly returned for a TD. In fact, Burnett had a very active game, getting a sack, causing the pressure on the INT and dumping Young for a loss on a designed run. He also had a pass beak up and almost broke up Terence Newman on a punt return. OK, that last bit we could do without.
Greg Ellis continues his strong play for the most part, although he was complicit in some of the Titans early success. He did settle down and play well for the rest of the game and had a nice pressure on Young that caused him to throw the ball away and stymied a couple of his designed runs. DeMarcus Ware has improved greatly against the run this year, and he and Chris Canty did a pretty good job against the run on their side. Canty also got a sack, which hopefully gets him going a little more for the rest of the season in the pass rush.
Pat Watkins showed a little something in this game. He's been doing a lot of tackling this season - and not doing it correctly as Parcells let the world know - but he's rarely been tested in the passing game. The Titans did throw into his area on occasion and Watkins ended up with two pass breakups. So far this season, Dallas hasn't been beaten long down the middle, so Watkins must be doing something right. He also scooped up a fumble and almost ran it in for a TD, and he ran the last five yards or so without his helmet.
The play of Terence Newman, Anthony Henry and Aaron Glenn was excellent. Henry ended up with a few hard tackles to preserve short gains and a couple of pass breakups, inlcuding one deep while in man-to-man coverage. The only bad thing Henry did was drop an INT. Aaron Glenn also had some pass breakups and he managed to pick up an INT when he jumped a pattern and made a leaping catch. Newman gave up a couple of catches, but nothing of signifigance. The pass interference call on Newman was questionable at best, a bad call at worst. The play of these three has been very good since the Jax game.
The Cowboys continued their pattern of defense in this game. They play out of their base 3-4 almost exclusively on 1st and 2nd down with little variation in the player placement. In the front seven, the only real change you'll see is splitting out Ware or Ellis to cover a receiver. On 3rd and long, they'll switch to the nickel, bringing in Jason Hatcher and Jay Ratliff at DT and Kevin Burnett as the second LB. They rarely blitzed in this game and the one Titans' TD came on a blitz. Like in the Washington game, once they get ahead and the other team needs to pass, they go with the nickel for long stretches. Overall, Dallas just lines up on defense with very little variation and says "Come and beat us, if you can".