OK, here is the much-delayed film review of the Tampa game. Hey, I took a little bit of a holiday myself.
The Cowboys/Bucs game was truly a one-sided affair, particularly after the first drive by Tampa Bay. The stats back-up that assessment and a review of the game shows the Cowboys were able to control almost every phase of the game.
Let's talk about formations for the Cowboys. The Cowboys have gone away from their original idea of 2-TE sets over the last few weeks, I touched on it in this post. That post ended up on some other Cowboys forums where it was noted that with Romo at QB we don't need the maximum protection that we needed with Bledsoe. This probably has some truth to it. But they were using Anthony Fasano a lot out of the backfield, not on the line, the same role Oliver Hoyte has taken over. Fasano was playing pretty well for a rookie, but he's not the blocker out of the backfield that Hoyte has already become, and Fasano is still feeling his way in the passing game. That's not to say that Fasano won't be a pretty good player one day, his work so far has been encouraging.
Additionally, the good play of Patrick Crayton has been deserving of more time, and with Romo's ability to get Crayton the ball the Cowboys have another potent weapon in the offense. So with Hoyte playing well, Crayton emerging, Romo showing poise in the pocket and the ability to escape pressure, the Cowboys are going with what works best right now.
On defense, Dallas used the nickel defense with DeMarcus Ware on the left side and Jason Hatcher on the right side regularly for the second straight game. It appears this will be the standard formation for the rest of the season. It's been working well, Hatcher had some good pressures last week and this week he got a sack and a pressure. Using this formation has alleviated some of the pass rush issues when Greg Ellis went down.
On the subject of DeMarcus Ware, he had another excellent effort in the absence of Greg Ellis. In the first Tampa Bay series, Ware blew past the Bucs right tackle and was pulled to the ground, but somehow the refs missed it and Tampa got a 1st down. He also had a tackle for loss in the run game and has improved immensely in stopping the run over last year. He got a couple of pressures that caused Gradkowski to dump the ball off or throw it way. But this week, we didn't quite get the pass rush that we did against the Colts.
The run defense had a few problems in the first half, giving up some interior runs that we usually don't, but it's only a problem compared to how stellar the run defense has been this year. Cadillac had a 22-yard run that help set up a FG where both Roy Williams and Pat Watkins missed tackles, but luckily Ware didn't give up on the play and came from the other side of the field to make the tackle. After that point and through the second half the Bucs didn't run the ball effectively.
On defense, it wasn't Roy with the big hit, but Bradie James. Roy held up Mike Alstott on a pass catch in the flats and James blasted him in the back and basically put Alstott out for the rest of the game. Bradie also led the Cowboys with 8 tackles and is playing some of his best football yet. His running mate in the middle, Akin Ayodele, continues his improved play by coming up with an INT and deflecting a pass up the seam that could've gone for a big play.
At the other outside linebacker position Al Singleton played a majority of the snaps and had a solid game. He had three tackles and played the run very well. Bobby Carpenter switched in for a few series but has yet to make a major impact in a game.
In the secondary, Roy had another big turnover with an INT on a play when he was the lone safety back. Galloway had already burnt the Cowboys earlier in deep coverage and this time Roy was back as Keith Davis was playing much closer to the line. Al Singleton got a good pass rush from the edge that forced Gradkowski to hurry the throw and he didn't get the proper mechanics behind it. The ball end up under-thrown and Roy stepped in front of Galloway for a perfect INT.
Terence Newman had his usual excellent game and Anthony Henry did pretty well for the guy who gets all the passes thrown his way. He managed to recover and tip the ball away from Galloway in the end zone, Galloway was open earlier in the route, but Gradkowski released it late and Henry recovered to stop a sure TD.
The Cowboys had one big breakdown in the secondary on Tampa's first series. Galloway came from the left side and was passed off by Terence Newman who had underneath zone coverage. Keith Davis sort of picked him up but looked as though he thought Galloway was passing into Roy's zone. But Roy was helping Henry on Michael Clayton down the right sideline and no one ended up covering Galloway deep down the field. The Bucs only had two WR's and two RB's out in the formation, and there was nothing tricky about the patterns, so why they had miscommunication on the play is a mystery.
On offense, Tony Romo turned in another gem. Everybody saw the work he did so I won't go into detail about it here. The only thing I'll say about Romo on the negative side is that he takes a little bit to get going in a game. He missed a couple of open receivers early, including Owens on a beautiful fake screen play, and he also under-threw Glenn deep. But once he gets it going, he's a machine, hitting receiver after receiver.
The line played very well after a shaky start. On the Cowboys first series they used Jason Fabini as a TE and put him in motion. He settled on the right side of the line and got beat badly on a speed rush, but Julius helped pick up the rusher and Romo avoided trouble. But on the next play the Bucs blitzed and Chris Hovan beat Marco Rivera and sacked Romo. The Bucs blitzed a lot, especially up the middle and they brought the DB's a few times. All in all, the Cowboys line did a very good job of picking up these blitzes and Romo had plenty of time to pick a target on most passing plays. Since the Philly game, the Cowboys' line had been much better about picking up the middle blitzes.
In the run game, they had some troubles in the first half, mainly a missed block here and there, but in the second half they were destroying the Bucs line and running out the clock with long drives built on the run. In the first half, they were a tad slow in getting out to the edges when they pulled a guard or center. In the second half, Kyle Kosier found a rhythm and was blowing up defenders when pulling. The Cowboys line has really started to come together as a unit and is giving Romo time and providing holes for the running game.
Jason Fabini had to play a series for Marc Colombo and did an adequate job filling in. He was also used as a blocking TE on a handful of plays.
Oliver Hoyte was cracking skulls again. Over the last few games, his blocking in the run game has been superb. When he comes into contact with a defender, he generally blows him up and out of the play. He hits like a former linebacker. If this kid can learn to catch passes, he will become one of the better fullbacks in the league.
The Cowboys were able to rest Julius Jones in this game. He only had 11 carries this week, a couple of weeks ago in Arizona he only had 15. Bill Parcells said in a press conference earlier that he wanted to get JJ through the Thanksgiving Day game and let him recharge for the rest of the season. He managed to do that by giving him a lighter load in 2 of the last 3 games so Julius should be somewhat refreshed for this week. In the meantime, Marion Barber continues his hard running and pounded the Bucs into submission on the last few drives, while catching 2 TD passes on the day. The Cowboys running game looks to be in very good hands.
Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn both had solid performances despite a couple of drops early in the game, including a TD that Owens should've caught. Patrick Crayton continues his good work with 4 catches for 68 yards and has received a lot more playing time.
The Cowboys started a little slow in the game on both sides of the ball, but once they got it in gear, they couldn't be stopped. From the 2nd quarter on, it was a display of execution and talent that compares with any team in the league.