Watching that game again was even more frustrating, because of all the missed opportunities to win the game, not counting the obvious plays/decisions/lack-of-discipline that we've already discussed. Dallas truly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. But since it's so depressing let's start with the good.
The kid is looking like he might be the answer at QB. Once again he went 24 for 36, but this time he had more yards (284) and more TD's (2) and didn't throw a pick. His protection was average, at best, for most of the day, but we had at least five plays where the blitz came and one guy was unblocked. Fortunately, it was always the outside man, so we at least learned the lessons of blocking down and letting the guy who has the farthest to go, go unblocked. Most of the unblocked blitzes came on Marc Colombo's side, one time Fasano and Witten were over there too, but we still managed not to get a body on the blitzer.
Romo handled all but one of those situations well. He got caught for intentional grounding, but Sean Taylor hit his legs, so the penalties offset. On the others, he hit Owens for a first down on 3rd down, he hit Crayton for a first down on 3rd down, he got a pass interference call on a pass to Crayton on 3rd down to convert for the first down, and the other one caused a slightly overthrown ball to Terry Glenn. Most of those plays would've been sacks, incompletions or turnovers for Bledsoe. So there's no doubt that Romo's quick release and pocket awareness is making the line look better than it is.
Romo also has the uncanny ability to overcome penalties and still get first downs. And with the way this team likes to collect penalties, that's an absolute must for the QB. You can't fault Romo for this loss; he kept us in the game when everyone else was making stupid plays. But Romo's not perfect; here are a couple of minor quibbles.
On both his sacks, he held the ball a little long when he should've thrown it. One time he had Fasano open underneath but didn't release it and ended up getting sacked. It turned a 2nd and 10 into a 3rd and 19 and we had to punt. On the other, he had the opportunity to throw the ball away or to Witten, and he did neither, backing the Cowboys up to mid-field, giving them a 3rd and 26 and wiped out any chance at a FG.
He also overthrew an open Terry Glenn by a step on what would've been a huge play to the Washington 5 yard line at a minimum, and a TD with good fortune. Instead, we ended up kicking a FG. On the play before he hit Witten to set up the potential game-winning FG, he overthrew Witten badly on a play when he had a step on Adam Archuleta.
So he's not perfect, but I'm not bad-mouthing his game at all, he played a great game. But since he's the QB now, I have to evaluate his good with the bad. So far, it's been way more good than bad.
Anthony Henry and Roy Williams had a couple of huge gaffes, Marcus Coleman and Keith Davis contributed some bad plays, and even Terence Newman had a couple of errors. Oh yeah, Aaron Glenn, too. Just a poor performance by everyone.
Anthony Henry got beat repeatedly on Sunday. He got beat by Brandon Lloyd a couple of times and by James Thrash a couple of times. He got called for a long pass interference against Lloyd early in the game, and he got his hands on the TD to Cooley but couldn't break up the play. But he wasn't responsible for the coverage on the TD, Marcus Coleman was late getting over and Henry was trying to help him out at the last second. Coleman also missed a tackle on Cooley early that gave him extra yards.
Roy's biggest mistake was the pass interference call on the end-around pass by Antwaan Randle El. He never picked up the flight of the ball and ran right into Lloyd. On the same play, Terence Newman bit on the run fake leaving Lloyd all alone for Roy to cover. Roy also dropped what could've been a game-changing interception in the 4th quarter. Newman got called for holding at the goal line on the Redskins first drive, extending the series for 3 more downs. Aaron Glenn ran a blitz on a 3rd and 7 but Sellers came out of the backfield for a pass in the flats, so Glenn had to backtrack and cover him, but it was too late; first down. Keith Davis had a 15-yard facemask penalty on the play before Portis ran for his long TD. He also took a bad angle on Portis' TD run and ran into Anthony Henry and Brandon Lloyd, instead of Portis.
All the way around, the secondary made too many mistakes either by penalty or bad coverage.
I usually don't get much into coaching decisions and strategy in the film review, Parcells has forgotten more football than I'll ever know, but this week is different. The staff made plenty of very questionable decisions. The big one was the 2-pt. conversion early in the game. We know what the chart says, but chasing points that early is usually a bad idea; in this game, it turned out to be an especially bad idea.
Next, what about the play that was a safety? That ball was so close to breaking the pane that you have to challenge the play. The coaches in the booth were wrong; JJ's knee was not down. What did hit the ground before the ball got out was the top of his helmet. I'm asking this question in all seriousness. Is the crown of the helmet a `down-by-contact' body part like the knee, elbow or butt? I don't know, but if it's not, that wasn't a safety. And what about the play call? Why not just have Romo sneak it for a yard; he had room to the left. The Cowboys should have the audible called that if Romo sees space; just sneak it to get out of trouble. They also ran a combination block with Kosier, he helps Gurode then has to break off and hit the linebacker. The problem was the LB was too close to the line and Kosier had no time to get to him. That left Hoyte with two guys to block in the hole, he got one, but the other got the safety.
Here are some other bad decisions by the coaches. On a 3rd and 26 from midfield Dallas runs a draw. I can understand that call if you're backed up in your own territory, but at the 50-yard line? Give Romo a shot, if he some how manages 15 yards, you got a shot at a long Vanderjagt FG. If he throws an INT downfield, it's almost as good as a punt (the punt, by the way, went into the endzone for a 30-yard net). Sure, there's always the risk of a sack, but even that would give your punter more room to work with; that was too conservative.
Then we have a 3rd and 1 at the Washington 40 on the same drive where Owens dropped the long bomb. Instead of lining up Hoyte or Fasano as the FB, we put our weakest blocker from the FB position into that spot, Witten. The run was by MB3 but Witten whiffed on the block and the drive died. We punted, into the endzone again, and got 20 yards net on it. Why didn't they use Fasano or Hoyte, or both, on that play?
Finally, there's this decision by indecision. When we stopped Washington on their last drive, the tackle was made with 44 seconds left in the game. Roy stands up and asks the bench if he should call the time-out. No decision is made until 10 seconds run off the clock. No matter what happens the rest of the way, that was 10 seconds you just gave away for your final desperation drive.
How about some things that weren't so bad?
On defense, both Demarcus Ware and Akin Ayodele had very good games. Ware ended up with 6 tackles and played very well in run support, something that has dramatically improved in his game. He also got a sack, caused a holding penalty that wiped out a big pass for the Redskins, got pressure on a 3rd down and hit Brunell's arm, and had several other pressures. He jammed Sellers off the line of scrimmage and knocked him into another Redskins receiver that totally destroyed another play. Ayodele also had six tackles and filled the holes on the line of scrimmage well. He deflected a pass on a blitz and he recovered Brunell's fumbled shotgun snap. He did get beat in coverage twice, but overall had a very strong game.
You can't forget about the goal line defense on the first drive. The Redskins had 7 plays from the 3-yard line or closer and couldn't get it in. Ryan Fowler and Roy Williams blew up three of the plays, Ferguson got in there on one and Bradie James was in on another. Just an outstanding effort by the defense in that situation.
The offensive line wasn't that bad, but it's all relative; if it had been Bledsoe back there we'd be ripping them today because Romo saved their bacon on several plays (see above). The Redskins blitzed a lot, and from every angle and with every combination, but Romo had enough time for the most part to win the game. We also ran the ball OK, not as well as in some games, but certainly effective enough to win this game. Gurode had a few killer blocks in the run game, but he also blew the block on Glenn's end-around that could've gone for big yards. Kosier got beat for a sack once, Flozell got beat once that caused a quick throw short of the first down and resulted in a FG. Colombo had some men rushing free from the outside on his side, but it's hard to tell if he was responsible or if the blocking scheme was designed that way (pretty scary if it was). He also got physically beat once, but Romo side-stepped the rusher and delivered a strike to Crayton. Outside of that, they weren't horrible, but they weren't great.
How about Patrick Crayton? He caught 4 passes for 84 yards and converted some big 3rd downs. Oliver Hoyte got his first catch ever.
More bad things
I didn't like the game Greg Ellis turned it. He didn't get pressure on Brunell and he lost outside contain twice on the same drive against the run, one on Portis' TD run. He only had two tackles. He was also guilty of letting receivers get off the line of scrimmage without disrupting them. Ware has gotten very good at it; Ellis is still struggling to learn it.
Mat McBriar had a bad day. He knocked two punts into the endzone instead of nailing the Redskins in a hole. The net yards on the punts were 20 and 30 yards. That's awful. We also gave up close to 17 yards per punt return, that's too much. Randle El had a good return that set them up for their late-FG drive.
On the Cowboys blocked FG, I don't know what Colombo was thinking, and apparently Parcells doesn't either. He inexplicably blocks down, and really helps no one, while leaving Vincent to skip right through and block the kick behind the line. Witten had Carlos Rogers on the outside and blocked him.
There's just not much to say. We committed them. The 15-yarder at the end of the game was questionable but on almost everything else we were guilty. And for those blaming the refs, consider this; they missed a clear Jason Witten hold on the Terry Glenn TD, they missed a Rivera hold on a drive we got a FG on, and they missed Al Singleton tripping Randle El on a punt return in the 4th quarter that could've gone a long way. So it could've been worse.
Owens' plight is the Cowboys plight; very talented, but ultimately, frustrating. Owens caught 7 passes for 76 yards, converted quite a few 3rd downs, and chipped in with a TD. Nice stats, just like the Cowboys. But then he does something stupid, like gets a penalty, for something he knew would be a penalty. He should've just walked up to the ref, pulled out his flag and threw it on the ground, announced the penalty to the crowd, then go to sleep using the ball as a pillow. Dumb, just like the Cowboys. To top it all off, he drops a picture-perfect TD, the kind that shows up on the highlight reel at the end of the year. But instead, he drops the ball, just like the Cowboys.