Since the game against Buffalo was so bizarre and the flow of the game, especially on offense, was halted by Romo’s turnovers, I decided to abandon the regular film review format. Instead, I’ll concentrate on some things that I thought would be of interest.
Tony Romo – Forget the idea that Buffalo was fooling Romo or were throwing some bizarre coverage looks that disguised their true intent. They were running pretty standard coverages in the secondary, a mix of man-to-man, Cover-2 and some Cover-3 looks. I know the TV bobbleheads have been showing you the linebackers dropping in coverage, or the strong safety moving up to from a Cover-3 coverage shell, but none of that is something Romo hasn’t seen before. He was just off on his throws and he was forcing things downfield when he could have checked down. The first throw to Witten, there may have been confusion on the route, but Romo overthrew Witten badly and probably wouldn’t have hit him even if he ran the seam route instead of checking up. More importantly, when you’re throwing from you own endzone you have to be sure about where you are throwing it. On his second INT, the linebacker was standing right next to Witten, it was a pass he should have never thrown. The third INT was caused by Romo sliding out of the pocket when he didn’t have to, Colombo blocked his guy outside and Romo slid right into him. The fourth INT was a floated pass on a corner route, that’s always a no-no. And the last one he just locked onto Witten instead of seeing T.O. underneath. That’s a long way of saying Romo just had an atrocious game, until the end when he got his act together.
On a side note, whenever Romo starts struggling, Jason Garrett needs to get him out of the pocket on some controlled roll-outs, because he still throws those passes better than anything else he does. Also, I don’t know if we can control it, but Romo continues to throw the ball high at the beginning of games. Even the TD he threw to Witten was a little bit of an overthrow and forced Witten to make a difficult catch and considering how wide-open Witten was, that pass should hit him between the numbers.
Running game – I’ve settled on my own theory on the running game’s decline. Teams are loading up 8 men in the box in running situations, especially on first down, and are determined to stop the run. They aren’t blitzing form that formation much; they generally drop back into coverage once they recognize the pass. The problem is the Cowboys are just running right into the teeth of that defense. I counted at least six times when the Bills were stacking the line and the Cowboys ran it anyway for little or no gain. Equally, when we ran against a 7-man box we gained some good yards. Basically, the Cowboys need to do a better job of mixing up the runs calls and get out of the run in certain situations by calling an audible at the line. I know Wade said today in the press conference that it’s hard to audible on the road, but you have to do it. Go to hand signals like Payton Manning if you have to, but teams are guessing when we’ll run, maybe by the formation and situation, and are loading up the box. In addition, the line just isn’t blocking that well in the run game. Kyle Kosier had some really bad run blocks and the Buffalo linemen were using quick jumps into the gaps to beat the middle of the Cowboys offensive line. Also, I think we might be missing Oliver Hoyte, Deon Anderson isn’t quite the blocker that Hoyte is.
Underrated plays – There were quite a few plays that made a big difference in the game that went under the radar. We’ve talked about Jay Ratliff’s hustle after the Newman INT and fumble, and that was a huge play. And of course there was Sam Hurd and Tony Curtis on the onside kick. But what about Stephen Bowen? You might be thinking what is Grizz talking about, but right before the first half ended Romo threw an INT that was intended for Sam Hurd. On the next play the Bills hit a long pass that would have put them in the redzone, ready to score and go ahead 24-7 at halftime. Instead, the play was nullified because Bowen broke through and the guard had to hold him to stop him from sacking Edwards, the Bills were moved back and missed a FG. Dallas took the good field position and converted it into a FG for a 17-10 halftime deficit. We talk about the good and bad of T.O., but on Romo’s last INT the Bills linebacker might have taken that ball all the way back if T.O. hadn’t hustled and ran him out of bounds around the 40-yard line. Finally, early on in the game the Bills had 3rd and 4th and short, they went for it and missed it. Bradie James was instrumental in both those tackles.
Players who shined – On offense, besides Jason Witten, it was hard to find a hero. Patrick Crayton pitched in with some crucial catches and a TD, so his contribution was quiet but needed. Deon Anderson caught four passes in the game, turning the FB into a guy you have to cover. Nice job, Cricket, just don’t get blocked off on kickoff coverage. MB3 also had some nice catches to advance drives. On defense, there were plenty of heroes. Bradie James was a monster against the run, Roy Williams made a ton of tackles and Anthony Spencer was out of his mind against the run, his all-around best game in my opinion. Terence Newman had an INT and was a playmaker in tackling the ball. DeMarcus Ware was his normal destructive self.
Players who struggled – The offensive line struggled to run block and Flozell Adams had some very close calls with pass blocking and almost got Romo killed a couple of times. Luckily, Romo got rid of the ball before that happened. Terrell Owens has to make some of those catches that he dropped. The defense also had trouble making tackles in the middle of the field. They tightened up at the crucial moments, but they gave up some yards with poor tackling. And yes, Romo struggled mightily.
Last second shoutouts – Nick Folk is a stud. He joins Mat McBriar as part of our stud kicking tandem. Jason Hatcher made some nice plays including a sack. Jacques Reeves has been steady at corner for the past couple of weeks.