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Cowboys vs. Patriots: Hot topics

Here are my hot topics for the Cowboys after getting pasted by the Patriots.

The Cowboys secondary – Boy, we got torched. Tom Brady had zero problems with our secondary, the trio of Randy Moss, Donte’ Stallworth and Wes Welker were beating every one of our corners including Terence Newman. We’ve been getting by covering the holes at CB while fighting through injuries, but the Patriots were just too talented for the Cowboys to do it without Anthony Henry. We got exposed in the secondary, but it took a team like New England to do it. I still believe this defense is going to get better and I think the corners, when all are healthy, can be good enough. You can’t blame the front seven on this defense, they sacked Brady a few times, knocked him around a little more, scored a TD and held the Patriots running game in check, but the secondary just couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain.

Penalties – Wow, the Cowboys just killed themselves with penalties. The official tally was 12 penalties for 98 yards. The unofficial tally was the number of times they wiped out important plays, knocked the offense out of rhythm and kept deflating our own cause. The 4th and 1 conversion that was wiped out by a holding call at the beginning of the 4th quarter is a perfect example. That might have been the biggest play in the game. Dallas was trailing 31-24 and had the ball at midfield, Marion Barber picked up the first but a holding call ended the drive. Tom Brady turned around and hit a big TD pass and the game was on the way to being over. We also gave them a first down with an offsides on a 3rd and 3, we had a holding penalty that killed a drive before it ever started, we had an illegal shift that killed a 23-yard pass play and a drive. Now, we did get a bogus call on the Randy Moss pass interference and the T.O. catch, but they weren’t the reason we lost. All of those penalties combined were what killed us. So I don’t blame the refs at all.

3rd down defense – What is going on with the 3rd-down defense? On that first drive we had them in 3rd down four times and couldn’t stop them once. That was a pattern that repeated all night. We’d play great on 1st and 2nd down, but fold like a lawn chair on 3rd down. This team just can’t get off the field on 3rd down. That’s a big reason why the defense was on the field so long and was gassed at the end. Yes, the Dallas offense had some quick series that didn’t help, but if the defense could have gotten themselves off the field at least some of the time on 3rd down, they would have had plenty of gas at the end. As it was, they were exhausted and got run over.

FG call –  Wade, I’ve been with you most of the year on the critical calls, but this time I disagree. The call for a FG from the 5-yard line when we were down 14 points with 10 minutes left in the 4th–quarter was a bad decision. Normally, with that much time in the game, cutting the lead to two scores (a TD, 2pt. and a FG) is a good call. But you had to know that the Dallas defense wasn’t capable of stopping the New England offense twice with no points. That’s what would have been required after the FG for us to even tie the game. If you go for the TD and get it, then New England feels a little pressure and one mistake, one penalty, one special play like a Ware sack could make it feasible. Even if you miss, you got them backed-up and can hope for something. The decision to go for the FG felt like you surrendered the fort. You just deflated the team and the defense was too tired to make a stand.

Tony Romo – Look, Romo played a pretty good game even though his yards weren’t that great. He was hampered by the penalties that killed us in the second half and the New England defense is good. But my complaint is that he has to get this team off to quicker starts on offense. Whether Julius Jones starts or Marion Barber, he has to make a difference early. Just like Brady did on his first drive. Every time they needed a play to move the chains Brady got it done. We need Romo to get to that level at the beginning of games, not just the second half.

Classless Patriots? – OK, lots of complaints about the TD at the end of the game as a classless move by Bill Belichick. The first thing I always think of in these situations is if you don’t want them to score then stop them. We let the fourth string RB run right through us. And while the game surely looked out of reach, there is always the specter of what we did last week. We also called a timeout on that last drive, so it’s obvious we hadn’t quit playing. So all of that makes me not really care if they scored at the end. Would I have done it as a coach? No, I would have kneeled on the ball, I think most coaches would have done that. But Belichick doesn’t care, and Brady’s comments afterwards made it clear none of them cared what others think. If they wanted to make a statement or if they just wanted to get the 4th-string RB a TD, I don’t know, and I don’t really care. How much you lose by doesn’t matter like in college, an ‘L’ is an ‘L’. If we see them again one day, maybe it will serve as motivation. Otherwise, Bill Belichick isn’t my problem. Whether I like him or not, think he’s a genius or a jerk, it doesn’t matter and that TD at the end doesn’t matter to me.

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