Here’s the film review, as promised. The first part is for the offense, although there were so few plays run and the running game was barely a blip on the radar that the numbers and production of the offensive players are skewed this week.
QB – I thought Tony Romo played a good game that might have turned out to be good enough to win against another team. Tom Brady was just better. I want to return to the slow starts again this week and Romo’s culpability in those. It’s been noted by me and others that Romo is sometimes erratic at the beginning of games. He wasn’t so much this week, but two better placed passes early can make the difference. He threw a pass to Terrell Owens that Owens dropped, there’s no doubt about that. But the pass came in low, and we said it several times last year that a pass below the waist on a crossing pattern to Owens is almost assuredly going to be dropped, and it was. But if Romo would have led him a little higher, Owens probably would have caught it and gained a first down. So it’s not truly Romo’s fault, but if he was just a little more accurate it could have made a difference. He did the same thing by leading Patrick Crayton a little high and wide on a ball that maybe Crayton should catch but if the pass would have been more accurate he probably would have caught it. So the point isn’t Romo’s at fault, but to get to that next level, you need to hit those passes with accuracy. That’s what Tom Brady does. I agree it’s nitpicking on Romo, but it would help to get us off to better starts.
RB – We really didn’t get a chance to establish a serious running game. We ran so few plays in the first half on offense and we fell behind pretty quickly. The yards per carry averages were good, but the impact on the game wasn’t that large. Julius Jones had two good, hard runs in the first drive after the half and another one later in the game. He also made a great blitz pickup block on a long pass to Jason Witten. One of JJ’s better games for the limited amount of work. Marion Barber was punching New England defenders and running hard as usual. He kicked in a couple of pass catches and just brought energy to the Cowboys offense. Of course, he had one of the most memorable 2-yard runs in NFL history when he eluded the entire Patriots offense while running the length of the endzone avoiding a safety. It was a remarkable, amazing achievement of physical ability. It was also a play he should never have made because you never reverse field and run the ball into your own endzone. Physically, an unbelievable play; mentally, not the best choice. [EDIT] I amend this to say MB3 was fighting for yards at the 5-yard line then the three, so I guess mental mistake is the wrong phrase. Maybe too much heart is the right phrase. But you have to know the endzone is right behind you and you can't keep going backwards. Fall down at some point. Hat tip to BTB-regular Burt-D for pointing out my poor phrasing. [END EDIT]
WR – Terrell Owens was productive but didn’t have a "popcorn ready" type of day. He had the one drop mentioned above but he also brought down some tough catches that were of high quality and he put one into the endzone for six. But he never dominated the game and his output was average. He also was part of the illegal-shift that wiped out a big pass play to him that would have put the ball at the Patriots 38-yard line. Patrick Crayton had a decent day for a #2 WR and continues to score TD’s, adding one in this game. Sam Hurd had one pass thrown his way and made no impact on the game.
TE – Jason Witten had one drive where he caught three passes in a row that set up a TD, but was absent for the rest of the game in the passing offense. He has improved his blocking and threw a couple of great blocks in the run game, but he also whiffed on a Rodney Harrison blitz that led to a sack. He was also involved in the awful blocking that led MB3 to run the ball around in the endzone. Anthony Fasano had one catch but also had a pass interference call on offense that negated a big gain.
FB – Deon Anderson had one really good block to open up an MB3 run but since the Cowboys were on offense so little and they were passing most of the time, he didn’t see much action
OL – Once again the offensive line provided solid protection for Tony Romo in the passing game. Each week the line has been very good in pass protection and is better at it than they are at run blocking. Vince Wilfork gave Andre Gurode fits in run blocking, twice beating him to shut down run plays. Gurode also got a false start penalty, and as a center you can only do that by moving the ball then not snapping it. Marc Colombo was solid all game except for one bad run block early in the game. Leonard Davis was pretty good too, although his blocks on a couple of pull plays were weak. And again, I can’t complain about the pass blocking.
Flozell Adams started well, but finished poorly. He committed a holding penalty that helped kill a drive before it started because of bad technique on a pass rush. He followed up by getting no drive on Rodney Harrison on MB3’s miracle run, then grabbed Harrison and slammed him down in the endzone for what could have been a hold and a safety but wasn’t called by the refs. He then had a bad block on an MB3 run and allowed pressure that turned into a scramble and sack by Romo. All within the last few drives of the game. Kyle Kosier one-upped Flozell by blowing a couple of run blocks and picking up two holding penalties that were killers. The first one occurred when Dallas was in New England territory and was working on a 2nd and 4. The hold occurred in the middle of the line in the mass of bodies and I couldn’t see him on the play and there were no replays to confirm it. So I don’t know what happened. We all saw him tackle Teddy Bruschi on the 4th and 1 play, the play that was so critical in the game. He was also the third bad blocker on the MB3 run.
Coaches – Let me jump in with a little bit about the coaches. Wade Phillip’s decision in kicking a FG in the 4th quarter was not in keeping with his and Garrett’s aggressive philosophy. It seemed like Wade got scared for once. I think he regrets it. And Jason Garrett needs to shake things up on the initial few offensive series. Besides the argument for starting Barber, he could try some different play selections. Get Romo moving on a bootleg or controlled rollout, those kinds of plays seem to always get him going. Or throw a WR screen to Owens or give it to him on an end-around. Just do something besides JJ between the tackles and short passes to Witten or Owens. One more note, Romo does not throw the fade route in the endzone well. Quit calling it in crucial situations.