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Film review: Cowboys vs. Patriots (defense)

Here’s the defensive game review. Overarching theme, the front guys did pretty well, they got some pressure and stuffed the run. The back guys never made plays and got busted up continuously.

NT – After a fast start, Jay Ratliff isn’t causing as much havoc recently. He probably would benefit from having Tank Johnson available to give him some quality rest. Teams aren’t running on us, so he’s still effective and he did have one good penetration that blew up a run, but not much in the pressure department recently. They did drop him into a short zone coverage on one play and he tackled the RB who caught a dump off pass for no gain. The only thing I saw Remi Ayodele do is jump offsides on one play.

DEChris Canty had a very quiet game except in stopping the run. He managed four tackles but only once got even a hint of pressure on Brady. Marcus Spears had two really good plays against the run but didn’t do anything else. Jason Hatcher had a huge play when he scooped up a fumble and scored a TD, but not much else from him. Hatcher also got a roughing the passer call to put New England in FG range. Stephen Bowen got pressure one time, but missed the QB and Brady stepped up and threw a TD pass. They played great against the run but none of these guys are giving us enough in the pass rush.

OLBDeMarcus Ware was our best defensive player on the field and did everything he could to will us to a win. Besides leading the team with 10 tackles, he had a sack, a couple of pressures, and sniffed out a screen and shut it down on a 3rd down. Anthony Spencer had one good pass rush and was able to cause some confusion by stunting inside. He also played OK against the run by taking on blocks and holding the point, but he wasn’t able to make any significant plays. Greg Ellis was great when he was rushing the passer; he caused the fumble the Hatcher returned for a TD by sacking Brady. On the play, Ware and Ellis lined up side-by-side and Ellis came loose. Ware, Ellis and Spencer were moving around quite a bit and sometimes lined up in the middle or with both OLB’s on the same side of the line. But the coaches made a mistake by running a zone-blitz with Ellis in the game. On the blitz, Kevin Burnett rushes from the middle and in the previous games Anthony Spencer would cover the middle zone. This game they did it a few times with Ellis who was easily out-matched by Wes Welker over the middle and it was a disaster for Dallas. They also ran this zone blitz with Ware dropping back in coverage once and the Patriots scored on that one too, although not near Ware.

ILB – For Bradie James and Akin Ayodele, this game didn’t feature their talents. They got substituted for quite often when the Patriots went three-wide and there weren’t that many running plays for them to stuff. James ended up with 8 tackles which isn’t bad and Akin Ayodele again was filling the hole and taking the lead block to help stop the run game. James did drop back way too deep in coverage on one play and didn’t watch the back who slipped out for a short catch that converted a 3rd and 9. But he did have nice one-on-one coverage of Kyle Brady on another pass play.

Kevin Burnett played a lot and seemed to do an OK job in coverage, I never really saw him getting beat. He blitzed a couple times and was just late on his pressure as Brady got it out both times, once for a TD. I don’t know if it was his responsibility or Roy Williams’ responsibility to cover Kyle Brady on his TD. Mike Vrabel was on one side at TE and Akin Ayodele covered him. K. Brady blocked then released across the endzone to the same side, Burnett ran right by him and bought the run fake, then tried to get back. Meanwhile, Roy was doubling Vrabel until the last second when he saw K. Brady entering his zone and tried to peel back. So It was either Burnett’s or Roy’s responsibility.

CB – OK, I don’t think any of our secondary played well. And sometimes it was hard to tell who blew the coverage, like in the previous example, because two guys would be confused and looking at each other. But here’s the best I can do. The ever-reliable Terence Newman wasn’t exactly that on Sunday. I saw him get beat in coverage on six pass plays where he was either the primary cover guy or in the zone where the catch was made. He also had a bad missed tackle, but I don’t think he gave up any TD’s, so he’s got that going for him. He did stay at home on the Moss flea-flicker play and he made a nice tackle on Moss after a short catch. Jacques Reeves was beat straight up five different times and he was beat on the Stallworth TD and missed the tackle, even though he should have had safety help. He was also the guy covering Moss on his TD that was overruled on instant replay. He did break up one pass that was in Moss’ hands and he had good coverage on another Moss attempt. I got Nate Jones for getting flat-out beat at least five times with a lot of those trying to cover Wes Welker. He actually had OK position on one Wes Welker TD but didn’t get the expected safety help and Welker scored easily. On the plus side, he got a sack on a blitz. All three CB’s had trouble all game and just couldn’t stay with the Patriots’ WR’s, especially in man-to-man coverages. They just didn’t make any plays on the ball. They might have gotten one or two pass breakups between them the whole night and no turnovers.

S – Roy Williams was involved in a couple of busted coverages. The most notable was on Moss’ first TD. Moss lined up outside and ran an ‘in’ deep in the endzone, the other receiver ran crossed under Moss and ran an out to the edge of the endzone. Roy jumped the out and followed while Newman passed off Moss to the inside expecting Roy to drop back into the lane. Two Cowboys on one receiver and Moss wide-open meant an easy TD. From the look of the play and the reaction from Hamlin and Newman afterward, it looked like Roy blew the coverage, but I can’t be positive. He had great coverage on Ben Watson on one play but an unbelievably accurate pass from Brady was able to slip the ball in for a catch. Watson beat Roy on another play and depending on whether he or Burnett was responsible for Kyle Brady’s TD, he might have been involved in two TD’s given up. On the plus side, he had a great blitz and hit on Brady for an incomplete pass. Ken Hamlin was biting on play-fakes and losing his zone all night. He was beat on the first play when they ran the fake end-around but luckily Brady overthrew the ball. On Welker’s first TD, he tried to jump the route and left Nate Jones alone who had outside coverage while Hamlin was supposed to provide the inside coverage. Easy pitch-and-catch for a TD. He also bit on the play-fake on Stallworth’s long TD. A bad night for Hamlin. Pat Watkins had a bogus pass interference penalty called on him but I didn’t see him do much else, but he was in on five tackles. Maybe he had the best game out of all of these guys.

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