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Film review: Cowboys vs. Vikings (defense)

Here’s the film review on the Cowboys defense. We had a new wrinkle that I hadn’t seen before.

CoachesWade Phillips and Brian Stewart are cranking up the heat on the defense. They tried some new things last week, to some success, and this week they added another. On two 3rd downs, the lined up across the front line - right to left- with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Bobby Carpenter, Jay Ratliff, Greg Ellis, and Kevin Burnett a little back off the line. They rushed everybody but Burnett who dropped into coverage and both times they forced throw-away passes under heavy pressure. Nice.

NTJay Ratliff had some good and some bad moments. The Vikes were able to get him completely moved in the middle on some good runs. Minnesota isn’t one of the top rushing teams for nothing. But Jay kept his motor going and had a good run stuff at the line, was in with Ware in getting pressure for the almost safety that was intentional grounding and also got pressure with Ware one of the two times they ran the defensive formation mentioned above. Remi Ayodele had one great play when he blew up a run by using proper technique on a double-team and splitting it. But he got blown out on two consecutive run plays that went for over 10 yards each.

DEChris Canty was a disruptive force in this game. One of the best he’s played this year. He only had three tackles, but two of them were run stuffers at the line. He almost got a safety when he blew through the line, but couldn’t complete the play. He also almost had a sack, but just missed it. Now I know why Wade Phillips was joking about Canty being too tall, both times he missed the players ducked under him. Of course, we can’t forget about the blocked FG, only the biggest play of the game. All in all, he was a disruptive force. Marcus Spears was AWOL. I saw him on one play stay at home and force a scramble on a bootleg, other than that, never saw him. Jason Hatcher has a knack for the big play. A TD last week, a forced fumble this week. He also had a nice play disrupting the run in the backfield. I think we’ll be seeing more and more of Hatcher. Stephen Bowen was blown out of two long runs (with Remi Ayodele) and didn’t do much else in this game.

OLBDeMarcus Ware might not have had the stats in this game but he played well. He had trouble against the run occasionally, including a pancake block by their TE on Peterson’s TD, but most of Dallas’ line had issues against the run at some point in the game, Minnesota can run the ball. But he made two backside pursuit tackles down the line of scrimmage, he batted down a pass in the backfield while pursuing the QB, and had three QB pressures that led to incomplete passes. Greg Ellis had a good game in his return to the starter’s role. He got beat badly once in pass coverage by Peterson, but two other times he was right on his guy in coverage. He got a coverage sack and he got a garbage-time sack. He had a couple of plays where he stretched the run out for others to make the tackle and he stayed home with Spears on a bootleg and forced a scramble and he stayed home on an end-around. Most of all, he helped draw some blockers away from DeMarcus Ware. I only saw Anthony Spencer a few times all game, twice when he was lined up in the formation at the top of this post, but he didn’t have an impact on the game.

ILBBradie James is simply having a great season of football. He was everywhere against the run again this week, finishing with a team high 9 tackles. He constantly fills the gaps in the run defense and he doesn’t miss tackles. He has become a very good ILB, plus he can rush the passer on a blitz, contributing one sack this week. Oh yeah, he recovered the forced fumble by Hatcher. James might be our most-improved player over last year. Akin Ayodele continues to play solid football. He had some good tackles in the run game early, but he did get beat once in coverage on a back. Kevin Burnett played some in coverage and made a nice tackle on a short pass. I didn’t see him get beat in coverage so he must have been OK. Bobby Carpenter got in on the new formation and rushed the passer a couple of times, but he only occupied blockers and made no real push. He was involved with the FG block, which I’ll discuss more at the bottom.

CB – Let’s be honest, the Cowboys were playing a very bad passing team. So basically, all the secondary played well. Terence Newman had a good tackle on a short pass and broke up a 3rd-down pass. Plus, he had one crazy punt return. Jacques Reeves got beat once and blew the tackle on the same play, but other than that he was solid. Nate Jones didn’t have any problems on the day. Evan Oglesby actually got in for Reeves on a couple of plays and made two tackles in the secondary on a couple of good runs by the Vikings.

SRoy Williams and Ken Hamlin played solid games; both made some good tackles in the run game. Roy got beat once for a pass completion and he had another pass play where he was good and bad. He was bad because he was initially beat by the receiver and if the Vikes had a decent QB he could have been in trouble. He was good because when the QB was a little late with pass and he threw it upfield instead of towards the sideline, Roy recovered and made a beautiful last second tip of the ball for an incompletion. Hamlin had one bad play when he took a poor angle on Peterson’s TD run. Pat Watkins didn’t have any issues in pass coverage, but made his big contribution as described below.

FG block team – The biggest play of the day. Chris Canty and Flozell Adams buried the inside the Vikes protection and Canty slid through and laid-out to block the ball. Bobby Carpenter gets an assist for helping to push him through. Once the ball bounced in the air, Pat Watkins was quick enough to the ball and got high enough to pluck it away from awaiting hands and turned quickly to start running. He got a couple of key blocks from Adams and Carpenter on his way to a back-breaking TD. Kudos to everybody who made that happen.

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