Time for a little "What they’re saying" after the Cowboys victory over the Packers.
Let’s start with the head coach, who still isn’t getting enough credit for what he has done with this year’s Cowboys. Yes, Bill Parcells helped build the roster and instilled discipline and credibility, yes Jason Garrett is doing a superb job as offensive coordinator and has future head coach stamped on his forehead. But the soft and cuddly Wade Phillips is one hard-nosed football coach and has the Cowboys playing fantastic football. Anyway, back to coach.
"It's great to be 11-1," head coach Wade Phillips said. "This put us in the playoffs, which was our first goal. Our second goal was to win our division - which we are closer. Obviously, there are some implications towards home-field advantage, but we knew that going in. But this was a big win for our football team. We really came out and played well."
Yes, we made the playoffs last night. I guess that’s not the headline that it should be because when you’re 10-1 before the game, the playoffs seem like a foregone conclusion, but take a moment to celebrate the Cowboys clinching a birth.
The big event of the game was Nate Jones knocking Brett Favre to the sidelines where he was a spectator for the rest of the night. First, a little credit to Jones, if there is one thing Jones does well is rush off the edge on cornerback blitzes. I’ve kind of ripped him about his pass coverage ability, but he’s a mini-DeMarcus Ware on the pass rush. Jones was a little apologetic about hurting the Great Greybeard.
"I don't know how I feel about knocking a guy - hopefully he's OK," Jones said. "Obviously, he's a Hall-of-Fame quarterback. But it's a big play in the game."
Don’t worry Nate, you were just doing your job, it was a clean, solid hit. And solid hits by a lot of the front seven when Brett was in the game.
"Brett is an older guy," Cowboys safety Roy Williams said. "You can't take too many hits at that age because DeMarcus (Ware) and all those big boys don't play around when they land on you."
By the way, great hit on Ryan Grant early in the game Roy.
But the unexpected turn of events after the Jones’ tackle was the Cowboys defense becoming a little befuddled by Aaron Rodgers. In my scouting report, one of my points was Brett’s not going anywhere when he drops back, his days of fancy-moves and running the ball are long past him. The Cowboys pass rush was just heading to a spot and didn’t care about lane integrity. But Rodgers handled it all very well, DeMarcus Ware explains.
"It did make it tough, especially on the rushes," Ware said of Rodgers' six runs for 30 yards. "We're back there rushing on him and sometimes we'd get out of our pass rush lanes, and he'll make you pay."
But not pay enough, because the Cowboys offense continues to put up points.
Once again, a team had to pick its poison by deciding how to defense the Cowboys passing attack. Terrell Owens forces you to make decisions on coverage outside, and Jason Witten forces the same problems inside. It just seems inevitable that you can’t cover both. In the first-half, the Cowboys moved T.O. around and got him favorable matchups, but he also beat Al Harris one-on-one multiple times. In the second-half, it was Jason Witten’s time as the defense was doing all it could to stop T.O. Wade explains:
"Those two pose problems, because if you commit to the outside guys, the tight end's going to be open," Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "And if you help with the safety on the tight end, you're going to be one-on-one with Terrell."
Let’s take a moment to mention another wide receiver in this game that did a lot of damage; no, not Miles Austin, I’ll get to him in a bit, but Patrick Crayton. Ever so silently, Crayton put two TD’s on the board in the game and proved once again that he’s a very valuable #3 option on this team.
I was wondering though, what happened in the first half when Romo and Witten couldn’t connect to save their lives. Witten says:
"Tony and I were just kind of out of sync there in the first half," Witten said of the incomplete passes, "and we had some misses, but we got it going in the second half. This team's been talking about it all year: We play our best football in the second half and put teams away. The second half we just had some opportunities. It wasn't about their coverage. They played the same coverage the entire game."
Wade says that the defense actually did adjust, and that’s when it became Witten Time.
"Yeah, they started paying more attention to Terrell," Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said of why the passes were going elsewhere in the second half. "That's just the way it was."
OK, let’s talk about Miles Austin. Last week in my film review I said I liked Austin’s speed when he has the ball in his hands and that the Cowboys should use him on a WR screen or something. I should have said I like Austin’s speed – period – and that the Cowboys should try to use him on some long bombs. Twice, Austin got behind the Packers secondary and twice got pass interference calls to move the ball into the redzone. But not only that, Austin had some great kick returns and has grabbed hold of that position like a G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip. One thing I will say though, Austin needs to learn how to cut with the ball and still maintain speed and balance. He had ample opportunity to put a move on someone during kick returns but failed to do it. If he can learn that, look out. Wade has much love for Austin.
"Miles had a great game," head coach Wade Phillips said. "He had been doing well on kickoff returns and gave us good field position. But I think he gained some confidence (on offense) last week. He beat his guy twice and they had to interfere with him to stop him from scoring two touchdowns.
"He's got a lot of speed and he's got a lot of confidence on offense and special teams."
"They are the best team in the NFC," said Favre, who is now 0-9 as a starter at Texas Stadium. "They proved that today. I'm not concerned about the fact that we lost to Dallas again. There's still lots of football to play. We may meet them again, maybe here. Who knows?"