The film review this week was an open book, rather an open film. What I mean is that what I saw the second time around didn’t vary greatly from what I saw the first time around. And I suspect it won’t for you, giving the comments you’ve been writing. Well, most of the comments, everyone has a pet cat that they have to protect from criticism, but in general, I think Cowboys fans already know what happened in that game. But since I watched it and took notes, I’m going to write about it.
Below is the offense and a little bit on special teams. Later I’ll post the defense.
QB – Watching Tony Romo again just gave me more respect for what he did in that game. He was phenomenal. On multiple throws Romo would wait in the pocket and scan the field, then when a pass rusher finally got through, Romo would calmly use his ultra-quick release and zip a strike to a receiver. He also did that on the few times a blitz guy came in untouched. Romo looked more comfortable in the pocket than probably any other game I’ve seen. If Garrett wants him to stay in the pocket and move up when he needs to in order to run this timing offense, Romo got the message. The ability to hit his receivers in stride was also a big reason he averaged 23 yards per completion. One problem he had was communication with Terrell Owens in the first half, there were a couple of times he threw to Owens but it looked like Romo was expecting one thing, Owens another, and the ball was incomplete. He made a few errant throws, like one to Sam Hurd in the endzone. There was also the interception, but that play was the result of a great defensive move by Gibril Wilson. He faked the blitz, hid behind our RT and the DE and then jumped out into the passing lane to snatch the ball. Looking from Romo’s view, you never see him until the last second. Oh yeah, don’t let me forget to mention that Romo ran for a TD, too.
RB – The replay of this game confirmed something for me about Julius Jones. When he has any kind of traffic from the time he gets the ball on a handoff and the time he gets a couple of yard past the line, he struggles. Now, I know your thinking most backs would, but some backs can make that quick cut in the backfield or use the jump-stop to break the ball in a different direction, or what have you. JJ tries to pick his way through and just isn’t that good at it. At the beginning of the game, we had a couple of breakdowns in the run blocking, and that one guy would disrupt the play for a short gain. Given all that, JJ was running hard and putting his helmet down to get extra-yards. He had a nice run on a screen and another nice run when he broke it to the outside. Which brings me to my real point; why did the Cowboys insist on running JJ between the tackles? Let’s break out that toss sweep we saw so often in preseason. JJ’s blocking in pass protection was also good.
Marion Barber just changes the offense when he’s in the game. For some reason, they seemed to get more jacked up and things tend to happen on his drives. I guess it has to do with his punishing way of running the ball, when he knocks a defender on his butt the offense seems to respond. MB3 is more decisive in the backfield than JJ when choosing the hole or sensing where the open lane is going to be. Jason Garrett isn’t going to wait for third down or the second half to utilize MB3, he had him switching in the rotation early and the carries were split evenly between JJ and MB3. In the closing drives of the game though, I would prefer they went back to using MB3 like last year. That role suited him perfectly.
WR – Terrell Owens had to wait, but he finally got his in the second half. As mentioned above, it seemed he and Tony Romo weren’t on the same page in the first half. In the second half, Romo found him twice on the same crossing pattern, once for a 22-yard gain and once when T.O. took it to the house. T.O.’s TD catch was a thing of beauty (although I have no idea why the Giants didn’t challenge it). On that TD, T.O. was the only WR on the field with Witten and Fasano running the other patterns. But let’s talk about something else T.O. was doing - blocking downfield on runs. In fact, all the WR’s were doing this and doing it well.
Patrick Crayton had a few catches for the game and made a great seal block on JJ’s long run. Sam Hurd showed that he can be a weapon, too. He turned a slant pattern into a 51-yard TD pass that sealed the game. The Giants were running press coverage with no safety over the top; Romo and Hurd saw this and took full advantage.
FB – I didn’t really like the game Oliver Hoyte turned in. He was having trouble picking out the right guy to block and didn’t get a whole lot of solid blocks. He and JJ were not on the same page because I counted three or four times were Hoyte went in one direction on a lead block and JJ went another. Sometimes a back will go in a different direction, but it also looked like Hoyte should’ve made adjustments by reading the defense once the play started. Physically, he can do the job, but he needs to step-up his reads and start picking out the guy most likely to disrupt the play.
TE – Jason Witten did what an all-pro TE should do; he made the Giants pay for doubling Owens and trying to cover him with him a linebacker. None of the Giants linebackers could stay with him, and Romo used him repeatedly to pick up crucial third downs. Sometimes he was wide-open, on others Romo would thread the needle, but the results were always the same. Eventually, the Giants had to adjust and take Witten out of the game and the Cowboys WR’s, noticeably T.O., stepped up and took advantage. Witten also did a nice job blocking. Tony Fasano was very quiet this game with no significant action. Likewise for Tony Curtis, although I did spot him making a couple of nice blocks.
OL – In sum, they were fantastic. Romo was only sacked one time and was forced out of the pocket on only a handful of plays. Otherwise, he had plenty of time to set up in the pocket and wait for the receivers to come open. On one play, I swear he went to his fourth read to complete a pass, all while comfortably in the pocket. The running game put up 142 yards with a 4.7 average and made the Giants’ defense oversensitive to the play-action passes that the Cowboys used to kill them in the second half. All of that came from the offensive line. They also were communicating well with each other and picking up stray rushers and the blitz with remarkable accuracy. You can’t say enough good things about them in this game. But you know me, I have to point out some negatives, so these are the few I found. Flozell Adams had his usual penalties with a false start and a hold. Kyle Kosier got beat for the days only sack on Romo and had one very bad run block. But he and Andre Gurode got out in front on JJ’s screen pass (along with Hoyte). Gurode got beat on a run block, quick-snapped Romo on one play and had a holding penalty. Leonard Davis got beat on a run block badly once and had a false start. Marc Colombo also had a few questionable blocks, but had no penalties and was solid. All of that is minor stuff in comparison to how these guys performed as a unit. They were awesome.
K – Nick Folk had no problem with his kicking duties. He made all his FG and XP attempts and his kickoffs were relatively deep. Great job by the rookie.
P – Mat McBriar was Mat McBriar. He was good.
Return units – Tyson Thompson had some very nice kickoff returns, averaging 30 yards per return, but he had one costly fumble at the end of the half. Patrick Crayton was solid but unspectacular on punt returns.
Coverage units – The punt coverage team did their job, but the kickoff coverage gave up over 27 yards per return, something that has plagued us all preseason.