Now for the much-maligned defense that is getting better at the expense of some questionable offenses. They held the fort while waiting on Terence Newman, who hopefully is back. He could change a lot.
Defensive film review
NT – Jay Ratliff certainly had a battle going with Olin Kreutz, each guy giving as good as he got. They also double-teamed the Rat, so he was mixing it up in the middle. He made a couple of nice plays; on Henry’s first interception Ratliff was applying pressure up the middle and on Henry’s second TD interception, Ratliff was the key blocker at the goal line. He also occupied guys in the middle that freed up Bradie and Akin to do their jobs. The defense held Chicago to 75 yards rushing, so the nose tackle was getting the job done. Remi Ayodele spelled the Rat a little more this week and had one of the key plays of the game. After Dallas went up 17-10, Remi stripped the ball loose from Cedric Benson and Roy recovered it. A huge play in the game that turned into a FG and started the crash of the Bears at the end.
DE – Chris Canty and Marcus Spears are still the same guys we saw last year. Yes, they’re pretty stiff against the run, if a team is held to 75 yards rushing; the front three are doing their jobs. But again, they just aren’t making the dynamic plays we were promised. Canty got a partial tackle in the backfield on a run play, made a good stop on a draw play and had a decent rush on Roy's INT. Spears had a couple of tackles in the run game and was using good technique in dropping a knee on double-teams in the run game. But overall, these guys aren’t showing any consistent QB pressure or disruptive plays.
The surprise of the game for me on film was Stephen Bowen. He was in the game a lot more than usual and he made some plays. In the first series of the game he rushed the QB from a standing position as the Cowboys were playing games at the line and got to Grossman to force an incomplete pass. In a series late in the game he got pressure on the QB twice and made a tackle in the run game. He may need some more playing time. Jason Hatcher played, but still hasn’t shown the fire and play he displayed in training camp. He did have one significant play, on Henry’s second interception Hatcher was getting pressure on the passer.
OLB – DeMarcus Ware finally had the game we’ve been waiting for. The obvious was that he broke into the sack column notching two, once using his patented speed rush – with a touch of power – to get around the tackle for the sack. He beat a holding penalty to get his second sack and should have given us a shot at a FG. But in the run game he was also tough, he got beat once early, but tightened-up after that and finished with six tackles. He also had a pressure that forced a bad pass and another pressure that messed up a screen. Ware is back. Anthony Spencer was also active in this game. He finished with five tackles and is getting better in the run game. Plus, he jumped into the sack column. He ran a stunt inside with Canty going outside and made a beeline for the QB, grabbed hold and finished the play. He looks like he’s getting more comfortable.
ILB – Another great game by the inside pair of Bradie James and Akin Ayodele. Those two guys aren’t getting a lot of attention but they had a great game. James had four tackles and Ayodele had five and was very active in this game. They still have problems in coverage, Ayodele gave up a key pass to the TE, but their value lies in stuffing the run. Kevin Burnett was back to playing on the nickel/dime defenses and had one nice tackle. Bobby Carpenter played in the middle some too, but really just dropped into zone coverage and didn’t have much impact.
CB – Early on, the corners were giving too much cushion. Anthony Henry started a little slow and gave up a few passes early, and was lucky when Berrian dropped a pass near the goal line. But he turned it around by intercepting two passes and returning one for a TD. Henry started to cut down on the cushion and get aggressive and it paid off. Four INT’s in two games is spectacular. He also had a pair of pass breakups in the second half. Jacques Reeves is stuck in the same pattern. He’s not going to get beat deep but he’s going to give up all kinds of yards in front of him. He gave up four or five easy passes but did make sure tackles afterwards. He’s playing it safe. Terence Newman played the nickel – hallelujah – and was moving around well. He got one pass break up on the only pass that really came his way.
S – Roy Williams divides Cowboys fans as much as any player and I can see why. Roy does make plays, usually big plays. The problem is sometimes their good, sometimes their bad. In this game he had a fumble recovery and an interception. Anytime a player gets two turnovers in a night, that’s a good game. He also forced a bad pass in the redzone by applying pressure to the QB. But Roy punctuated it with an awful tackle attempt on the TE on a play that went 52-yards and put the Bears back in the game. He also got a 15-yard horse collar penalty with time running out in the first half. The last thing you want in that situation is free yards with the clock stopped. That’s our Roy. Ken Hamlin had a quiet night, but like I always say, with safeties that’s not a bad thing. He had a pass break up, a couple of tackles and got beat on one pass. He must be doing something right, because we haven’t been burnt deep down the middle in a couple of weeks. Pat Watkins didn’t do much during regular play, but had a nice special teams night.
Extra shout-out to the defense for its goal line stand on Chicago’s second drive that ended in a FG. Holding them to three at that time was important.