Bear with me guys. It's going to take me awhile to get to the point. I'm dazed and confused right now about the prospect of our season. So let me just start with something that's been on my mind since the debacle in the Lou.
We usually get the Niners or the Raiders out here so I always watch the Cowboy game at my local bar. I got up around 8:30 a.m. Sunday, checked my fantasy football lineups and watched a little NFL Primetime and NFL Gameday for injury updates. I opened up the closet door and surveyed the many Cowboy jerseys -- Romo, Barber, Irvin, Emmitt. Who should I wear today I thought? Let's go with the dark blue Owens. Then I hit the door.
The local bar is maybe a mile or two away so I'm driving down the street listening to some good tunes. I'm anticipating the excitement of the game. I get to the bar and first thing I do is order a pitcher. I find my favorite seat and say what's up to the Mexican homies. They are hardcore, drop-dead Cowboy fans and because of them I've learned all kind of colorful Spanish curse words.
So as the game progresses from bad to worse to incredibly depressing, and as I continue to order pitcher after pitcher, I notice the negative tone of the guy sitting next to me. He's yelling ridiculous things. He's calling Wade Phillips "Scarecrow" and saying our D-line "sucks." He's saying we have no heart and that we're overrated. I have no doubt he's a Cowboy fan. But this is starting to anger me.
So I yell out "dammit the game isn't over!" This kind of startles him. I immediately feel kind of bad about it but at the same time my point has been made: we really don't need this negativity. We need solutions. Not negativity. We all get upset and disappointed by our 'Boys. But save the heckling to the haters.
So later, sometime after I yelled at him, he comes up to me and asks me what do I think we need to do to turn this thing around. And, in the middle of my drunken anguish, I had a moment of clarity. My mind did a quick highlight-reel of most of the big plays against our secondary. Bulger's bomb to Avery. McNabb to DeSean "look the football is a hot potato" Jackson. Campbell to Moss. Warner to Fitzgerald. They always keep a blocker or two in to protect the QB. We usually don't bring a blitz. We only rush four or five and it's usually telegraphed. We're in a soft zone. It never works.
Pressure. That's what we need. Pressure.
I truly believe that Wade's defense has consistently got more pressure than Cowboy defenses of, maybe, the last 10 years. That being said, we still have an inadequate commitment to getting after the QB. I'm not downplaying the importance of stopping the run either. We need to do that too. But we should be coming darn near every play, blitzing unexpectedly and employing better-crafted blitz packages. This was the reason Wade was hired but yet and still we have not seen consistent pressure or the type of all-out sell-out blitz that challenges an offense to make a quick decision. Yeah we could give up big plays. But aren't we doing that anyway? The players seem to agree with this assessment and Wade seems to be signaling a shift to a basic, simpler, aggressive defense. Now that Wade has assumed the play-calling duties, we'll see if our D starts coming early and often.
Tank has suggested we bring Ware and Ellis every play to rush the QB. Wade agrees. I couldn't agree more. Ellis has a pick but he's also been exposed in pass coverage. It's obvious he's more comfortable getting after the QB. History has shown us that he's consistent and relentless in his pursuit. Ware is in the midst of what could be a historic 20-sack season or something close to it. He's that good. Let him pin his ears back.
Wade has made a call for a simpler defense. I also agree with this wholeheartedly. This will cut down on the headaches for our defensive players, but more importantly, the current scheme isn't working. We're back to that place in time in the Parcells era where everybody knows what we run, they make the adjustment, we don't and they exploit it. It's like the Detroit Lions spreading us out in 2006 with three receivers and running our secondary ragged. That's how our soft zone is now. They realize three things: we're not going to be physical with their receivers, we'll sit back in a soft zone and we'll give the receivers plenty of cushion. They double-team Ware, keep in an extra blocker in and then take their shots and we fall for it. Everytime. I hope this simplied approach challenges that type of approach. Why not line up with six or seven defenders in the box? Make the QB call an audible. Send the blitz right up the middle into the QB's face instead of allowing him time to make decisions. Why not send six or seven defenders? Not delayed blitzes either that rarely get there. But on the line ready to go. Force the QB into a mistake.
It's official now. Wade pulled a Fassel and snatched play-calling duties from Brian Stewart. I believe this is a good move. In defense of Stewart, last year his defense created a lot of turnovers and made plenty of big plays. Turnovers can be a panacea for a lot of things. But this year that hasn't happened and I think it exposed him. I'm pretty down on Stewart right now. If I were to describe his style in one word it would be this: cautious. His first inclination seems to be reactive as opposed to being aggressive. We seem to rarely blitz and when we do it seems that the blitzes hardly ever get there. Our blitzes seem to be ill-timed and obvious. He also seems to opt to sit in a zone and take our chances in 3rd in long situations as opposed to bringing the heat. I'll admit sometimes it has worked but that's because Ware made it work. We need to impose our will on the offense. Make them adjust to us. Stewart doesn't seem to adhere to that philosophy. I'm hoping Wade's play-calling is more aggressive. I'm hoping for darn near reckless abandon.
Why is pressure so important in my opinion? Because our secondary is beat-up and playing tenative. We have a lot of youth and inexperience back there. Nothing gives them more confidence than the disruption that comes from sacks and pressure. Also, as QBs start to make quicker decisions they'll call audibles and throw short passes to get rid of the ball quickly. This might result in more deflections, tip balls or chances for our young CBs to make plays on the ball. It's an infinitely a better situation for a CB to make a tackle on a quick hitch, slant, drag or out than to try and judge the flight of the ball on a deep ball. We don't seem to be good at that.
Our offense needs pressure from our defense too. Sacks are game-changing, momentum-changing, cataclysmic moments in a game. Ware's sack on Warner in the waning moments of the Cardinals game got us into overtime. It could've stemmed some of the onslaught we felt against the Rams and halted a score or two against the Redskins. That's more than enough for a healthy Romo to put a team away. We did that last year. That even allows a backup like Brad Johnson to settle his bearings as opposed to the constant pressure he was under last week. A team who has an opposing QB under seige can really put the dagger into the other team with a few successful drives. Sacks can lead to bad field position and turnovers -- all good things for an offense. Assuming our offensive ineptitude last week was the exception not the rule, pressuring the QB, I believe, can turn our season around.
Turn the dogs loose Wade.