On the Cowboys final drive, after Tony Romo threw his touchdown fade to Roy Williams, the cameras captured Flozell Adams shaking Romo's hand, thanking him for continuing to play on a day when too many of his offensive teammates didn't have the spark.
Dallas came to town content and was outslugged by a Packers team that had its season on the line. The Dallas defense kept the Packers offense in check for around 40 minutes, until the injuries to the secondary left it playing Alan Ball at one corner and Pat Watkins at free safety.
While the game hung in the balance, at 0-0 and later at 3-0 Packers, the offense could never get into gear. Packers DC Dom Capers flummoxed the line with a blitz package which frequently got linebackers and corners free. Tony Romo was sacked five times, most of them coming in the first half.
The problems went father than scheme. The Packers simply outhit the Cowboys' on this side of the ball. Marion Barber was overrun on one Dallas sack. His skill position mates took turns short-circuiting Dallas possessions with miscues, which negated several big calls by Jason Garrett.
Like the Eagles the week before, Capers' Packers brought a lot of long secondary blitzes, where corners or safeties lined up deep then floated off their receivers or tight ends to make delayed rushes behind the linemen and linebackers. In the second quarter, Garrett caught Green Bay in one and sent Roy Williams into the deep middle. Romo hit Williams in stride for 41 yards, but the receiver didn't wrap up when he tried cutting past CB Charles Woodson, who peeled off Miles Austin in support, and whom Williams could clearly see. Woodson knocked the ball from Roy's arm and the Packers recovered, sending the offense back to the sideline after just one play. It was, in effect, a quick kick on 1st-and-10.
On Dallas second 2nd-half drive, with the score 3-0, the Cowboys offense finally appeared to revive. An eleven yard Tashard Choice run from the Razorback was supplemented by a fifteen yard facemask penalty, moving the Cowboys to their 46. Two plays later, Miles Austin ran an out towards the right sideline from the slot and the Packers corner and safety on that side rolled up with him. Roy Williams drifted free down the right sideline and Romo floated a perfect pass to him at the Packers 30. Roy inexplicably tried catching the ball with his facemask (something I do not advise) and the pass bounced to the turf.
Garrett made another inspired call on the next snap, when Choice ran out of the backfield and up the right seam, where he caught another Romo dart or an apparent first down, inside the Packers 30. This play was wiped out by Jason Witten, who was flagged for offensive pass interference. The Cowboys failed on their 3rd-and-23 attempt and punted the ball away.
The next time the offense took the field, just over eight minutes later, the score was 10-0. On the third play of Dallas' possession the line again exposed Romo to a weakside corner blitz, as Flozell Adams blocked down to his right, giving Charles Woodson a free lane at Romo. Woodson stripped the ball from Romo's hand. Felix Jones appeared to recover the ball and roll once on the turf before Johnny Jolly tore the ball from his hands. The officials ruled the play alive and Clay Matthews recovered the ball down at Dallas' three, setting up a short Aaron Rodgers pass to Spencer Havner for an unreachable 17-0 Green Bay lead.
The Cowboys would move the ball and score in the waning minutes, but the game fell apart on these two series in the mid 3rd and early 4th.
-- Poor execution can make the defensive play callers look stupid too. In last year's win over the Packers, Wade Phillips called several corner blitzes out of the slot for Anthony Henry, who made two sacks and caused a turnover. Early in the second quarter, Wade called the same corner blitz for Orlando Scandrick, who roared in untouched from Aaron Rodgers' right, sacked the QB, stripped the ball and recovered it at the Green Bay fifteen. The Cowboys appeared ready to seize the lead, at 3-0 if not 7-0.
Scandrik's exemplary play was negated by a hands-to-the face penalty by Mike Jenkins. It was that kind of day.
-- Joe DeCamillis' group wasn't immune to curd poisioning. His return units took several block-in-the-back penalties, which kept the sputtering offense on long fields. They continue to struggle blocking kickoff returns.
-- I think it's now official: Nick Folk is mired in a mini-slump. He's missed quite a few mid-range kicks this year, going back to the preseason. He pulled a 38 yarder wide left to end Dallas' first drive. The Cowboys would chase those lost points all day.
-- Dallas called only eleven runs to its trio of backs in the game. The knee jerkers will likely point to last year's Washington game and accuse Jason Garrett of getting pass happy. I don't think that had anything to do with the loss. I've broken down Dallas' drives and find that penalties and sacks kept the offense off the rushing side of the play sheet:
- Series one -- two rushes, 20 yards;
- Series two -- three rushes, 8 yards;
- Series three -- one 1st down rush for 2 yards. Romo sacked on 2nd, taking the run option away on 3rd;
- Series four -- two rushes for 3 yards. Choice is two feet short on a 3rd-and-4 draw;
- Series five -- no rushes; Roy Williams fumbles on drive's only play;
- Series six -- Romo is sacked on 1st down, putting Dallas in 2nd and long. No rushes;
- Series one - Barber rushes on 1st for no gain. Romo sacked on 2nd down;
- Series two -- Choice runs once for 11 yards; Williams and Witten bungle the drive on subsequent plays. (see above);
- Series three -- Felix Jones rushes on 1st down for 4 yards. Romo sacked on next play and fumbles;
- Series four -- Dallas takes the field here down 17-0 with 10:44 left and doesn't call another run.
Jimmy Johnson's halftime remarks on Fox were apt. Dallas could not get first downs, and when you're taking sacks and penalties and not converting, you have no chances to build a running rhythm. Dallas didn't get a first down on five consecutive series starting with its third. It had three rushes in the five italicized drives,while the game was in doubt. But where are the extra runs in that segment coming from? One series lasted one play, and it was a great call. Another lasted two plays. The most promising drive wasted two great pass calls.
The Packers front won the battles up front on run and pass downs, and I don't think we can fault Doug Free too much. The leaks were coming from the left and up the middle on linebacker blitzes.
-- Dallas has seven guys it could really not afford to lose. I'm taking about its starting five offensive linemen and its starting safeties. The team just lost Marc Colombo for several weeks with a broken fibula and Ken Hamlin's status is uncertain after he left the game with an ankle injury late in the 3rd quarter. Offensive line and safety shortcomings have been the Cowboys downfall every season since '05. They had the starters covered on opening day, but nothing but question marks in reserve on both units. Those question marks, Doug Free and Pat Watkins, may hold the season in their hands.
-- Memo to Roy Williams. The last guy named Roy Williams on this team used to get off the ground pointing at a teammate every time a bomb was completed in his area. The fans didn't buy it. I doubt that pointing to the Lambeau Field lights after a perfectly thrown pass hits you between the eyes will be any more convincing.
On to the Redskins