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Five Takeaways From Cowboys Vs. Cardinals

Five observations from the Cowboys loss against the Cardinals

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

This was a game we should have won. This was a strange game; I thought that our defensive line as a whole played their best game of the season. They were exploding off the ball and were consistently playing in the Cardinals backfield. Dwayne Harris seemed to get back on track, and made a couple of really nice returns. The final numbers don't look nice, and it wasn't a dominant performance, but DeMarco Murray was on pace for another 100 yard day. I said back in the offseason that Tony Romo was the single most important player on the team. I think today proved it. On a day when everything else was going pretty good, bad quarterback play cost us this game. Here are five takeaways from the game:

1. Nothing Lasts Forever Even Cold November Rain: Eight games. That's the new record for consecutive 100 yard games to start the season, as the Cardinals broke DeMarco Murray's record. Some people are going to look at his final numbers; 19 attempts, 79 yards, and assume that Dallas wasn't committed or gave up on the run. But that's not necessarily the truth. Here is a breakdown of the seven Dallas drives before the 4th quarter:

Running Plays by Drive
Drive 1 Drive 2 Drive 3 Drive 4 Drive 5 Drive 6 Drive 7 Totals
Running Plays 4 2 0 4 1 5 4 20
Total Plays 10 3 3 9 3 9 7 44
% 40.00% 66.00% 0.00% 44.00% 33.00% 55.00% 57.00% 45.00%

A little context: The one drive we never ran actually started with a run that was wiped out by penalty. Those aren't bad numbers going into the fourth quarter of a close game. Here are the yardage numbers for Murray going into the fourth:

17 Carries

77 Yards

4.5 yards per carry.

Unfortunately, Murray only got two carries in the fourth quarter. Our first full drive in the fourth began with 11:00 left on the clock. The first play was a two yard run by Murray, followed by an incompletion to Dez Bryant, and a seven yard pass to Jason Witten. On fourth and one, Dallas ran Murray up the middle and he was stuffed. Arizona went on to score and go up 21-10. On the ensuing drive, Weeden threw a pass to Murray, then an interception. Arizona again scored to go up 28-10. Murray's last run of the game came with 9:36 left to play. Thus ended the streak.

2.  You Can't Go Home Again: Dez Bryant and Brandon Weeden were on the same team at Oklahoma State, but never really got to play together. Still, many Cowboys fans were hoping that the two would have the same magic for Dallas together each had for a different Cowboys team separately.

Unfortunately, it never happened. Outside of a late garbage time touchdown, the duo did nothing on the field. In fact, before the final drive, Weeden only completed two passes all game to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams combined. But it was Weeden's inability to get on the same page as Bryant that killed the Cowboys. According to PFF, Weeden targeted Bryant eight times, and only completed two passes. Four Dallas drives ended in punts when Weeden couldn't connect with Dez on third down. In many ways that was the deciding factor in the game. Let's review:

Drive 1: Penalty on Tyron Smith puts Dallas in a 2nd and 15. Murray picks up one yard on 2nd down, and Weeden throws an incomplete pass to Dez on 3rd and 14.

Drive 2:  Two runs on first and second down pick up 3 yards. Weeden can't connect with Dez on third down.

Drive 3:  A holding call on 1st down (Tyler Clutts) is followed by short passes to Witten and Murray. Weeden can't connect with Dez on 3rd and 12.

Drive 5:  Weeden misses Dez on a slant on 1st down. Short run by Murray on 2nd down, and Weeden again misses Dez on a crossing route on 3rd down.

This was just nasty. You could see Dez getting more and more frustrated as the game went on, and he finally laid into Weeden after Weeden threw an interception in the red zone.

3.  One Day He'll Be a Real Boy!: There really is no understating how badly we missed Tony Romo in this game. But just for fun let's try.

  • Brandon Weeden threw more interceptions than completions to the left side of the field, (one to zero).
  • Coming into this game Dez and Terrance averaged 9.1 catches per game on 15.6 attempts. Against Arizona they caught four passes on 15 attempts.
  • DeMarco Murray averaged 4.2 yards per carry. Brandon Weeden averaged 5.5 yards per attempt.
  • In Tony Romo's disastrous game against San Fransisco he ended up with a QBR of 19.9 and a QB rating of 60.8. Weeden's ratings against Arizona? QBR of 7.5 and a QB rating of 55.5

All in all it was a bad day.

4. They've Got An Appetite For Destruction: There are some positive takeaways from this game. Despite some hiccups in the run defense, (problems setting the edge, missed tackles in the backfield), I thought this was the best game of the season by our defensive line. They lived in the Arizona backfield. Check out these numbers:

3 sacks

5 hits

7 hurries

That's what our line did to Carson Palmer, and doesn't count hits from the secondary or linebackers. Henry Melton has been on a tear the past two games, (four sacks, a hit and four hurries), and our prized rookie DeMarcus Lawrence looked good in limited action, notching a hit, two solo tackles and an assist per PFF. Even Nick Hayden, (who can do no right in PFF's eyes), had four tackles.

5.  Call Him Young Gun: Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens had a breakout game, and seems to be taking the nickel linebacker job away from Bruce Carter, (or is at least manning it primarily while Carter recovers from injury). Per PFF Hitchens lead the team in tackles with seven and stops with five, (a stop is a solo tackle or sack that constitutes an offensive failure per PFF). One play in particular stood out to me; the first touchdown pass to Larry Fitzgerald. It was a quick slant route from a tight split. Right as Fitzgerald got off the line you could see Hitchens recognize the play and start breaking hard underneath Fitz. He didn't make it in time to stop the touchdown, but he showed excellent recognition and instincts on the play.

Well there you have it fellow BTB'ers. I think I'm more bitter about this loss than either of the other two this season. We just got beat in the San Francisco game. Washington we got out-coached by a great defensive gameplan, and Tony got hurt, and it was just one of those games. But this was a game where I just felt we were the better team, we were playing better in all facets, (but one), and it just felt like we let this one slip by. I feel good about how the team overall played, but a loss is a loss, and this one really stung.

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