So a few caveats are in order. I'm not quite sure what to make of this win. Indianapolis ran a vanilla gameplan on offense, was playing with two backup linemen, (one a third-stringer), and had nothing to play for. On the other hand, this was a complete and utter blowout of a quality team. So what does it mean for the Cowboys? I think the answer is somewhere in the middle; it was a good win, but probably not as meaningful as we would like it to be. Okay enough ruminations, let's head to the thoughts.
1. One is the Loneliest Number: Over the last four games the Colts have averaged exactly 126 yards per game. That would be good for the 8th best rushing attack in the league this season. On Sunday Dallas held them to one yard. Again, the usual caveats; nothing to play for, vanilla game-planning, etc. But that actually makes this number more impressive. The Colts came into the game wanting to run. They wanted that for a few reasons; they're attempting to establish an identity as a running team, and they didn't want or need to expose Andrew Luck to a lot of hits. So the initial gameplan was to run; 66.7 percent of their first two drives were running plays.
Dallas's defense did a good job of shutting down the initial run; after their first four run plays they had a total of one yard to show for the effort. But more importantly Dallas took away their ability to run. By time the Colts had a chance to run for the fifth time the score was 21 to 0, and the Colts had to abandon their gameplan and start passing.
This had a domino effect on the entire defense. The line could tee off on the QB, (and responded with two sacks, four QB hits, and an additional 13 pressures). The safeties and linebackers could drop into their zones immediately, (and picked up two interceptions). We talk a lot about the offense helping the defense by keeping them off the field. That didn't happen this game as shown by O.C.C. But what did happen was just as good if not better, we turned our opponent one-dimensional.
2. I'm the Man in the Box: DeMarco Murray didn't have a good day at the office. But at least his contributions helped right? Because of him the Colts sold out on stopping the run, putting eight men in the box and letting Romo play catch with his receivers. Good times!
Except that's not really what happened.
The Colts did not sell out to stop Murray, at least not initially. I went back and watched the video. Dallas ran 22 plays in the first quarter; the Colts put eight men in the box on 7 of them. That includes two goal line plays, and at least another two plays were Dallas was in a "tight" formation with no players split out. The Colts did not come into the game with a plan of selling out to stop the run.
There are good and bad parts to that. The bad part is; the Colts didn't have to sell out to stop the run. Over the past four games, (a quarter of the season!), Murray has broken the 100-yard mark once. He's only averaging 3.7 yards a carry over that span and has two games where he's averaged less than three yards a carry.
The good part: It hasn't mattered. The Cowboys run game as a whole is still trucking along. More importantly the offense is more balanced than ever. I mentioned earlier that the Colts didn't put eight men in the box. It's because they couldn't; without leaving their secondary [more] vulnerable. The Colts mostly stayed in their base defense, didn't blitz a ton, and played as vanilla a defense as they could. That probably wasn't by choice; they didn't need to protect their defense the way they did their offense this game. They played vanilla because right now it's impossible to scheme against Dallas. Outside of New England, (who changes their offense week to week), this is the most balanced offense I have ever seen. We can pass out of running formations, run out of three wide, and we do it all well.
3. When You Call Me Shorty Say Mister My Friend: A big shot out to Cole Beasley who has just put up a heck of a year from the slot position. Right now he's second in catch rate from the slot at 77.1% and first in drops with a big fat 0. He's even tied for fourth in TD's with four on the season. And while we're talking about wide receivers, welcome back Terrance Williams! Two targets, two catches, two touchdowns; that's a nice welcome home gift from the prodigal receiver.
4. G.O.A.T.: Tony Romo. What all can be said? He's leading the league in both traditional QB rating and ESPN's QBR. He just broke Troy Aikman's franchise record for passing yards. He's leading the league in completion percentage, touchdown percentage and first down percentage per ESPN. He also set a league record with his 6th game of the season with a QB rating over 130. Oh he also broke his own team record for completion percentage in a game, (90%), and was one completion off from breaking Kurt Warner's league record.
5. We Are the Champions: Of the NFC East. Order is restored. Enjoy it Cowboy Nation.