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Three Takeaways From Cowboys vs. Ravens Game

Three initial impressions of the Cowboys versus Ravens game.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

After last week's shellacking I admit I was looking at this game with a bit of trepidation. Just how bad would our defense be? Could we sustain drives? Would Romo survive the Ravens' first-team defense? Of course, this game turned out nothing like I imagined. So here are my three way to early takeaways from the game.

1.  The Defensive Line: I wrote yesterday that one of the things I would be looking for was whether the defensive line could get off their blocks and provide pressure consistently. And the line answered with a definite affirmative.  Although they never sacked Flacco, they never really let him get comfortable in the pocket (Nick Hayden even had a batted pass). By and large they were able to disrupt both the run and passing game with quick penetration. The star of the show was newcomer Zach Minter (representing the great state of Montana!). But nearly everyone showed up. Tyrone Crawford had good pressure and batted a ball. I saw Davon Coleman with a really good jump on a running play. Martez Wilson showed some nice burst. All in all a very impressive showing from the defensive line. And that had a trickle down to the defense as a whole. I thought we really only had one bad defensive series, to start the 3rd quarter. There were a couple of big runs, but it looked to me that most of them occurred on run blitzes where the blitzer missed the tackle and the running back made it into the newly vacated second level.

2.  The Pope Effect: Could we already be seeing payoff from the Mike Pope hire? It's been fun to see some of the crazy drills he puts his tight end crew through, but now it seems like those drills are paying off on the field. Gavin Escobar had a beautiful fingertip grab in traffic. James Hanna overcame an early (very ugly), dropped pass and showed a nice bit of toughness when he bounced off a would-be tackler to score a touchdown, his second in as many games. We're used to seeing great play from our TE position, but not so much when that play isn't coming from Jason Witten. If Escobar and Hanna keep it up the TE crowd will be stacked (along with every other skill position).

3.  Rookie Struggles: While we saw some nice plays from our young defensive linemen, the rest of our rookie defenders struggled some in this game. Last week I thought cornerback Terrance Mitchell played well for a first game; this week the Ravens exploited him on back to back plays including a touchdown. He also dropped a sure interception (it didn't help that his own teammate collided with him). I still think he played with pretty good technique and poise, but Ravens WR's Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones exploited his inexperience with double moves. It will be interesting to see if his confidence is shaken or if he can bounce back next week.

I also thought Anthony Hitchens had a down week after playing pretty good last game. One play in particular sticks out, when he knifed into the backfield and had the running back stopped for a loss, but made a halfhearted tackle attempt. Instead of meeting the RB head on Hitchens just kind of dove at his legs, and didn't even attempt to wrap up. The running back easily ran through the "tackle" and picked up some big yards. All in all a pretty rough day for Hitchens.

What it All Means: The apocalypse is diverted, at least for one week. The defense looked much better this week, it was almost like watching a different team. The team is stacked at all the skill positions on offense. I don't envy the coaches who have to decide what RB's or WR's to cut. While we lost the game, mostly due to snafu's on special teams and some rust on Tony Romo, the Cowboys looked infinitely better in this game than last week. Still a lot of work to do, but this game should leave us all much more hopeful than last week.

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