Well that was a refreshing turn of events. After a week where nothing went right the Cowboys came out inspired against the Titans, especially on the defensive end. The Cowboys haven't won a football game since before Christmas, so this game was a long time coming. But outside of the general happiness and good vibes, what can we take away from this impressive win?
1. Rolando McClain is the real deal: After an impressive game last week, when he led the team in tackles, McClain came back with an even better game this week. He again led the team in tackles with seven, (five solo), and he threw in a sack. Most impressive was his amazing juggling interception. If the refs had made the right call, McClain would have had a Pick-6 on the day, as it was he'll have to console himself with a momentum-killing interception and a Cowboys win.
2 Commitment to the run game: One of the biggest complaints about the Cowboys is our lack of commitment to the run, especially to close out games. Not today. Dallas ran the ball 43 times, against only 29 pass attempts. Most impressively, 19 of those runs came in the 4th quarter as Dallas was attempting to milk the clock and hold onto the lead. The only 4th quarter passes came on a 3rd and seven, a 3rd and 4, and a 3rd and 8 on the scoring drive that put us up 26-10.
3. Overworking Murray: The only downside to this newfound commitment to the run is the possibility of overworking DeMarco Murray. Murray touched the ball 30 times, with a good number of those touches coming in the 4th quarter with the game pretty much decided. This was on the heels of last week when Murray had 25 total touches. Murray is and should be our workhorse back, but that's a lot of touches. I imagine some of that had to do with the injury to Joseph Randle, had he been in the game I suspect some of those 4th quarter touches would have gone to him.
4. Morris Claiborne's Shoulder: By and large I thought our corners had another solid day. It's hard to say how good they were because Locker clearly played poorly; but some of that poor play was because our corners did a great job in coverage. One bad play does stand out though, and that was the 60-yard reception by the Titans TE Delanie Walker. Claiborne was there to make the stop and just couldn't make the tackle. One of the big knocks on Claiborne was his lack of strength, and that weakness is just compounded by his hurt shoulder. Expect teams to try and single Claiborne up with bigger, stronger receivers in the future in hopes of breaking tackles and getting good YAC.
5. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Line: Coming into the season our offensive line was supposed to be one of the real strengths of the team. And after two games they've proven that, while also proving to be a real trouble spot. On one hand the line is just dominating in the running game, creating massive lanes for our backs to go through. On the other hand after giving up just 35 sacks all last year, (an average of less than two per game, and good for seventh in the league), the line has already given up seven sacks in two games, putting us on track for 56 sacks. Some of that is on Tony Romo, but some of it is just getting beaten one-on-one, (looking at you Doug Free!). As good as the line has been in the running game, it really needs to step it up in pass protection.
It was a big win for the Cowboys, and showed some really good signs for future success. Can't wait to see what's next on the never ending thrill ride of being a Cowboys fan.