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Dallas Cowboys News And Notes: Would Swapping Cassel For Weeden Really Make A Difference?

All the news that's fit to link. Today's top storylines: post-game analysis; Woe is Weeden!; all aboard the Matt Cassel train; the Cowboys are in trouble; defense needs takeaways; NFL theme music rocks!

"Brandon, I have some bad news..."
"Brandon, I have some bad news..."
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Another loss, another bucketful of storylines sift through. Heck, let's start here, with the best of the Interwebs' post-game analyses:

Re-Examining The Breakdowns From The Patriots Tape - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership

The Broad One goes into the film room with a box of doughnuts and emerges with an empty box and a bunch of important takeaways from the game. I'll share two here, but there are many more worthy of your attention:

The Patriots had a nice game plan in dealing with the two main weapons on this Dallas offense – Jason Witten and Cole Beasley. Even in the second half when the game was in hand, Witten and Beasley were still drawing double coverage. Witten was dealing with two safeties in dime packages and a drop defensive end and safety in base defenses. The Patriots made Beasley an upfield player by cutting off his underneath routes. There was one particular snap on third down where they buzzed Rob Ninkovich to the flat in order to cut him off from running the slant, which Weeden wanted to throw.

and:

With all the different personnel groups that the Patriots like to use on offense – I thought there was a strong possibility that we would see Corey White playing a significant role. What I didn’t catch until game time was that White was going to be the slot corner in place of Tyler Patmon. When White signed with the Cowboys, my scouting report on him was that I thought he was a better slot player than he was playing on the outside. The tape showed he did a nice job of handling the different responsibilities he had in the game. There were several snaps where he had to carry Danny Amendola, and he was able to stay with him on those difficult routes where the Patriots like to run receivers across the field underneath. White was also in position to break up a quick screen as well as tip a pass coming off a slot blitz. He was able to give this defense a little something overall that they had not gotten from Patmon.

Patriots @ Cowboys Snap Counts: The 3-2-6 Defense And How Offense Lost It On Second Down - One.Cool.Customer, BTB

The Cool One once again demonstrates his singular ability to transform stats into cogent narratives. Here, he opines on Dallas' new defensive formation:

This specific 3-2-6 lineup would play 19 of the 59 total snaps, and the defense would line up in a 3-2-6 formation on at least 23 more snaps. For a defensive coordinator who likes to play a fairly basic defense as much as possible, this is a major step change. But it is also a sign of a lot of faith in the Sean Lee / Rolando McClain combo. Apparently the Cowboys felt good enough about McClain's and Lee's ability to stop the run inside that they simply did away with the second defensive tackle.

Whether this was a specific package designed for the Patriots, or whether this is something we'll see more of going forward remains to be seen, but they certainly didn't have an issue getting pressure on the passer from this formation and looked stout enough against inside runs.

Dallas Cowboys Byron Jones holds up well vs. Rob Gronkowski - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

As several post-game pundits have opined, Byron Jones did some fine work against The Gronk:

The Patriots moved Gronkowski around, playing him on the line, tucked tight to the line of scrimmage, in the slot and out wide. Wherever he went, Jones mostly followed.

In the first half, Gronkowski had just one catch for 6 yards on a slant. On the second play of the second half, Tom Brady hit Gronkowski, who lined up wide, on a back-shoulder throw that picked up 33 yards. *"I was playing aggressive over the top most of the game so that was a good adjustment," Jones said.

Pinned deep: How "hidden yards" hurt the Cowboys in loss to Patriots - Tom Ryle, BTB

The Estimable Ryle with some numbers that suggest the Cowboys lost the field position battle, convincingly:

The shortest field the Cowboys faced all night was 73 yards, after they stopped the Patriots on the fourth-and-one play in the fourth quarter. Every other "drive" started between the 13 and the 20 yard line.

New England's average starting yardline? Their own 34. While that may not sound like such a huge difference, it includes two possessions where Tom Brady took the first snap already inside Dallas territory.

Cowboys Top 10 Takes Cleaning Up Patriots Blowout - Jordan Ross, Cowboys HQ

Ross presents us with a veritable buffet of tasty observations. Here's the one where I went back to for seconds; it's about Darren McFadden's fading game:

I can easily see Michael stealing away some of Darren McFadden's snaps. McFadden continues to show why he's a bad fit in a zone-blocking scheme. He is a straight-line runner with no agility. If he has to change directions or break a tackle, he's in big trouble. A gust of wind could knock DMC down.

Some McFadden supporters will argue that he's the best run-blocking RB on the team, which is why he continues to get opportunities. I wouldn't be so sure. McFadden has given up a sack and a QB hurry on 12 pass block snaps - an average of 1 QB pressure every 6 attempts. Randle has given up a QB hit on 15 pass-block snaps - an average of 1 QB pressure every 15 attempts. McFadden supporters are quickly running out of ammo while Michael fans are stocking up.

Did Cowboys coach Jason Garrett play it too safe against Patriots? - David Moore, DMN

Moore takes issue with Jason Garrett's decision to kick a field goal at the end of the Cowboys' first drive of the second half:

Based on a Cowboys offense that scraped together only 59 yards in the first half, based on a Patriots offense that got a quick field goal to end the first half and opened the second half with a nine-play, 85-yard touchdown drive, Garrett's decision to settle for the field goal was remarkably conservative.

Would the Cowboys have beaten New England if Garrett had gone for it on fourth down? No. But he passed up the opportunity to give his team a needed spark.

Another one never came around.

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Of course, the hottest meme is the Brandon Weeden Stinks meme...

Morning After: Why Brandon Weeden no longer fits what Cowboys need - Bob Sturm, DMN

The Sturminator's weekly post-game essay. There is much to relish therein; I'll share these clear-eyed thoughts on Brandon Weeden (which Sturm uses to make a case that the team must turn to Matt Cassel during the bye) for now:

So, if Scott Linehan thinks the only way to attack New England is to try to run through a brick wall, that speaks pretty loudly about the alternative of giving Brandon Weeden full authority to try to attack through the air. They knew that wouldn't work.

If Weeden was the type of Quarterback who could first make sure in presnap that he could get a team in the right play after analyzing the defensive alignments, then comfortably survey the field and find the proper place to go with the football during the chaos of a play, and finally deliver the ball in a safe and catchable fashion, there is a very good chance he would still be in Cleveland.

Grading the Cowboys positions: Who got an F? who got an A? - Rainer Sabin, DMN

Sabin hands out grades. Guess who failed his exam? You may have heard of him; fellow by the name of Weeden:

What went right: Nothing. Weeden's many flaws as a quarterback were exposed by the Patriots. He struggled to throw the ball into tight spaces. Even slants, pass plays Weeden has shown competence executing, became difficult for him. Case in point, Weeden's incompletion that was behind Terrance Williams in the third quarter, with eight Patriots packed in the middle.

What went wrong: So much. On one of his few attempts downfield, Weeden nearly was intercepted by Chandler Jones in the second quarter with Williams running a deep crossing route. It was a reckless throw into double coverage, with an additional safety bearing down on the receiver. Later, in the fourth quarter, Weeden stared down wideout Vincent Mayle and then threw an interception to Logan Ryan. Besides the pass being telegraphed, there were multiple defenders in the vicinity of Mayle. The nadir of Weeden's horrible day came at the very end, when he threw a slew of inaccurate passes out of the reach of his receivers inside the red zone, resulting in a turnover on downs.

Grade: F

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This goes hand in hand with the "replace Weeden with Matt Cassel, immediately" meme...

Michael Irvin: Go with Matt Cassel, sign mind-boggling Greg Hardy to extension - DMN Staff

The Playmaker makes a good point about the Cowboys respective quarterbacks from his unique former-player-who-was-inside-the-huddle perspective:

"I would be thinking about with that defense looking at Matt Cassel at an older quarterback with more experience can help these young guys. It's difficult with a young quarterback and young receivers, experience-wise."

Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys' quarterback position up for evaluation - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer reviews the Matt Cassel situation in three succinct sentences:

Matt Cassel served as Weeden’s backup against the Patriots after being inactive in his first two games since a trade from the Buffalo Bills.

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he believed Cassel would be ready if the team turned to him but added, "I think we’re a long way from being able to decide to do that. I don’t in any way want to imply that we will consider that or do that."

But Jones also acknowledged the Cowboys have time before they start preparing for the Giants.

What Cowboys can't do if Matt Cassel is their new QB - Babe Laufenberg, DMN

The Babe in his weekly post-game Q&A. Here he answers a query about giving Matt Cassel a try:

The knee-jerk reaction is to play Matt Cassel. Maybe he gives you the proverbial spark. I do know this: when I asked Bill Parcells why he waited so long to insert Tony Romo as his starting quarterback, his answer was, "Once I made the change, I knew I wasn't going back." So if the change is made to Cassel, they have to stick with him until Romo returns. You can't go back.

Cowboys QB decision will define season in Tony Romo's absence - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer takes several different positions in the "replace Weeden with Cassel debate." Here's the one that I personally happen to share:

Would that make a difference?

Hard to say. The Cowboys are limited offensively without Dez Bryant and Lance Dunbar. The running game has not been productive enough. The outside receivers, Terrance Williams and Devin Street, have not won enough. When they have won, Weeden has elected the safer route.

Can Cassel, who has a 33-38 record as a starter, throw Williams open? Maybe but he can’t know the offense so well to get the Cowboys in and out of the right plays depending on defensive looks.

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The short and the long of it is that the Cowboys are in trouble. And it appears that they know it.

Breaking down the decision of Cowboys starting quarterback - David Moore, DMN

In the midst of his piece on the Weeden-Cassell debate, Moore cites Jones the Elder, who speaks plainly about the realities facing the team in the next few weeks:

"I don't know that nine wins can get you in the tournament, and so, however you want to count them up,'' owner Jerry Jones said when asked his expectations. "How realistic is it to think Romo and Bryant appear and you win the rest of them? How realistic is that? It's not, frankly.

"We really do need to get to playing better than we're playing. Hopefully we'll get it back here in the next two weeks. If we don't do that, then no matter how good we might get relative to right now, it'll be too late.''

NFL Winners and Losers: Injuries, QB not only reasons for Cowboys' woes - Frank Schwaab, Yahoo Sports

To go with the above, we have another heaping spoonful of reality, this one from Yahoo's Frank Schwab:

Weeden isn't very good. He has Checkdown Charlie Disease. He refuses to throw downfield. It's not doing the Cowboys any good. Cassel won't be the answer either. Romo's injury stunk for the Cowboys. It's really hard to overcome something like that. But that's life for the Cowboys now. They had to figure out a way to survive until Romo and Bryant returned. Other injuries haven't helped, but they blew three 14-point leads against the Atlanta Falcons in Romo's first game out, and then lost to a putrid Saints team. If the Cowboys wanted to make sure they were still alive when Romo returned, they had to figure out a way to win a game like at New Orleans.

Cowboys' offense needs help from modern medicine -Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Weeden, via Archer, breaks down the offense's malaise:

"When Dez is on the field teams play us one way, and when he is not then they play another way," Weeden said. "Guys are smart in this league. Coaches are smart. You’re talking about a head coach that is going to be in the Hall of Fame five years after he is done. He is one of the best to ever do it.

"When you are not at full strength and you don’t have all your weapons and you don’t have guys that you maybe have better rapport with ... it’s hard," Weeden said. "We have challenges we wouldn’t have otherwise." The suggestion (one that believe is correct) is that they Cowboys won't become any more productive on offense until they get their playmakers back.

That's why, as Archer intones,

At this point the Dallas Cowboys’ best hope offensively is modern medicine.

Garrett’s Dez Update: Bones Healing Matters More Than WR’s Toughness - Nick Eatman, The Mothership

In a piece on Dez Bryant's timetable for recovery, Eatman offers some interesting stats for Number 88's WR running mate:

Ironically enough, Terrance Williams’ most productive game this year occurred with Bryant in the lineup when he had five catches against the Giants in the opener. He followed that up with four for 84 yards, including a touchdown against the Eagles the next week. But in the next three games, Williams has only five catches, including two last Sunday against the Patriots.

While a very poor example of irony, Eatman's point remains: Williams needs Dez on the field to be effective.

Dallas Cowboys defense shows hope, but offense struggles without Romo -Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer offers some good insights on the Cowboys' loss and then adds a few salient points. Here's one of them:

One reason to get excited: The next time the Cowboys play, there is a chance Dez Bryant will be available. The Cowboys are off next week and play the New York Giants on Oct. 25. Bryant would be six weeks off foot surgery, which was the top end of the team’s stated recovery time. He has been doing some light running lately but has not been running routes or testing the foot much.

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Of course, it doesn't matter who's under center if the defense can't start generating turnovers...

No Matter Who’s Playing QB, Here’s The Biggest Bye Week Takeaway - Rob Phillips, The Mothership

Phillips cuts through all the noisome braying with a quiet, simple assertion of what has to change for if the Cowboys' fortunes are to take a turn:

No matter who replaces Tony Romo for the next few weeks, he’ll need this from the defense:

Takeaways.

Through five games, the Cowboys are tied with Miami, San Francisco and Jacksonville for the league’s second-fewest (3). Only Houston (2) has fewer. The combined records of these five teams? 6-18.

That’s no coincidence, friends.

Turnover ratio is the biggest, and simplest, win/loss factor in the National Football League. You force more turnovers than you commit, you generally succeed. You commit more turnovers than you force, you generally fail.

Dallas Cowboys defense can’t come up with takeaways - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas

Archer picks up Phillips' baton and continues to run with a theme that's been too much repeated of late (because it continues to persist): the defenses lack of takeaways. Here are the ugly numbers:

Since Byron Jones deflected a Bradford pass to Zach Ertz into the arms of J.J. Wilcox with 4:29 left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys have not forced a takeaway.

That’s the final 11 plays of the Eagles’ game, 69 plays against the Atlanta Falcons, 66 plays against the New Orleans Saints and 55 plays in Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots.

As Archer points out (Oh, Todd, you wag!), the Cowboys can't play against Sam Bradford every week, so they'll have to find a way to get TOs against somebody else...

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​Classical music for bros: The origins of the NFL’s theme music - Kurt Andersen, Public Radio International

Anderson takes a look at the soundscapes that tend to get our blood pumping on NFL Sundays (and Thursdays. And Mondays. And, er, Saturdays. And...). There is an industry of musicians working to achieve that effect, and they rely on well-worn but effective techniques:

The composers writing songs for the NFL are using the same tricks classical music composers have used for centuries — combinations of pitch, tempo, rhythm, dynamics and melody — that resonate in the human subconscious to evoke emotion. Today, football fans will sit rapt in concert halls, listening to the Green Bay Civic Symphony or the Philadelphia Orchestra play the soundtrack of their favorite sport.

It is, as PRI contributor Richard Paul points out, "classical music for bros."

Follow me @rabblerousr

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Don’t forget to resister for our Blogging the Boys meet-up!
Oct 24-25, 2015
Cowboys-Giants in the beautiful Poconos
Three awesome Cowboys-centric events!
Saturday, October 24
(8:00-10:00 PM): Dinner the night before the game
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(9:00 AM - 1:00 PM): Pre-game brunch
Sunday, October 25
(4:30-8:30 PM) Cowboys-Giants game, with free buffet
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