Whenever the Dallas Cowboys lose a football game, we immediately look for people to blame. It could be players, it could be coaches, it could be a combination of them. After the Saints game, a suddenly shaky offensive line, a worn down defense and a journeyman backup quarterback were all the focus of complaints. So let's see how some of that matches up with what the observers over at Pro Football Focus saw.
· Only one skill position player produced a green grade, Cole Beasley with +1.1 on 34 snaps. Routinely beat #27 Damian Swann on short routes for 6 catches and 62 yds, 48 of which were after the catch.
With the loss of Lance Dunbar, Beasley is one of the Cowboys few options for big plays on yards after the catch. I expect his role to increase with Dunbar's absence and with Dez Bryant out, Dallas should find more creative ways to get him the ball in space.
· Tyron Smith and Doug Free produced green grades at +2.1 and +1.1 respectively, but not one player on offense had a positive run blocking grade on the day. The offensive line allowed 3 hurries, 1 hit, and 1 sack on the day.
I'm surprised at the fact that two of the Cowboys offensive line graded out in positive numbers. What's more surprising is the Cowboys lack of success running the ball in the second half of games. Are defensive coaches for the opposition figuring things out and making adjustments that the Cowboys are not countering? Or is there something else at play?
· The worst offender was Jason Witten with a -2.9 run blocking grade, and with a -2.7 grade, he now has had 3 red games to start the season.
You'd never expect it, but the Senator is having a down year according to PFF. Has age really started to catch up with him, or are his injuries holding him back even though he still plays through them?
· Terrance Williams was targeted 9 times while guarded by #40 Delvin Breaux collecting only 2 catches for 41 yards, and of course, the game [tying] TD. Finished with a +0.7 grade on 56 snaps.
I try my best not to blame the refs, but was I the only one who noticed that Delvin Breaux was mugging Williams on almost every route? The two non-calls on Breaux in the endzone after the Brice Butler catch were tough to swallow. Just sayin'.
· Secondary missed a lot of tackles in the game, starters Carr, Church, Wilcox, and Claiborne miss 7 tackles total and all post negative grades.
This is the exact opposite of what the Cowboys defense was doing early in the year. Against the Giants and Eagles, Dallas gave up the short pass willingly and then zeroed in and made sure tackles. Not so much lately, mistakes in tackling and some sketchy coverage has led to a defensive breakdown.
· Newcomer David Irving played well on limited snaps, posted +2.0 grade on only 24 total snaps. Able to provide 1 "stop" on 9 run snaps, and 1 QB hurry on 15 pass snaps.
Okay, maybe a bright spot. Did the Cowboys actually find a player?
· Andrew Gachkar replaced Sean Lee, and played well with +1.9 overall and run grade on 42 snaps. Posted 5 tackles with 3 "stops."
Here was a player who I was impressed with throughout the game once Sean Lee went down. A guy who didn't expect to play too much, but when thrust into action wasn't a liability. It was unfortunate he got hurt at the end, when linebacker confusion was the cause of the overtime killer.
· Brandon Carr has regressed, as his grade has dropped every week this season. A new low, -3.6 overall grade, he allowed all 8 targets to his coverage to be caught for 57 yards and a touchdown.
· Tyrone Crawford led all defensive tackles in the NFL in Pass Rushing Productivity at +13.6. He had 6 hurries, tying a career high, on 33 pass rush snaps.
Who knew? Maybe once Greg Hardy is playing, then Randy Gregory gets back, the Cowboys will have a legitimate pass rush.