It's a good policy to begin every news post with the great Bob Sturm. I like to follow good policies.
In his weekly post-game appraisal, Sturm echoes what I have been saying since training camp: this team is built to play with a lead:
This entire roster has been designed to kill off games in the 4th Quarter with the lead. Unfortunately, they have played the last 7 games backwards and you can imagine how little sense it would be for a baseball team to have the best bullpen in the sport, yet never be able to use it because they never have the lead in the late innings? Well, that is why the Cowboys have looked "backwards" all season long.
...This defense has looked like it was the wrong style for Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel for a reason. It was. If you knew you would be playing with a QB that might not get you too many leads, you would stock your roster with more run defenders and stout bodies to win 4th Quarter battles in the trenches. But, this team was not designed for that. This roster was designed to play with leads and to pin the ears back and go get sacks. That is why they have a roster populated with pass rushers.
The Broad One with his standard post-game routine: film room, notes, syntactical awkwardness:
Last week against the Eagles, Suh destroyed their guards because neither of them play with any type of power or strength. For Dallas, that was not going to be a problem. The majority of the game, Martin was the one that had Suh over the top of him and at times it wasn’t All-Pro pretty – it was exactly what this offense needed. By keeping Suh occupied, he was able to tie him up along the line of scrimmage long enough for the ball to get past him. Down after down, Martin gave Suh his best shot and by the time this offense was on that final game clinching drive, Ndamukong Suh had had about enough of Zack Martin and his own relentless technique.
The Babe's weekly Q&A post. Here, he responds to a question about the defensive performance:
...when you hold the opposition to 1 of 10 on third downs, and nine total first downs, you are going to win about 99 percent of those games. And most impressive was the fact that Miami had crazy good field position, with drives starting at their own 45-, 42-, 46-, 43-, 42- and 38-yard lines. With that kind of field position, a great performance to hold the Dolphins to 14 points.
Castelan with a collection of post-game thoughts. Here's his lead-off gambit: T-Will is baaaaaack!:
The reemergence of Terrance Williams:
Much like the way that Tony Romo threw Laurent Robinson into a huge contract back in 2011, only to watch him later fizzle out after signing with Jacksonville, it seems that Tony Romo knows how to throw Terrance routes that give him the best chance at making big plays. Terrance has always been very good on making plays while running square in routes across the middle, comeback routes on the sideline, and fade routes in one on one. This was showcased Sunday when Tony hit Terrance for multiple big plays including a 17 yard square in on 2nd and 27, as well as the go route for the touchdown of 31 yards on the very next play. Williams finished with 79 yards on 4 catches, including the big touchdown, in what was by far his best game of the season to date. One thing worth noting was the impressive way that Terrance went up to get the ball at the end zone, jumping over the incoming safety in order to secure the TD catch. For someone who has had trouble going up and getting the ball this was definitely a + sign. The under the radar return of Tony Romo may have played a part in Williams performance (that was a joke).
Hanson with a set of salient observations from the game. Here's one that gave me a sadz:
It’s going to be tough to see James Hanna leave next season. The free-agent-to-be is likely playing his last season since Gavin Escobar is still playing under his rookie deal in 2016 and Geoff Swaim is a player the staff wants to give a bigger role to. Hanna is a stubborn and seasoned blocker in both the running game as well as the passing game. He had strong game on Sunday.
The grades are in! After a sleepless night spent watching the tape, the fine folk over at PFF have released their grades from the game. Here's the highest-scoring Cowboy:
MLB Sean Lee back beside him, the Cowboys have a formidable pair of inside linebackers.’s (+3.7) decision to come out of retirement helped the Cowboys significantly in 2014, where he recorded a +17.7 grade over the course of the year. It had been a different story this season, where McClain had accumulated a -9.0 grade in his five games. This was his best performance of the season, however, suggesting he can get back to the height he set himself a year ago. As usual, McClain was stout against the run (three defensive stops), but it was in coverage where he excelled, recording a pick-six and only allowing one reception for 20 yards on his other three targets. With
The Wizard of the Whiteboard hands out post-game grades and he seems to agree with the guys over at PFF: the Linebackers sit at the top of the class with a big, fat A+:
Sean Lee and Rolando McClain were the tone-setters for the defense throughout the day. The two linebackers were all over the field, and the team benefited greatly. The play of the day from the defense came when McClain cut underneath a Ryan Tannehill pass for an interception and ran it 12 yards to help give the Cowboys a 7-0 lead.
Oh, and the Cowboys had a guy with a different number playing that quarterback positions.
The Duckman with a Romo-inspired opening that should be read by the legendary John Facenda:
That sound you hear is the sound of millions of Dallas Cowboys fans exhaling. After the long dark autumn of life without quarterback Tony Romo, the Cowboys have finally stepped back into the shining light of the most prolific passer in franchise history.
He follows this with a long list of things that went right in the game, as well as a couple that went wrong. A must-read...
In his post-game presser, Tony Romo put his return into perspective:
"I walked out to warm-ups. I said, ‘Well let’s see: It’s raining. We’ve got gusting winds. We’ve got rain.' You’ve got a good defensive line, maybe as good as we’re going to go up against, and they come out with some great coverage stuff we hadn’t seen. They’re real simple until they played [us]. [Ndamukong Suh] moves around, hadn’t moved spots all year. So they do all these things. The funny thing was you go through it all and that’s the way it’s supposed to be....You almost take it as a challenge and it almost makes it more enjoyable, if that makes sense."
Are the Cowboys a different team with Romo in the huddle? One writer offers some evidence:
Case in point, the drive after the Dolphins wiped out a 14-0 deficit and pulled even with a touchdown in the third quarter. Romo completed all four of his passes, the last a 16-yarder to Bryant in the end zone when he threw well out in front of his All-Pro receiver and between a pair of defenders on a crossing route.
It was just the kind of precise downfield throw the Cowboys lacked with Romo sidelined...
The Goose opines on Romo's tendency to let the play clock run down to :02 before snapping the ball each play:
Romo has posted a 15-3 record over the last two seasons with his eye on the clock. The Cowboys led the NFL in time of possession last season at 32:51 on the way to a 12-4 record and an NFC East title.
The Cowboys lead again in 2015 at 34:09 in large part because of Romo's three starts. The Cowboys controlled the football 37:10 in the season opener against the Giants, 40:30 in Week 2 against the Eagles and 38:50 last Sunday against Miami. The fewer the plays the opposition runs, the fewer its chances of scoring.
Paine looks at the numbers in an attempt to assess Romo's individual worth:
While it’s possible Romo is a stat-stuffer whose great individual numbers overstate his true worth, there are other ways to detect a player’s value. For instance, here at FiveThirtyEight we’re oddly thankful when players miss time because it gives us a chance to quantify their influence on the performance of their teams. And few quarterbacks in NFL history have been associated with a better with-or-without-you (WOWY) ledger than Romo.
To help measure this WOWY effect, I used Elo ratings, FiveThirtyEight’s pet power rating system. Elo gives us a snapshot of how good each team was expected to be at any given moment, as well as how much a team’s strength estimate changes over time. By looking at those changes in conjunction with who the team’s primary QB was during that gam, we can construct WOWY scores that measure how much having a given passer under center helps the team.
What Paine finds is that, since 1970, only Dan Fouts’ 1978 season ranks higher in terms of WOWY. In terms of his career, Romo numbers among some very impressive company:
Tony Romo's third quarter touchdown wasn't just the winning touchdown; it was an historic touchdown. Here's Archer:
It was Bryant’s 50th touchdown catch from Tony Romo, the most for a quarterback-wide receiver duo in team history. They accomplished the feat in 68 games together. Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin combined for 49 touchdown passes in 128 games.
To eclipse Aikman and Irvin in a little more than half as many games? That's some special sauce...
Dez puts the historic catch into proper perspective:
"That is pretty cool, but you know what they got? They got three of them," Bryant said, referring to the Super Bowl wins for Aikman and Irvin.
"That’s the goal, man. I’m not trying to think too far ahead, but that’s the goal, man. We’ve just got to take it game by game and stay focused the way that we are and hope for the best."
In Monday's presser, Jason Garrett answered questions about Darren McFadden, who is closing in on the best run off games in his career. Here's coach:
"I talked to him on the plane last night and he's chomping at the bit," head coach Jason Garrett said. "He had a good day [Monday] and when you get an opportunity like he's gotten and you're at this point in your career, you do everything you can to embrace it fully and he's done that.
"The best thing about it is the other guys on our football team are seeing it. I think our guys love having this guy run behind them and the spirit that he brings, the toughness that he brings that pervades our team. It's a good thing for our football team."
New running back Robert Turbin told reporters that memorizing the hand signals and audibles was the most difficult aspect of the Cowboys’ playbook. But the kid asppears to be a quick study:
"It’s just straight memorization," he said, "but I knew them all. I wasn’t going to make a mistake....We reviewed them [Saturday] night. I reviewed them [Sunday] morning and then I reviewed them again. I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing when I was on the field."
You know what we call a player who puts in the time to get things perfect? Yep, a Right Kind of Guy.
Byron Jones gave up a couple of big gainers on Sunday:
"I gave up two big plays," Jones said Monday. "That's something as a DB you can't do. I was reminded of how small the margin of error out there at cornerback is. Two bad plays can really change the whole game."
I appreciate what he's saying here, but both of those came on near-perfect throws. Watching these during the game, I turned to my buddy Big Melly and said, "what can you do? Sometimes you get beat by a perfect throw..."
Sully Bald Head shares some thoughts on the Cowboys and their win over Miami. Here, he makes a case for Byron Jones as the team's best defensive player:
So far this season, Lee is probably the defensive MVP with Jones a close second. And Jones is still playing every down of special teams. The first-round pick has been fantastic, and if he keeps playing at this level, he should be in the mix for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Philadelphia linebacker Jordan Hicks was the clear front-runner, but his season ended against Dallas a few weeks ago. The current favorite is probably Buffalo corner Ronald Darby.
Moore with an interesting take on the Greg Hardy situation on the cusp of a game against his former team:
Jones implies it's the Cowboys who have done Hardy a disservice, questioning whether he and the franchise did all it could to prepare the athlete for the storm that ensued once photos from his domestic abuse case were published earlier this month.
Tiny Jim with the good news as far as practice is concerned:
It looked as though the Cowboys came through Sunday’s game with relatively few injury issues. All of the players from last week’s injury report were present for the walkthrough, including Dez Bryant, Darren McFadden, Barry Church, Nick Hayden, Brandon Carr, Jeff Heath, Jeremy Mincey Anthony Hitchens and Sean Lee.
On top of that, Tony Romo was also on hand to work with the first-team offense and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan on the game plan for Thursday.
When asked about the NFC East standings, Dez Bryant adopted the proper attitude:
"Can’t. I can’t. We can’t. It’s a distraction. That’s a real distraction," wide receiver Dez Bryant said. "And we’ve just got to stay sticking together and each and every game, win, lose or draw, we’ve got to feel good about ourselves when the game is over and hold our heads up high after we went out there and gave it our all. I think that’s what we’re going to continue to keep doing. We’re going to fight strong, we’re going to practice strong, and stay together and play together."
The Way of the Rooster is strong in this one...
One reason that Dez and Co. can't dwell on the standings is that the upcoming opponent will require all of their focus...
Helman writes about negotiating the short turnaround:
Monday was Wednesday, and Tuesday will serve as Thursday. Wednesday will work double-duty as both Friday and Saturday, as the Cowboys cram a seven-day work week into the three days before Thanksgiving.
...This year’s schedule is actually more forgiving than it has been in years past, though. The past two seasons, the Cowboys have played late games on the road in New York on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, putting them back home at roughly 4 a.m. for a short week of work.
RUN-DMC recognizes the difficult task in front of the Cowboys this week:
"Going against a team like them, they’re coming here with all the confidence they have; they’re 10-0 right now," running back Darren McFadden said. "So we have to just play a mistake-free game. We have to go out there and make plays when they’re presented to us, and take full advantage of the opportunities that we have and take care of business."
Archer's game review concludes with some general observations. Here's the one that should occupy us (and temper any enthusiasm generated by the win in Miami):
One reason to panic: The Cowboys have just three days of prep work before playing the undefeated Carolina Panthers. It would be nice to have a full week to get ready for Cam Newton and a Panthers defense that entered today ranked No. 10 in the league. The Cowboys did not fare so well on Thanksgiving last year, losing 33-10 to the Philadelphia Eagles. Romo, who did not take a pain-killing injection before that game, did not have a touchdown pass and was picked off twice. After a two-month absence it will be interesting to see how Romo bounces back with two games in five days.
Toddzilla crafts a piece on Romo's short week, reminding us that a broken bone bounces back more quickly than a surgically-repaired back:
"He’s a lot further away from the injury -- the back injury -- so we do think he’s going to be more able to handle the consecutive days in the short week," Garrett said.
Refusing to dwell on any positivity that might be generated by the Return of Romo, the Goose looks forward to the one particular Thanksgiving opponent - Panthers' tight end Greg Olsen:
Without [Kelvin] Benjamin, Olsen has become the offensive focus for Newton -- and the focus of NFL defenses as well. And he's delivered. Olsen has caught a team-leading 48 passes for 722 yards and six touchdowns. That's a wide-receiver-like 15 yards per catch average. His six TDs lead all NFC tight ends.
Newton threw 14 passes to Olsen against Houston, 12 against Indianapolis and 11 apiece against New Orleans and Seattle. He had his best career game against the Saints, catching eight passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a seven-catch, 131-yard, touchdown game against the Seahawks.
This looks like a case for Byron Jones, TE eraser extraordinare.
Darren McFadden picking up the blitz yesterday, literally. pic.twitter.com/rzuMOuYBi3— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) November 23, 2015