Monday's dominant meme was Brandon Weeden, both good and bad. Let's start there, shall we?
After a game in which Brandon Weeden threw only two passes that traveled more than ten yards in the air, Jones the Younger admitted that a few deep throws would have been a good choice in the second half:
"Our game plan was early, and obviously it worked real well, is we thought that we could work the underneath part of their coverage and run the football," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said Monday on 105.3 The Fan's G-Bag Nation show [KRLD-FM]. "Of course, the first half we did that real well. I think you got to give the Falcons a lot of credit, they adjusted. We didn't probably adjust as well as we needed to. We probably needed to be going to the outside group [of receivers] as they changed and adjusted there in the second half."
Toddzilla reiterates what I wrote in Monday's "By the Numbers" post:
The Falcons suffocated the Cowboys' offense when it became clear offensive coordinator Scott Linehan wasn’t going to challenge them with deep throws. The only receiver to catch a pass Sunday was Cole Beasley, who had four catches for 49 yards. Williams was targeted twice. There were no throws to Brice Butler, Devin Street or Lucky Whitehead.
Eatman cites Garrett, who offers a stern corrective for the Weeden-needs-to-throw-downfield crowd:
"You have to understand what their style of defense is," Garrett said of the Falcons. "They commit a lot of people to the line of scrimmage and then their corners play high. If you can picture Seattle’s corners how they play high and deep. Not many people make a lot of big plays. That’s the style of defense. So they help themselves that way by making it difficult for you to run the football and equally make it challenging for you to make big plays in the passing game. There were some opportunities to throw the ball outside to the outside receivers that we didn’t take full advantage of. To say we should’ve thrown it down the field more, I don’t know that’s accurate."
The Babe with a post-game Q&A. Here, she answers the inevitable question about Brandon Weeden's performance:
I understand the ball didn't go down the field, but Jason Garrett's mantra to his QBs is, "Bore me with completions." And that is exactly what Weeden did. Bored us all to death. When you complete 85% of your passes, as Weeden did, it's hard to find too much fault with that.
Phillips reminds us that the role of a back-up quarterback is not to win the game in heroic Romo-like fashion; rather, its to avoid losing it - something he can't do without all three phases pitching in:
Combining his bullpen stats in Week 2 for an injured Romo, Weeden overall is 29-of-33 for 305 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
I'll take that.
And ultimately, I’m guessing the Cowboys will take 28 points by a Weeden-led offense most weeks going forward – especially if they expect the defense to yield somewhere around its 23.5-point average through the first two games instead of the 39 Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman hung on them.
In a somewhat related story (count me among those who don't think Matt Cassell was brought in to be Romo's long-term injury replacement, or that he's any better than Weeden):
The Cowboys must get new quarterback Matt Cassel prepared as quickly as possible. How are they going about it? Let's see what his had coach has to say:
"You ask him to call plays, 'Give me a play-call. What's the adjustment?' Garrett said. "Like you're a teacher. You're constantly asking him questions and you're trying to put him in situations as best you can to see what he knows. He did a lot of work with the two-minute stuff with the coaches last week during the defensive period. He can speak the language. He's getting more and more comfortable saying it. He's run a lot of these plays. He knows these concepts. As much as anything else, it's learning the terminology and learning the nuances of the system."
In a well-crafted piece on NFL.com, Battista offers several salient observations. Here's one that made me stand up and shout out "Preach!":
There was one sequence midway through the third quarter that illuminated the Cowboys' most pressing issue: When the best player the Cowboys had left, linebacker Sean Lee, went to the locker room to get stitches in his lip -- a symbolic injury for a defense that was bloodied Sunday -- the Falcons moved with ease....
It wasn't so much that the Cowboys' defenders had worn down. Even Jones admitted that early in the third quarter was no time to be tired. It was simply that next man up sounds better than it plays. In other words, there's a reason the next man is not the first man on the depth chart. The defense was exposed for what it was: a unit lacking many of its best players, one that could not get itself off the field.
In the midst of his weekly breakdown extraordinaire, Sturm offers the following moment of perfect lucidity:
Dan Quinn would get credit for making the better adjustments and Jason Garrett will be ripped for not, but you will find that the coach with the better players often has the luxury of making better adjustments. In other words, the Falcons had options in this game. The Cowboys had all of their best options wearing street clothes.
Speaking of best options wearing street clothes, there's lots of defensive line news...
Not the strongest top-ten list, although one item on the list is something I have been thinking about a lot in the last couple of weeks:
3. The Cowboys gave defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford five-year, $45 million contract extension with $25.7 million guaranteed before the season because they felt he was a playmaker. Crawford hasn’t made much of an impact so far and was no where to be found when the Cowboys needed somebody to make a play against the run or the pass against Atlanta.
The Cowboys, Helman reports, have cut ties with defensive tackle Davon Coleman. What is key here is that the decision doesn’t appear to be injury-related. This forces us to ask: what else would prompt a team thin along the defensive line to cut a seemingly talented young DT? I suspect it has to do with his purported knuckleheadery...
Here's the straight dope on Mincey's week:
Mincey practiced last Wednesday and was limited Thursday with what was called an illness. He did not practice Friday because of a concussion and was ruled out of the Falcons' game. Without Mincey, Jack Crawford started the first game of his career and rookie Ryan Russell was active.
Although Ryan Russell played, I'm not sure I would characterize him as "active."
@rabblerousr Honestly, this game might have been lost on Saturday, when they announced that 92 couldn’t play, but too late to do anything— ✭✭McCool✭✭ (@McCoolBTB) September 28, 2015
Another pressing question to emerge from the Falcons tilt: what happened to the running game on Sunday?
Sabin hands out grades for the Cowboys' third test of the long semester. He give the running game a "C," based on the following rationale:
What went right: Joseph Randle's first three carries produced 85 yards. Randle showed strength and elusiveness on a brilliant 37-yard touchdown run when he shed Justin Durant's tackle and avoided Paul Worrilow. But Randle soon cooled off and Lance Dunbar entered the picture. The North Texas product became Weeden's top target, catching 10 passes for 100 yards while showing once again he's a threat in space.
What went wrong: In the second half, Randle tried too many times to get to the edges instead of turning up field. Twice, these slow-developing off-tackle plays resulted in lost yardage as the linebackers penetrated the gaps and made Randle pay for not hitting the hole soon after getting the handoff. The ground attack sputtered in the second half because it was clear the Cowboys didn't have confidence running up the middle and Atlanta's defense was successfully sealing the perimeter.
Here's the head coach on what happened to shut off the running game's faucet:
"Our running game, just like everything we do on our team is a collaborative effort," Garrett said. "It starts with the guys up front, the guys blocking on the edges and certainly the runner. So it wasn’t as good as the game wore on. We needed it to be better to stay balanced throughout. That’s when we play our best football."
Although I'm inclined to agree that everyone is at fault (including a passing game incapable of forcing men out of the box), I will say that the 2015 iteration of the offensive line looks to be a pale reflection of the 2014 edition.
The Broad One unveils his weekly post-game dirty dozen. Several of these were valuable; I'll share my two favorites:
If Joseph Randle is going to have any success in this scheme, he is going to need to do a better job of trusting the play and following his blockers. Randle hit the Falcons with some large runs, but he also left some potential yards on the field with poor decisions. One play in question saw Scott Linehan send a call in that was designed for Travis Frederick and Tyler Clutts to get outside and capture the corner -- which they were both able to do. On the play Randle even got a block from Devin Street, which created even more space to the outside. For some unexplained reason, Randle didn’t follow his blockers to the outside, where things had developed – he veered to the inside where Justin Durrant was standing right there to meet him for a one-yard gain instead of having a shot for a larger gain.
This statement might appear to be a little dramatic, but we might look back and say that this was the game that changed Morris Claiborne’s career. Of all the defensive backs that had the opportunity to take a crack at covering Julio Jones, Claiborne did the best job. For a player that came into the season with more questions than answers, playing toe-to-toe with Jones could have done nothing but to boost his confidence. Claiborne wasn’t perfect, but he didn’t let Jones beat him up. He was physical when he needed to be, and when he called on his technique to help him – it was right where it needed to be.
Machota asserts that Number 24 was the most effective of the Cowboys defensive backs against the indomitable force that was Julio Jones on Sunday. The numbers certainly support his claim:
Jones was targeted 20 times Sunday. Claiborne was in coverage on him for eight of those, most of any Cowboys defender. [Against Claiborne,] Jones hauled in four for 41 yards.
Engle insists that T-Will is playing like a modern day era Alvin Harper:
Harper was the vertical receiver to Michael Irvin in the dynasty era of the ‘90s Cowboys. He provided lots of big plays on the sideline opposite Irvin. Once Harper left as a free agent to Tampa Bay, he was exposed as a guy that was fast but could not get open.
T-Will has to be able to run routes and prove he can separate from defensive backs or this stretch will define him as a player. At some point, if the Cowboys are going to be able to win a couple of games without Tony Romo, Brandon Weeden will have to be able to go deep to T-Will.
I thought Terrance Williams was better than this. I was wrong.
Ross offers a 10-point fix-it list of "honey-do's" for Garrett and Co. to work on this week. I like the last one, as it serves as a reminder that the Cowboys didn't lose in all three phases on Sunday:
10. Special teams continues to be a pleasant surprise. Chris Jones had 3 punts that landed inside the Falcons 15 yard line. He consistently gave the defense great field position and made things difficult for Atlanta. Unfortunately, the defense wasn't able to hold up their end of the bargain. Meanwhile, Dan Bailey is leading the NFL in average yards per kickoff (67.7) and 13 of his 15 kickoffs have been touchbacks. He's also made all 4 of his field goal attempts and all 9 of his extra point attempts so far.
What does it all mean?
The Cool One with a look at the Cowboys record and historical percentages that 2-1 teams make the playoffs. After analyzing the data, he concludes the following:
a large part of the season outlook for the Cowboys depends on how you evaluate yesterday's loss. If the loss was a one off, then the Cowboys are still on track to reach their season goals. But if you assume that their loss to the Falcons is indicative of bigger issues on both offense and defense, then the table above has an ugly message: two more losses in the next two weeks (in New Orleans and against New England) would drop the Cowboys to 2-3 and their playoff odds to just 22%. And with the injury situation the way it is, those odds may be just a little bit too much for the Cowboys to overcome.
Looking forward to what will surely be a hot topic as the week progresses:
To cite from the source article used by our Fearless Leader:
Jay Glazer of FOX reported on Sunday that Brees isn’t feeling pain in the shoulder, but that the inflamed rotator cuff has sapped his strength. It’s thought that the strength should return when the inflammation goes down, although no one has a clear idea of when that will be at this point.
Triplett, ESPN's Saints beat man, notes that Brees continues to be day-to-day. This is the same condition he was in last week, which put the Saints in a kind of limbo:
Payton said the team didn't even know as of last Wednesday or Thursday whether Brees would be able to play. But once the decision became clear on Friday morning, Payton said he decided to announce it early to eliminate any possible distraction for the team.
I'd expect them to make a similar announcement this Friday...
And we finish with a Number 82-fer:
Archer details The Senator's week following the win in Philadelphia:
Last Monday, Jason Witten could barely walk because of sprains to both ankles and his left knee.
He was in such bad shape that he needed to take a ride on a cart from the Blue Star Imaging at the front of the Dallas Cowboys' facility to the locker room, normally a quick walk.
On Tuesday he was on crutches. By Wednesday he was on the field, taking part in a limited portion of practice.
On Sunday, he played in his 190th straight game -- the longest active streak for a non-kicker/punter in the NFL -- and caught six passes for 65 yards.
The dude is awesome. Which is why the following story is such a perfect way to end today's linkfest:
Jason Witten is the face of the Dallas Cowboys in a variety of ways.
Now he’s the face of his own cereal.
Witten’s Lucky Stars cereal is available exclusively at all participating Albertsons and Tom Thumb stores in the North Texas area and online at www.plbsports.com.
The cereal comes packaged in a 11.5 oz Limited Edition Collector’s Box that features a custom illustration of Witten.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the cereal will benefit Jason’s SCORE Foundation.
I'm sooo going online to get a box or two. And, we'll be sure to have some at the BTB meet-up!
|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
|Sunday, October 25
(9:00 AM - 1:00 PM): Pre-game brunch
|Sunday, October 25
(4:30-8:30 PM) Cowboys-Giants game, with free buffet
|Click Here to RSVP||Click here for more information on pricing, lodging, etc.|