Going into Sunday's game, I believed that the Cowboys' greatest advantage lay in their respective lines, which I imagined would do well against Atlanta's fronts, both of which are still works in progress. Boy was I wrong. The Falcons whipped the 'Boys on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and the beating grew worse as the game went on. That's where we'll begin today: with the performances of Dallas' respective lines.
The Sturminator with his weekly "Decoding Linehan" post, which he dedicates largely to the offensive's line's drop-off in play thus far in 2015. A taste:
And the simple reality is this - through 3 weeks, the offensive line has not played to its abilities.
If everything is built around the fact that this offensive line is so good that you can put any Running Back back there, then we are going to hold them to a higher standard than what we have seen in these 3 weeks. It is easier to blame a backup QB than it is to ask your 1st round picks what their deal is, but the fact is there have been too many blown blocks and penalties from this group to be throwing roses at their feet when the offense has stuttered in September. Sure, Dez Bryant and Tony Romo would be a great quick fix, but if everything in this offense is built on the strong foundation of this front, then let's see it.
And he offers the following sobering conclusion:
So, there you go. Just 4 plays from that 2nd half and I think we named every lineman as having a bust. This is the Falcons defense, not the Seahawks. This isn't going to work.
Curious George also has questions about the offensive line's play thus far in 2015:
I'm curious about why the Cowboys' offensive line hasn't lived up to expectations yet...I wonder how much the Cowboys miss offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who is now in Washington. I also wonder how much the offensive line was hurt by all five players not practicing together much in the preseason because of various injuries. That could also be a reason why the unit has been flagged often early in the season.
Ron Leary has been out for two straight games, but said he’s feeling better this week:
"I'm going to take it day by day, but I'm practicing tomorrow," Leary said, referring to Wednesday. "It's the trainers' call - they make the final call. They said I wasn't ready to go, so I must not have been ready to go. I trust them 100 percent."
This is good news and all, but if the Cowboys three young Pro Bowlers don't step up their games, it's not going to matter much...
The Estimable Ryle with a thoughtful take on the current D-line woes:
With the massive collapse of the defense against the Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys have to find a way to get more pressure on the quarterback, whoever takes the field for the Saints. If Mincey is able to go, it will help, but the team has not gotten what it needs from Lawrence so far, and Tyrone Crawford seemed to be limited after he left the game for several plays in the Falcons debacle. "Next man up" has reached its limit in Dallas, and things are looking grim at the moment.
The Cool One squeezes about as much shrewd analysis as possible from Sunday's snap counts. Here's one of several salient observations he offers:
In the season opener against the Giants, Davon Coleman, Ken Bishop, and Ryan Russell were gameday inactives. Against the Eagles, Coleman played 15 snaps. On Sunday, those three players were asked to play 86 combined snaps. On Monday, the Cowboys released Coleman, and today signed David Irving off the Chiefs practice squad. I'm getting visions of 2013...
In a roundtable with Barry Horn and Kevin Sherrington, Brad Sham hold court, and kills it. Here are a couple of greatest hits:
It matters who plays. To me, those were the biggest reasons that Atlanta was able to do things in the second half. The most significant statistic, in my opinion, in the game was the number of plays. I hate to sound like Chip Kelly, but Atlanta ran, I wanna say, 69 plays, something like that. Dallas ran 49. Their formula for success last year and their formula for success the first two weeks, was to flip those numbers. When their running game is good and that defense is on the field a limited number of snaps, they're good enough to win. When you take Mincey and McClain and you still don't have Gregory and take all those guys out, they're not good enough to win if they're playing 20 more snaps than the other team. That's why they lost.
I think the notion of half-time adjustments is vastly overrated. They got 12 minutes. That's from the time the clock hits triple zeroes. Trust me, by the time everybody goes in and goes to the bathroom and gets sittin' down and listening, they've got about five minutes for coaches to make these "vaunted" adjustments and communicate them to the players. The adjustments go on all the time; the adjustments go on during the game. I thought that what they did was a better job of executing their plan.
Tiny Jim delivers big news: after releasing Davon Coleman on Monday evening, the Cowboys signed DE/ DT David Irving off the Chiefs’ practice squad.
The Broad One cranks out a scouting report on the Cowboys' newest acquisition the rapidity with which it was published suggests that he knew Irving would be joining the team well in advance of the news hitting the wires). Here's his take:
I didn’t feel like he really had that short-area quickness or a closing burst, but he is a very good reactionary athlete. When he sees the ball he is able to adjust and work himself in that direction. For a tall guy, he has the ability to sink his hips and redirect -- shows some lower body bend and flexibility. He is going to need some work on his hands and how to use them. Tends to be all over the place with his consistency there -- both run and pass.
The Weeden talk continues (and likely will for the next seven weeks or so)...
Sully Bald Head with a convincing screed against the Weeden truthers. He makes an army of great points; here's just one of them:
Still, two bad balls out of 26 for a backup quarterback to me is a win. Anyone see Jimmy Clausen’s numbers in Chicago’s 26-0 loss at Seattle. He was 9-of-17 for 63 yards. That’s often the case with a backup. There is no position in sports more top heavy than quarterback.
JJT joins Sully on the "don't blame Weeden" bandwagon:
History suggests Weeden can’t play much better than he did Sunday. In 22 starts, he has led an offense to 28 points or more just four times. His 8.92 yards per attempt Sunday was the third highest of his career and the 232 yards was the 11th best of his career.
Sure his interception before the end of the half was an egregious decision, but most quarterbacks make at least one dumb throw each week.
He positioned the Cowboys to win, and if the defense had played anything close to the way it did in the first two games, then that’s what would’ve happened. You have delusions of grandeur if you believe Matt Cassel can spend a week with the Cowboys’ playbook and play at a vastly superior level.
Mays offers a list of the weekends winners and losers, one of which was the league's quarterbacks. To wit:
If you felt like passes were getting picked and taken the other direction every 30 seconds, it’s probably because they were. Quarterbacks have thrown 32 interceptions so far in Week 3, equaling last season’s high, which came in Week 16. Some offenders — e.g., Colin Kaepernick — were worse than others, but in the ongoing case against the sorry state of quarterback play in the NFL, Sunday’s display should be Exhibit A.
If you want to bemoan Brandon Weeden's performance on Sunday, it's important to remember that the NFL is a league filled with incompetent turnover machines under center. If he can manage a game efficiently, Weeden will be doing more than many of the league's starters seem capable.
Barnwell writes a paean to the Falcons' gifted wideout, and asserts that defensive coordinators have little recourse other than to throw up their hands in dismay: Here’s the problem:
There is no easy solution to stopping this stuff. You can’t stop Jones with a single cornerback on the line of scrimmage, even if he’s physical, as you saw when Jones torched Byron Maxwell in Week 1 and beat Amukamara for the game winner in Week 2. You can’t bracket him, like the Cowboys did, because he’s still going to make short catches when Ryan throws him back-shoulder passes and longer ones when the Falcons go with play-action and get him across the field on dig routes. Oh, and with a safety 15 yards away from the play who is unable to key on the offensive line’s motion for the play call, Atlanta is subsequently going to have a numbers advantage running the football, as it did while gashing the Cowboys.
Jones the Elder says that the Cowboys defense may have been lulled by their early success against Julio Jones into thinking that they could deploy the same way all game rather than try new approaches down by down:
"I think our early defensive success gave us a certain confidence in what we ware doing, and the when we relied on that later ... I think that betrayed us," Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan's Shan and RJ show [KRLD-FM]. "I'm not criticizing here at all. I'm just saying that it's pretty obvious to me that every down is almost a new day with a Julio Jones.
Archer's weekly "Five Wonders" column has several worthy musings. I picked this one largely because not enough people are saying it:
5. Punters need love, too. I wonder if anybody has picked up on Chris Jones’ terrific start. He's averaging 48.4 yards per punt with a 44.8-yard net average. He punted four times against Atlanta and all four needed a fair catch. Three of the four were inside the 20. For the season, six of Jones’ 12 punts have ended up inside the 20. His hang-time has been excellent. His direction has been excellent. As a result, the Cowboys have given up just 23 return yards on punts this season and 15 yards came on one return. The opposition has 8 return yards on the other 11 punts. That’s better than pretty good.
Satch(mo) with the big news from the Big Easy:
Reports out this morning said Drew Brees planned to throw today to determine the status of his bruised rotator cuff. It appears that went well and perhaps normal throwing strength has returned to that arm. If these positive reports are to be believed and there are no unexpected setbacks, it seems Brees may return to the starting QB role for this Sunday's primetime matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
And we'll end with this little gem:
20,000 DAYS SINCE THE LAST EAGLES CHAMPIONSHIP— SinceEaglesLastTitle (@SinceEagleTitle) September 29, 2015
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