Saints over Cowboys, not a reason to cry… much

OK so a Thanksgiving tradition of watching a Cowboys game was an emotional rollercoaster.  At first, I was ready to give up, as the Saints came out to a 17-0 lead.  Now the Saints aren’t the same strong team as last year, but they are not weak by any stretch and that lead isn’t an easy hill to climb. 

The Cowboys came in 2-0 under interim coach Jason Garrett, playing like the Super Bowl contenders they were supposed to be instead of the 1-7 cupcakes they turned into under coach Wade Phillips. They made plenty of Phillips-era mistakes to fall behind 17-0 in the first quarter and 20-3 before halftime, then showed the poise and toughness Garrett has instilled by fighting back.

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There were mistakes made in the first half, no doubt.  Ones that shouldn’t happen, but do sometimes.  We just need less of them.   Then the Cowboys did what all of us fans knew they could.  They stood up and said “We are better than this” and they fought back.  Scrapped and pulled and pushed and clawed when needed, but they fought back, and were winning.

Former Pro Bowlers Ratliff and linebacker DeMarcus Ware both recorded sacks late in the game as the Cowboys outscored the Saints, 21-10, in the second half.

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Buehler kicked a 53-yard field goal as the first half ended, Miles Austin went 60 yards on an end around on the second play of the second half and Dallas was back in the game. The Cowboys went ahead 27-23 on Tashard Choice ‘s 1-yard touchdown run with 5:51 left, then Williams caught a short pass and took it 47 yards, following a block from Miles Austin as he approached the end zone.

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Now at this point lots of you are thinking I’m going to slam Williams for the mistake, but I’m not.  Rather I’m going to focus on the other mistakes that ended up confusing me and making me wonder if the coaching is still in need of tuning.  Sure we have gotten the discipline back, and that was extremely important.  But….

Cowboys get the ball back, and begin to move back down the field, they have  roughly 1:50 and 2 timeouts.  Short outs, safe plays, pulling the defense to the sides.  Great it’s working, and we’re moving the ball well, getting out of bounds and stopping the clock.  Then something happens… 

1:55  4th  NO  —  Garrett Hartley kicks 75 yards from NO30 to Dal-5, Dez Bryant returns to Dal24 for 29 yards  
1:50  4th  Dal  1st & 10 at Dal24  Jon Kitna up the Middle to Dal29 for 5 yards  
1:22  4th  Dal  2nd & 5 at Dal29  Jon Kitna Pass to Jason Witten to Dal36 for 7 yards  
1:02  4th  Dal  1st & 10 at Dal36  Jon Kitna Pass to Jason Witten to Dal48 for 12 yards  
0:56  4th  Dal  1st & 10 at Dal48  Jon Kitna Pass to Jason Witten to NO43 for 9 yards  
0:51  4th  Dal  2nd & 1 at NO43  Jon Kitna Pass Incomplete to Miles Austin  
0:47  4th  Dal  3rd & 1 at NO43  Jon Kitna Pass to Roy Williams to NO41 for 2 yards  
0:42  4th  Dal  1st & 10 at NO41  Jon Kitna Pass Incomplete to Dez Bryant  
0:38  4th  Dal  2nd & 10 at NO41  Jon Kitna Pass Incomplete to Dez Bryant  
0:35  4th  Dal  3rd & 10 at NO41  Jon Kitna Pass Incomplete to Dez Bryant  
0:31  4th  Dal  4th & 10 at NO41  David Buehler 59 yard field goal is MISSED. Holder-Mat McBriar

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The defense figures out the same play has been run over and over.  So they tighten up.  The Cowboys are just out of field goal range and they try and retry short outs.  I’m no offensive coordinator, but why not take a shot at a run up the middle / slot at this point?  Use a time out or take the yardage to get into better FG range.  Instead, on 4th and 10 the call is to try a 59 yard field goal.  Ok I guess you have to try, but if you are that close, try a fake?  Just push for a gain / score?  It seems like the coaching and offensive play calling still needs some tuning to me.

I’m not a stat guy, but I have seen some calls for Marion Barber to be moved out in favor of Felix Jones.  I’m not sure I’d support that just yet based on stats.  Barber has been a good short yardage specialist and he’s been getting it done on short conversions and a touchdown in the Saints game.  It never hurt to have a guy like that in the mix. 

Will Romo be back, or will we see McGee?  I’m not sure on either count, but I’d like to see both get some game time before the year is out (injury permitting on Romo, no sense rushing a recovery for a year that won’t go out of the regular season).

I like this assessment of the “What’s Next for Cowboys” so I’ll just link it instead of quoting large sections.. 🙂

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