Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Defending RG3

The Cowboys face a pivotal moment in their season tomorrow.  If they can find a way to beat the Redskins there will be a very good chance that the Cowboys will tied for first place after the Giants play the Packers on Sunday.  The big obstacle in front of them is RG3.

This is the first game in what will likely be a decade or more of games against the exciting rookie quarterback.  He has shown impressive athleticism and smarts early in his career.  But, if you watch the Redskins closely, you will see that there is a reason why his passing stats are so stellar.

The Redskins throw a dazzling array of screen and play action passes.  I don't mean to take anything away from what RG3 has done but his stats as a passer are very much related to the offensive scheme and his running ability more than anything else.  The opposing defenses have to spend so much time worrying about containing him as a runner that it leaves the receivers in very favorable matchups.

So the Cowboys have to get the Redskins out of their game plan.  There are a few ways to do that.  The most obvious way to do it is to get out to a big lead.  Unfortunately that isn't how the Cowboys typically operate.  But Jason Garrett needs to go with an aggressive game plan to put points on the board early and often.  The Redskins have one of the worst defenses in the NFL.  But the Cowboys counter that with one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. 

The Browns game should have taught Garrett that the quick passing game out of the shotgun is the best chance the Cowboys have to move the ball consistently going forward.  The run blocking is terrible and the pass blocking is worse.  But, if Romo can get the ball out quickly, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten should be able to pile up the yards for the offense.

On defense the Cowboys will need to stop the running game early on.  If the Cowboys can force the Redskins to be a one dimensional offense then they can focus all of their attention on stopping RG3.  He is going to make some big plays.  You should expect to see that.  But the Cowboys need to force him into some bad plays too. 

The key is to make his bad plays outnumber his big plays.  That is easier said than done, but Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer need to make him uncomfortable.  Most of the Redskins big passing plays have come when RG3 is in the pocket.  Keep him in the pocket and then bring pressure up the middle in his face.  That will be the challenge.  Jason Hatcher, Marcus Spears and Jay Ratliff need to bring relentless pressure up the middle.

This is going to be a tough game for the Cowboys.  The offensive line is a mess with injuries and poor play.  The defense is missing starters all over the place.  But the Redskins have similar problems with their team.  I want the Cowboys to get out to an early, big lead but it is unlikely.  So I'm going to pick the game to be close.  I'm taking the Cowboys 23-20.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Stealing a Win

I had a feeling all week that the Cowboys would have a tougher time against the Browns than many people were predicting.  But I certainly didn't expect to see the Cowboys come away with a win in a game where they were completely outplayed for the first two and a half quarters.  I always say that I won't complain about a victory, but I do have a lot of concerns.

On the plus side, the Cowboys finally found a way to win a game late.  This team has been in a habit of performing near comebacks only to lose in the closing minutes of tight games.  I know it was only the Browns but I am a big believer that winning and losing can become a habit.  If the Cowboys can pull out another late win or two they might get the belief back that they will win any game if it is close in the 4th quarter.

I was also impressed by how well Tony Romo played considering the circumstances.  Let's face it.  The offensive line stinks.  The offensive line is the #1 problem with the Cowboys this season.  And the Browns game was no exception.  7 sacks allowed is unacceptable.  But Romo managed to find a way to throw for over 300 yards and rally his team from behind despite the play of the line. 

Dez Bryant was also very good outside of the boneheaded play when he ran out of bounds a yard short of the first down.  Romo is really starting to trust Dez and it shows.  Romo is looking for Dez in big spots and he is getting the ball to Dez quickly when the defense tries to cover him with no safety help.  And, even better, Dez is beginning to consistently make big plays and routine plays without the brain farts that plagued him early in the season.

On the negative side, I am really frustrated with Jason Garrett.  His conservative play calling late in the game really should have cost the Cowboys a win.  With the Cowboys up 4 and trying to run out the clock from their own 1 yard line I knew he would run the ball three straight times.  Good teams play to win.  Garrett coached that situation not to lose.  The Browns couldn't cover anyone all day long.  And with the defense over-committing to the run a simple slant route would have been easy to complete and the game would have been over in regulation.

Rob Ryan and his three man rush are on my last nerve.  You are playing against a rookie quarterback with a tendency to throw interceptions under pressure so you sit back and let him survey the field all day long?  And Ryan kept that stupid strategy going for the entire first half.  Why do Rob Ryan and Jason Garrett both take so long to deviate from their game plan when it isn't working?  Anthony Spencer in coverage is just dumb and it very rarely works out in the Cowboys favor.

I am happy that the Cowboys won the game.  They overcame a lot to win.  Missing your starting and backup center, starting left tackle and countless defensive starters is nothing to overlook.  But the Cowboys came out of the gate very flat and were lucky to win against an inferior team.  The good news is that they are very much back in the thick of the NFC East race.  But they need to keep winning.  The Washington Redskins aren't going to come in and roll over for the Cowboys.  Hopefully the Cowboys will come out with more fire to start the game on Thursday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Now or Never

I'm still here.  It has been a long time since I have posted.  But please don't think that I have given up on my team or jumped ship to a new team.  I have been a fan for my entire life and I'll always be a fan.  But I do have to admit this season has been tough up to this point.  That isn't why my posts have decreased though.  I have a lot going on right now so my blog had to take a back seat to other priorities.  I can't promise to post as often as I have in the past, but I'm still here.

The game today is a do or die for both teams.  And that is exactly what worries me.  Last season the Cowboys faced a do or die in week 17 and we saw what happened against the Giants.  All signs in this game point towards the Cowboys having a great shot to win the game.  But I'm willing to bet the Eagles feel the exact same way. 

The game could go either way.  It feels like a blow out type of game.  Either the Cowboys will get out early and turn the Eagles into a chaotic mess of finger pointing or the Eagles will get out early and do the same to the Cowboys.  It all depends on the start of the game.  The stadium in Philly will turn against their team if the Cowboys can force a few early turnovers and put some points on the board.  But the stadium will go crazy supporting their team if the Cowboys come out and play sloppy football early on and let the Eagles get the lead.

I wish I could say which Cowboys team will show up.  But, as we've seen this year, the Cowboys are a tough team to figure.  On one drive they can look unbeatable.  On the next drive they can be a disaster.  On one play they can look like the best team in the league.  The next play can be a circus of ridiculous mistakes.  I'm sure Jason Garrett is more frustrated by the inconsistency than any of us fans could ever be. 

It feels like this is it for the season.  The Cowboys can win and really get on a great roll in the second half of the season with an easy schedule.  Or they can lose and fall into the abyss of crappy NFL teams.  The Cowboys have the talent to pull out of this mess.  But so do the Eagles.  Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to picking a winner.  My heart says the Cowboys.  My head says flip a coin.  I'm not even going to pick this one.  I'm just going to hope that the season isn't already over after 9 games.