The game wasn’t pretty and it certainly wasn’t without some nervous moments. The truth is that these Cowboys aren’t who we thought they would be. They are inconsistent on offense and struggled against a poor pass defense.
Here are some of the key lessons I lessons I learned from the Cowboys today:
Offensive Line Will Keep the Cowboys from the Playoffs
The first reaction will be for everyone to say, “DeMarco Murray isn’t as good as we thought.” I say hold onto that thought at least a few more weeks.
A running game isn’t developed by just the running back. There must be some lanes for the running back to run through. Those lanes or holes weren’t there at all today and you can blame that on a horrible offensive line.
Doug Free is awful, absolutely awful. I’ll have to look again at the game but I have him with four penalties. He also consistently missed blocks one of which resulted in a Tony Romo fumble.
Mackenzie Bernadeau whiffed on a block against Gerald McCoy. The hit McCoy was able to deliver to Romo as a result almost sent Romo to the hospital.
There isn’t any cohesion with this line. They are often penalized and aren’t able to hold blocks or create running lanes. Romo doesn’t have much more than three seconds to deliver a pass, resulting in extremely ineffective offense.
The Cowboys have high hopes this season but they might want to temper them a little unless they can get the offensive line fixed. No team can win when it's consistently giving up free yards and missing key blocks.
The Cowboys are a balanced offense who can’t capitalize on their strengths due to an inconsistent offensive line. DeMarco Murray is easily a 1,000-yard rusher and Romo a very effective passer. None of that matters though if Bill Callahan doesn’t fix this immediately.
Tony Romo is Tough and Receivers are Still Very Good
I heard it, the loudest silence in the history of the world. Tony Romo was hit, helmet-to-helmet, and his body quickly went limp and his eyes closed. For about five seconds Romo laid on the ground and everyone was wondering if he’d be able to get up.
Then he shook it off, stood up and the entire stadium breathed a collective sigh of relief.
This is the same quarterback who led the Cowboys to a victory against the San Francisco 49ers after suffering broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Romo isn’t a soft quarterback. The media will continue to say whatever negative things they can conjure up to generate headlines. The worst thing you can do is listen to them.
Romo was able to generate 283 yards passing amidst a beatdown. A large part of that success goes to highly-scrutinized receivers Dez Bryant (6 receptions, 62 yards) and Miles Austin (5 receptions, 107 yards).
The Cowboys offense may not have been as exciting as we had hoped but they are still able to get the job done. I wouldn’t count these guys out week in and week out. They continue to be one of the best offenses in the league even if they don’t display it as often.
Money into Secondary Wasn’t Wasted
Here are Tampa Bay’s star players stat lines:
Josh Freeman: 10/27, 110 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Vincent Jackson: one reception for 29 yards on seven targets.
Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and even Mike Jenkins were phenomenal in coverage. The Cowboys put a lot of money into Claiborne and Carr and it has paid off.
The Cowboys have allowed only 455 yards passing through three games. That is a huge improvement for a team that was dreadful against the pass in 2011.
The Cowboys still have work to do, especially with an injured Gerald Sensabaugh and possibly Barry Church. We can at least be excited about the fact that the cornerback position has become a strength instead of a very exploitable weakness.
DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee Continue to Impress
If I hear anyone say to me again that DeMarcus Ware is starting to slow down I will personally judo kick him in the face. Ware put together five tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Sean Lee continues to emerge as a dominant middle linebacker. He was able to snag a duck from the air and out-muscle an offensive player for the interception. It was a slower day for Lee who is coming off a 21-tackle game. He still amassed five tackles and was flying all over the field.
As a whole, the defense was exactly what we thought they would be. They are fast, dominant and consistent.
The Buccaneers were only able to gain 166 yards all game. The defense was disruptive and the only reason the Cowboys were in the game to begin with.
This Bucs team was able to score with relative ease against the New York Giants. Despite the lack of an offensive effort, the Cowboys should still be pleased with the defense's performance.
If the defense continues to compete at this level the Cowboys will never be out of a game.