Saints vs. Cowboys: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for Dallas

Steven MirandaFeatured ColumnistDecember 23, 2012

Saints vs. Cowboys: Final Report Cards, Player Grades for Dallas

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    Final/OT: Saints 34 - Cowboys 31

    The Dallas Cowboys were trying to keep their playoff hopes alive and for the second consecutive week they went to overtime. This week, they played host to the New Orleans Saints and could not get the win in the extra period. The Saints were successful in their role of spoiler as they dropped the Cowboys 34-31 in overtime.

    The Cowboys were trailing the Saints by 14 points before Tony Romo threw a touchdown pass to Miles Austin with 15 seconds left on the clock to tie the game at 31. However, in overtime, the Cowboys offense stalled and the Saints took the ball to the Cowboys 2-yard line before kicking a field goal to win the game. The loss drops the Cowboys to 8-7 on the season while the Saints improved to 7-8.

    The Cowboys were able to matching the Saints offense in the game, but in the end, the Dallas defense sustained too many injuries to stop Drew Brees. Following are the final player grades and analysis for the Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterbacks

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    Tony Romo: A+

    Good luck pinning this loss on Tony Romo. It is going to be difficult for the pundits to blame this loss on the Cowboys signal-caller. Romo continues to be hot in the month of December and this week, he was able to lead the Cowboys on a furious comeback in the fourth quarter.

    Romo finished the game with a passer rating of 123.8 on 26-of-43 passing for 416 yards. He threw four touchdown passes and zero interceptions. Two of the TD passes came late in the fourth quarter with less than four minutes left in regulation.

    Romo was nearly perfect in the first half going 6-of-8 for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Romo had a near perfect passer rating of 156.3 before halftime.

    It has become clear that when Tony Romo is given time in the pocket, he protects the football and is as dangerous as any other quarterback in the league.

Runningbacks

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    DeMarco Murray: C-

    For the second consecutive game, DeMarco Murray fumbled the ball at an inopportune time in the game. Last week it cost the Cowboys a score. This week it gave the other team a score.

    Murray only gained 40 yards on the ground and added another 51 yards on four catches. However until he fixes this fumbling issue, he cannot be relied upon to handle the ball in tough situations.

    Felix Jones: Incomplete

    Felix Jones was only on the field for a handful of plays so it is difficult to give him a letter grade. Jones was targeted once and the ball fell incomplete and he never got a chance to run the football.

    Lawrence Vickers: D

    One week after having a solid game blocking, Lawrence Vickers was back to his old ways. He struggled opening up holes in the running game and was penalized for offensive holding.

    Several times he was stood up at the line of scrimmage plugging up the running lane for Murray. Vickers has not been a reliable option at full back this season.

Wide Receivers

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    Dez Bryant: A+

    Dez Bryant has become a beast at the wide receiver position. Bryant was unstoppable in the first half scoring two 58-yard touchdowns. Bryant finished the game with nine catches for 224 yards and those two TDs.

    It’s a shame that the Cowboys waited so long in the second half to go back to Bryant on offense.

    Miles Austin: B-

    Many fans and pundits lost confidence in Miles Austin early because of his dropped passes. In actuality, only one was a drop and the other two would have been spectacular catches.

    Austin silenced his critics when he hauled in a 19-yard touchdown catch at the end of regulation to tie the game. He finished with four receptions for 45 yards.

    Dwayne Harris: A

    Dwayne Harris only had one catch in the game but it was a big one. It was a catch for 16 yards and a touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Harris has become a reliable option at the receiver position and I am surprised that the Cowboys have not replaced Ogletree as the team’s third receiver.

Tight Ends

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    Jason Witten: A

    Too bad the Cowboys were not able to win the game for Jason Witten. Witten broke the record for most receptions by a tight end in a single-season, but knowing the type of guy Witten is, he is not celebrating because of the team’s loss.

    Witten caught six passes for 60 yards and now has 103 receptions on the year. Witten passed Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzales' old record of 102 receptions.

Offensive Line

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    Tyron Smith: A-

    Tyron Smith has become more and more comfortable on the left side of the offensive line. Smith was excellent blocking and is becoming the tackle the Cowboys believed he could be.

    Doug Free: A-

    Believe it or not, Doug Free has been great the past two weeks. He did not allowed a sack and basically played mistake free football.

    It has been a while since I have praised Free, and this week he did a solid job in pass protection. He still had a few blocking errors in the run game, but overall Free had a good game.

    Ryan Cook: B-

    Ryan Cook did a good job in the middle of the offensive line. His snaps were ready and on time and there were no errant snaps which plagued the Cowboys earlier in the season.

    Cook did allow some pressure in the middle of the line during running plays, but he has improved throughout the season.

    Mackenzy Bernadeau: C-

    One day the Cowboys will have five offensive linemen that all play well on the same day. Against the Saints, Mackenzy Bernadeau was the bad egg. Bernadeau allowed a sack and allowed plenty of pressure to come up the middle of the line.

    Bernadeau was equally bad in the running game. He allowed two of tackles for a loss and was constantly getting pushed back from the line-of-scrimmage.

Defensive Line

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    Jason Hatcher: B+

    Jason Hatcher was the only defensive lineman to apply some pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Hatcher had five solo tackles, including a tackle for a loss and also batted down one pass.

    Although he did not record a sack, Hatcher provided heavy pressure on Brees on several occasions.

    Marcus Spears: C

    After having a great week against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, Marcus Spears struggled against the Saints. Spears did not apply any pressure and only recorded three tackles.

    Sean Lissemore: C-

    We can see why Sean Lissemore is the Cowboys third option at nose tackle. He was completely ineffective in the middle of the defense against the run.

    Lissemore struggled to apply any pressure against the run or pass. He finished with three tackles in the game.

Linebackers

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    DeMarcus Ware: B-

    DeMarcus Ware said that he would play in the game after sustaining an injury last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was already playing injured but he left the game after re-injuring his shoulder.

    Ware was limited and only had one solo tackle and one quarterback hit in the game. He did come back onto the field later in the game, but you can tell this is not the same fierce pass rusher.

    Ernie Sims: Incomplete

    Once again Ernie Sims was unable to finish a game he started. The Fox broadcast crew said during the telecast of the game that Sims left the game in the first quarter because of dizziness and he did not return.

    Anthony Spencer: B

    A pair of penalties by Anthony Spencer ruined a great performance by the linebacker. Spencer finished with seven total tackles including a tackle for a loss and he had loads of pressure on the quarterback.

    However Spencer was penalized for a face mask on quarterback Drew Brees and also had an offside penalty that extended a Saints drive.

    Dan Conner: B+

    Dan Conner lead all Cowboys defenders with 12 tackles. Although Connor was around the ball enough to make all those tackles, he was also out of position on several plays. Connor also had a tackle for a loss.

Defensive Backs

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    Brandon Carr: B+

    Brandon Carr has been playing with a heavy heart, yet he continues to play great football. He continues to play good defense even though he is not being allowed to play man-to-man press coverage. Carr excels in that type of bump-and-run coverage yet because of injuries to others on the defense he is forced to play zone and he is struggling in that zone.

    Carr finished with five solo tackles, six overall.

    Mike Jenkins: C-

    Mike Jenkins looked bad in coverage on some plays then looked amazing on others. The Cowboys have to wonder why they are getting such inconsistent play from Jenkins. Some might question if Jenkins’ heart is in the game after his pathetic attempt at a shoulder tackle on Mike Ingram.

    Danny McCray: D-

    The Cowboys have been reduced to playing backups on the defensive side of the ball and Danny McCray is not taking advantage of his opportunity. McCray has looked like a backup and at times has looked worse than that.

    Morris Claiborne: B-

    Not sure why the Cowboys moved up to draft Morris Claiborne if they are not going to use him as the cover corner they said they coveted. Claiborne has not been allowed to come up and bump the receivers and he is getting beat giving up so much space. He did have a couple solid breakups and he is stepping against the run as well.

    Claiborne had nine solo tackles and finished with two pass defensed.

Special Teams

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    Dan Bailey: A

    Dan Bailey has yet to miss on field goal attempts of 50 yards or less. Bailey kicked a 47-yard field goal early in the third quarter and is now a perfect 26-of-26 on attempts of 50 yards or less.

    Brian Moorman: A-

    Punter Brian Moorman certainly got out of his funk. He had a punt go 63 yards, pinning the Saints deep in their own territory.

    Moorman averaged 51.2 yards per punt and had three of his six punts go inside the Saints 20-yard line.

Coaching

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    Jason Garrett: D+

    It seems like every week we are asking the same thing with the Dallas Cowboys. Why do they always get off to such a slow start? That is a sign that the head coach is not effectively preparing his team.

    Jason Garrett was hailed as an offensive genius, but he certainly does not look like that right now. What Garrett continually fails to realize is that his football team is better at throwing the football than running the ball.

    Garrett has also shown an inability to understand the strengths of his team and the weaknesses of his opponents. His game plans have been questionable recently and his play-calling is hurting the team.