|Positional Unit||1st Half Grade||Final Grade|
Dallas Cowboys Week 9
Postgame Analysis for the Dallas Cowboys:
Pass Offense: The passing game looked like it finally realized a game was happening in the second half’s opening drive. Tony Romo got the ball to Jason Witten and the two marched Dallas down the field essentially by themselves. After the opening drive, though, they reverted to their previous inconsistent play. Romo even threw a pick in the fourth and Terrance Williams did little to break it up. The quarterback made up for his sixth pick of the season with a late touchdown to Dwayne Harris. The passing game was far from perfect today.
Run Offense: In the first game in three weeks for DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys completely ignored the running game. Dallas tried to win this game without the help of Murray or any of the other rushers on its roster, putting the burden on Romo. Murray ran the ball just four times in the game.
Pass Defense: The pass rush finally rattled Christian Ponder on the Vikings’ first drive in the third quarter. A strip, sack and defensive touchdown instantly earns you a decent letter grade at the very least. Orlando Scandrick helped the defense’s cause with a fourth-quarter interception as well. Ponder had 236 yards on 25 attempts, but he looked far less crisp in the second half.
Run Defense: Dallas struggled to keep Adrian Peterson contained once the fourth quarter came around. There were a few times Peterson was able to break out and gash the Cowboys’ defense. It’s worth noting that Peterson did end up with 140 yards, but it took him 25 carries to do so. He also gained 52 of those yards on one big play. It wasn’t really until the fourth quarter that Peterson broke out, but his emergence late in the game definitely kept his team in the game.
Special Teams: The Cowboys’ special teams unit didn’t have any big mistakes or big plays really at all this game.
Coaching: Bill Callahan continued to use his running backs only in the most obvious running scenarios in the second half. This resulted in 51 dropbacks by Romo and just four carries for Murray. What the coaching staff did do, however, was work a decent two-minute drill leading to a Dwayne Harris touchdown in the fourth quarter. That’s an area Jason Garrett has struggled with during his time wearing the headset in Dallas. Even ugly victories go down as wins in the record book.
First-Half Analysis for the Dallas Cowboys:
Pass Offense: Tony Romo’s passes looked somewhat off-target in the first two series for the Dallas offense. By the third series Romo was back to his usual accurate self, though. He has been trying to get Dez Bryant involved early but isn’t forcing it to him. Players like Cole Beasley and James Hanna have also caught a few of Romo’s passes so far. The issue has been that every pass completed has been followed by an incompletion or a Romo sack. The passing game needs to find some rhythm and get into fifth gear if Dallas doesn’t want to lose this contest.
Run Offense: DeMarco Murray started things in the first quarter off with a solid run. However, the ‘Boys have been bringing in Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar throughout the first half. This is probably because Murray is not at 100 percent. Having to play Randle and Dunbar didn’t result in much for the Cowboys when Murray was injured and it hasn’t this game either. The Cowboys got away from the running game towards the end of the first half. They need to find their way back to feeding Murray for the last two quarters.
Pass Defense: Christian Ponder’s first two drives are inexcusable for the Cowboys’ defense. Ponder is playing well, partly because the Cowboys have given him too much time in the pocket. The second quarter brought a little more tooth to the Dallas passing defense. Even so, Ponder is completing too many passes and doesn’t fear the Dallas pass rush. When he has seen his pocket collapse, Ponder has simply rolled out and put together two rushes for more than 20 yards.
Run Defense: Adrian Peterson is one of the hardest running backs to stop in the NFL. To the Cowboys’ credit, Peterson has had a hard time getting out of the gate. He has 60 yards on 14 carries at the half, but there have been few devastating runs. The Cowboys defense even stuffed him on a fourth-down attempt in the first quarter. Peterson did start to see some running room at the end of the second quarter though, and Dallas can’t allow that to continue.
Special Teams: Punter Chris Jones had to tackle Marcus Sherels to stop a potential punt return for a touchdown just before the first quarter ended. That play brings the special teams’ grade down a whole letter on its own. Dan Bailey didn’t miss either of his two field-goal attempts, though, and that’s what every coach hopes they can say about their kicker at halftime. Overall, the play of the special teams units had little influence on the first half for either team.
Coaching: With just more than five minutes left in the first half, the Dallas offense had thrown three times as many passes as it had attempted runs. Murray tallied more than 30 yards on three carries alone but suddenly stopped getting his number called. Bill Callahan and Jason Garrett need to balance out this offense going into the second half. Defensively, Monte Kiffin’s “bend but don’t break” mentality has held Minnesota to one touchdown so far. The issue has been on the offensive side of the ball for the Cowboys, and that’s why they’re trailing Minnesota at the half.