Dallas Cowboys Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Instant Analysis

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Dallas Cowboys Vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Instant Analysis
(Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys opened the season on the road against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a 34-21 win.

The final score doesn't indicate what a poor job the Cowboys did on both sides of the ball.  The Bucs didn't play well either, and in the end the Cowboys won because they were the more talented team, and that talent came through on several plays.

Negatives

  • No adjustments to the over aggressive Tampa Bay defense. Tampa was coming off the ends hard, bringing down the Dallas running game from the backside on multiple occasions.  There were no adjustments to this, such as faking the end around to keep them honest. 
  • Dallas didn't establish the run.  But what would you expect from Jason Garrett, who thinks he coaches in the Big XII.   The most electric player on the team, Felix Jones, had six rushes. 
  • Dallas started Marion Barber III.   Felix Jones would have scored on a few of the holes that Barber was given.  Don't get me wrong, MB3 is a good back, but he is at his best closing out games.  Dallas went 13-3 with Julius Jones starting and MB3 closing out games.  Imagine if Felix got the opportunity to start.
  • Tony Romo was not sharp early.  The stats show Romo had an amazing game, but he was off and should have had a couple picks.  He was fairly careful with the ball, but did throw some questionable passes.
  • Why go after Ronde Barber?  I understand the size difference, but when you have Jason Witten, Roy Williams and Martellus Bennet, just pick the one that isn't being guarded by Ronde Barber.  The guy is a beast.
  • Interior defensive line was horrible.  If Tampa Bay would have stuck with the run, even though they were down 20-7, Dallas might be going home with a loss.  Luckily, the new offensive coordinator made this giant mistake.   The Steelers and Giants are probably licking their chops.
  • No pressure on Bryan Leftwich.  Today's version of Drew "The Statue" Bledsoe was barely pressured all game, and wasn't sacked.  It was a very poor performance by Dallas' vaunted pass rush.  Ware included.
  • The secondary was beat regularly.  They left a few guys wide open, but some of it had to be due to the fact that the defensive line got no pressure.  I still think Orlando Scandrick should be starting over Mike Jenkins.
  • The defense gave up 450 yards.   If it weren't for a lot of unforced mistakes (multiple drops) by the Bucs, Dallas would be 0-1.  
  • Of course, Tampa Bay held the ball for 7 more minutes.  That is because Jason Garrett doesn't like to run the ball, with a team built for running.  Might have been a reason why the Dallas defense looked gassed at the end of the first half and game.
  • Bennett needs to learn where to line up. The guy is athletic, and an amazing asset, but he obviously is tipping that the play is going to be a pass when everyone has to tell him where to line up.  Get it together kid, this isn't Texas A&M.
  • No Turnovers.  Same story, different day.  The Cowboys have to create turnovers if they want to play - and win - in January.

Positives

  • Felix Jones returning kicks. This was a great surprise.  I would much rather start Jones and give him 20 carries a game, but whatever they can do to get him the ball is good. 
  • David Buehler kickoffs.  It sure is nice when the opposing team has to take it an extra 15 yards for a touchdown.  Probably the gem of the draft, if we are talking 2009 impact.
  • Tashard Choice early. I was shocked when I saw Choice in the game early.  I still would have liked to see Choice and Jones get more carries earlier and more often.
  • Martellus Bennett is a handful.  The announcers said it more than once, but Bennett presents challenges for defenses.  His stat line wasn't spectacular, but he opened it up for everyone else.
  • Romo got it going late.  After a few errant passes, Romo got it together and ended up with 353 yards and three touchdowns.  A lot of those yards were on playaction. Imagine if Dallas established the running game.
  • Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin stepping up.  After losing some offensive producing players in the offseason, Crayton and Miles stepped up in a big way to fill the void.
  • Matt McBriar is back.  It sure is nice getting an extra 15 yards net on every punt.
  • No turnovers.  Don't have to say much here, but Romo took care of the ball.  He did get lucky on a few throws, but that is part of the game.

Analysis

Offense

The Dallas Cowboys have all the talent in the world on offense, but for the second consecutive year, it is poorly used. 

The stats say 450 yards of offense, but that kind of play calling doesn't beat the good teams.   Dick Lebeau's Steeler defense, or the Eagles and Giants for that matter, are not going give up those long passing touchdowns.  

They are going to pin their ears back, and come after Tony Romo after every rushing attempt.  Want to know why?  Because Jason Garrett tendency is to pass after every run, especially if that run is not successful. 

I wrote this story before Terrell Owens or anyone else said anything about how ridiculous each week's game plan is.  

Garrett is unbelievably predictable, and defenses that match Dallas' talent on offense are going to have their way with them.

The greatest travesty in the NFL right now, is Garrett calling plays for one of the most dynamic offenses in the League.

 

Defense

I was pretty perturbed that Wade Phillips didn't have his defense playing up to the level that they should be playing.

I am not sure if the final two minutes of the Raven's game last year developed a blueprint for ripping through the Cowboys defense, but the interior looked soft.  Maybe Tampa Bay's offensive line is elite?

Special Teams

Punting and kickoffs were spectacular and the coverage was good.  Nick Folk had a couple field goals, including one over 50 yards.    They also blocked a field goal.

Can't ask them to be much better.

Conclusion

The Dallas Cowboys are not a whole lot different than they were late last year.  

They beat a team they should have beat, but the elite teams in the NFL are still above them.  

Teams who have great defenses and a strong running game win in January.  As of right now, Dallas has neither.   

Those two things compliment each other, and open up the passing game even more.  The Cowboys have this potential.  It is up to their coaching staff to bring it out of them.

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