After a complete meltdown in Week Two, Tony Romo gets on the list if for no other reason than not turning the ball over.
Romo looked tentative and measured during the first half but loosened up by the second, at one point even completing an impromptu pass to running back Tashard Choice that saw the ball go from one sideline across to the other. I like Romo the game manager; lean on your running game and make a play when called upon. That works for me.
Speaking of the running game, it deserves some two-pronged praise. The Cowboys’ offensive line and running back tandem of Felix Jones and Tashard Choice have to be noted. After racking up more than 250 yards against the Giants the previous week, the Cowboys followed that spectacular rushing performance by tallying another 212 yards against the Panthers. The Cowboys currently lead the NFL in rushing, averaging 193.7 yards per contest.
The aforementioned Jones and Choice pulled up the production slack left by the injured Marion Barber, as they dropped 176 combined rushing yards on 26 carries and one touchdown.
Helping to open running lanes for the running backs was wide receiver Roy Williams. Williams had a superb night blocking, making numerous key blocks that helped spring both runners.
Not to be forgotten in the passing attack, Williams also had a productive night catching the ball, registering four receptions for 75 yards.
I would be remiss if I didn’t note the terrific jobs rookie tight end John Phillips and third-year fullback Deon Anderson did in contributing to the rushing attack. Phillips did have a costly false-start penalty on 4th-and-goal at the 1-yard line that nullified a potential touchdown opportunity for the Cowboys, but that shouldn’t over shadow his solid blocking contribution throughout the game.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys’ rush defense put up back-to-back stellar performances, limiting a strong Carolina run game to just 73 yards for the night.
Players like Igor Olshansky, Keith Brooking, Bradie James, and Jay Ratliff get some deserved shine for their efforts against the run.
Give Mike Jenkins some love, please. It seems that a lot of Cowboy fans are reluctant to forgive Jenkins for ducking away from tackling the Giants’ Derrick Ward (currently with Tampa Bay) last year.
Although he won’t fool anyone into thinking he’s Ronnie Lott, he has shown a willingness to at least put a helmet on a ball carrier this year, albeit with mixed results.
Jenkins first half interception off of Jack Delhomme was an athletic gem, and was also the team’s first interception on the season.
Is Terrance Newman Steve Smith’s kryptonite? It seems as though every time the two teams have met, Newman does an outstanding job of stifling Smith from having an impact on the game.
Kudos to Newman for holding onto that game-clinching pick-six.
Someone please fork my eyes out; I can’t stand to watch Ken Hamlin any longer.
Hamlin put on another clinic on how not to tackle. On that long Mushin Muhammad touchdown that was called back, Hamlin was the last line of defense on the play. Instead of wrapping up Muhammad for the sure tackle, Hamlin once again just dipped his shoulder and bounced off the receiver who ran down sideline on his way to the end zone.
I’ll give Hamlin some credit for helping Newman shut down Smith. However, playing over the top of a covered receiver is a bit like giving praise to a tight end for helping his offensive tackle shut down an elite pass rusher by chipping occasionally.
Having said all that, Hamlin may still be the worst starting safety in the NFC.
As hard as it may be for some to believe, DeMarcus Ware is not above critique.
For the third straight game, Ware has been stifled by the opposing team’s offensive tackle. What’s troubling is that he’s not being double- and triple-teamed, or chipped, as much as you would think.
It should be noted that Ware has been outstanding against the run this season.
The Cowboys did register three sacks on the night, but ultimately they will need Ware to find a way to get consistent pressure and sacks for the club.
Maybe we’ve become spoiled with placekicker Nick Folk. Folk missed what seemed to be an easy chip-shot for him (40 yards) on the team’s first offensive drive. After missing just two field goal attempts (20-for-22) last year, we’ve come to expect near-perfection from him.
Things You May Have Missed…
14:55 First Quarter: On the Cowboys’ first offensive play of the game, offensive guard Kyle Kosier got himself a two-for-one. As the Cowboys ran a screen to Felix Jones, Kosier leaked out into the second level. He located linebacker Thomas Davis and knocked him off his feet and into cornerback Richard Marshall who was taken down in domino-like affect.
13:21 First Quarter: If you watched the game, I’m sure you didn’t miss it. Felix took a handoff to the left of the line and had safety Charles Godfrey squared up. Jones feigned to the inside and burst outside leaving Godfrey looking like he got crossed-over by Hot Sauce from AND1 fame. Click here to watch
6:40 First Quarter: Anthony Spencer looked more like a cornerback than linebacker when he came up and beautifully timed a break-up of Delhomme’s pass in the flat to his fullback.
15:00 Second Quarter: You have to love Marc Colombo; after Charles Godfrey suplexed Jason Witten, Colombo was quick to grab Godfrey and whisper sweet-nothings into his ear.
8:03 Second Quarter: Oh, Bobby Carpenter. Dallas had the Panthers in a third and 16. They run a draw to DeAngelo Williams who runs past the line and is looping outside. Carp flails at Williams, failing to even lay a hand on Williams who races to the sideline for the first down.
7:44 Third Quarter: Romo completed four-route to Williams, but was inches away from having all of Cowboy Nation on his back again. The ball just cleared a leaping Quinton Teal’s hands by three or four inches as it dropped into Williams’ bread basket.
5:54 Third Quarter: The Cowboys ran a reverse to Crayton who had three offensive linemen in front of him by the time he turned the corner. Problem was center Andre Gurode was looking for a man to block backside instead of looking up field. In a bit of a funny moment, Crayton basically instructed Gurode to turn around and block up field. Had Gurode been a bit more aware, Crayton likely would have scored. It should be noted that Gurode flattened Quinton Teal, sending the defensive back five yards backwards.
12:01 Fourth Quarter: A lot of fans are critical of Anthony Spencer because he has yet to register a sack on the season. What folks are missing is the outstanding run defense he’s providing. On this particular play, Spencer held his edge against two blockers, which forced the Panthers’ running back to the outside for an eventual one yard loss. Sometimes it’s the small things that make you winners.
The Cowboys (2-1) go on the road to face a seemingly upstart and undefeated Denver Broncos (3-0).
The Cowboys hope to field at least two healthy running backs on Sunday, and they will need them. The mile-high altitude will tax a lot of players’ stamina, so rotation and substation of fresh bodies will be key.
The Broncos are probably the least impressive undefeated team in the league. Having said that, the Broncos have strong depth at running back in Corey Buckhalter and rookie Knowshon Moreno, as well as an experienced quarterback with Kyle Orton.
I expect them to play to their strengths’ and try to win the time of possession battle.
Look for Dallas to continue to pound the ball on the ground to open up play-action opportunities for Romo and his receivers.
I expect a closer game than might be expected, with the Cowboys pulling out a victory by a single-digit margin.