Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints Week 12 Initial Post-Game Observations

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Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints Week 12 Initial Post-Game Observations
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

I began to write this piece last night as I watched the Bengals-Jets game, but I simply couldn’t do it. 

The wound was too fresh, so to speak, and it would have resulted in more of a rant than anything else. 

I will try to begin reviewing the film today, but, in all honesty, I doubt it will happen. My goal is to have my final film observations posted by Monday.

  • Let’s start with the big one: Roy Williams’ fumble.  They say one play doesn’t decide a football game, but “they” are wrong.  Lots of single plays decide football games.  The more of those that exist in a loss, the tougher the pill to swallow.  There were a lot in this contest, but the fumble was clearly the biggest.  That play cannot happen.  It’s dumb football.  I know Williams didn’t see the defender charging in and he made a hell of a play to get that open in the first place, but at that point in the game, his sole objective should be securing the football.  It isn’t an adequate excuse to “not know” the defender was there.  You must know. 
  • To Williams’ credit, he manned up about the situation after the game.  He put the entire loss on his shoulders.  I like that.
  • On the first kickoff the Cowboys received, Bryan McCann should have ran to the sideline, put one foot out of bounds, and then touched the football when it was in play.  That might sound dumb, but the ball would then immediately be dead, ruled out of bounds, and placed at the Cowboys’ 40-yard line.  Later in the game, McCann let a punt bounce near the sideline instead of calling for a fair-catch.  It rolled an extra 10 yards or so.  He needs to realize that the sideline isn’t “hot lava”–you can step on it, Bryan.
  • I should probably apologize for the next note ahead of time.  I’m not actually going to, I’m just recognizing that I should.
  • I think Andre Gurode has Multiple Personality Disorder.  One personality is a Pro Bowl-caliber center who plays intelligently.  The other personality seemingly listens to voices in his head and snaps the ball whenever "they" tell him to.  Both are fun to watch, but only one helps Dallas win games.  I counted three poor snaps and a non-snap from Gurode No. 2 last night.
  • An early end-around to Dez Bryant was poorly designed.  Perhaps the rookie made a mental error, but he was too far from the ball before the snap to reach Jon Kitna after he faked a handoff to the running back.  There should be short motion on that play, or else Bryant should line up closer to the ball.
  • The Cowboys used a rare “Amoeba” look on defense in which there was only one (maybe two?) down lineman, with the rest of the front seven moving around pre-snap.  That alignment makes it difficult for the offensive line to call out their assignments, as players aren’t in their “usual” spots.  Not surprisingly, it resulted in Drew Brees’ first incompletion.
  • Jason Garrett had to make a lot of difficult 4th down decisions last night.  He was all over the place on his calls.  He went for it on 4th and 1 at the Saints’ 21-yard line, but then later kicked a field goal on 4th and inches inside the Saints’ five-yard line.  As you may have guessed, I liked the first call, not the second.
  • Later in the game, Garrett decided to punt on 4th and 4 at the Saints’ 35-yard line.  That ones a no-brainer–he has to go for it.  Instead, Mat McBriar dropped the snap, illegally kicked the ball, and Dallas gained just 16 yards of field position.
  • Marion Barber’s biggest problem right now is that he’s trying to run around guys instead of through them.  After receiving nearly every handoff, he dances behind the line-of-scrimmage.  He gathers no momentum and is then forced to try to make a move around a guy instead of lowering his shoulder.  He’s not the most nimble player, and lots of times ends up stumbling.  His pre-handoff nosedives are killing this team.
  • Felix Jones’ explosion is back in a big way.  He’s clearly the Cowboys’ biggest playmaker in the backfield and makes up for a lot of the offensive line’s mistakes.  If he came out in a “24″ jersey and wore dreads, I would still be able to tell it wasn’t Barber within the first step.
  • Jones’ biggest improvements this year have come as a pass-catcher.  He looks much, much more comfortable receiving the football and does a tremendous job of immediately getting up the field after doing so.  Despite being explosive with the ball in his hands in the past, he was never really a great receiver.  He still needs to work on his route-running, but he’s getting there.
  • I saw multiple plays with guys like Sean Lee and Bradie James on Reggie Bush during crucial 3rd downs.  The Cowboys are extremely lucky he had an off-night.  They should have treated him as another wide receiver, not a tailback.
  • I saw a new wrinkle from Saints coach Sean Payton that I’d love to see Garrett employ.  On about a half dozen snaps, he used an offensive tackle as a tight end, even putting him in motion a few times.  This serves two purposes.  First, it’s an extra blocker on DeMarcus Ware.  Why use a tackle and a tight end on Ware when you can use two tackles?  Second, it allows the tackle to line up in the backfield.  Normally, an offensive tackle must be on the line-of-scrimmage.  They usually cheat back to block speed rushers like Ware, often getting penalized for an illegal formation.  An eligible offensive tackle, however, can line up wherever he wants without a penalty.  Brilliant idea.
  • Garrett’s worst decision as a head coach came before halftime.  The Cowboys stopped the Saints on 3rd and 1 at midfield, but New Orleans was flagged for holding.  Garrett should have declined the penalty and forced Payton to make a very tough decision on 4th down.  With about two minutes left in the half, I’m almost positive that even the ultra-aggressive Payton would have punted.  Garrett accepted the penalty, however, and basically gave New Orleans a free down.  They converted on 3rd and 11, and Garrett rightfully looked like a goat.
  • Who is the primary kick returner?  McCann or Bryant?  How about punt returner?  Choose one please.
  • The Cowboys were able to spring a few long runs because of downfield blocking.  Williams’ blocking, as usual, was superb.  On Miles Austin’s long touchdown run, both he and Jones made key blocks.  Jones ran all the way downfield after a fake handoff to get in the way of the safety.  Austin doesn’t score without his hustle.
  • Garrett clearly had a plan to take advantage of the Saints’ aggressiveness on defense.  You saw a ton of screens, counters, draws, and even end-arounds.  Great game plan from that aspect.
  • Anthony Spencer was lost much of the game.  He ran after the running back on a handful of play-fakes and stormed after the quarterback on draws.
  • This is my last plea.  Can Tashard Choice please take some of Barber’s snaps next week, Jason?  Pleaseee?  Pleeeeeassssseeee?
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