Dallas Cowboys Defeat Buffalo Bills: The Most Important Drives of the Game
The Dallas Cowboys were so dominant in their 44-7 win over the Buffalo Bills that many fans will simply look at the highlights from the game and overlook the significance of what took place during some of the more mundane portions of the contest.
By this time, you've no doubt consumed all of the game review, analysis and box scores that your sports brain can tolerate.
I'm going in a different direction. I only want to highlight two drives and explain why these have great significance for the remainder of the season.
Now, before I get to those, let me throw down the disclaimer that yes, I realize the first two drives are probably the most important, since the Cowboys very quickly went up 14-0 and set the tone for the entire game. Everyone has talked about that. What I want to do is go a little deeper and highlight two drives that could be written off as less than significant.
The first one that I want to call attention to is the third drive by the Cowboys. It lasted 9 seconds.
The play starts out with Tony Romo under center with two wide receivers, one tight end and the fullback and halfback in the back field. This formation is a strong indication of a run, as the Cowboys prefer to throw from the shotgun. Also indicating run was that it's first down, and the Cowboys have a 14-0 lead.
The Cowboys put fullback Tony Fiammetta in motion before the snap. Just before the snap of the ball, he sets himself in the backfield positioned four yards behind and to the left of Romo. DeMarco Murray is five yards directly behind Romo. Everything indicates a run to the left.
Instead, both Murray and Fiammetta go out into short pass patterns as Romo steps back with the ball. The defense has gone from reading run to worrying about the short pass to a back or the deeper routes of tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant.
Wide receiver Laurent Robinson blows past his man, who has no help at this point. Romo, despite having no backs in the backfield to protect him, is able to avoid the rush by stepping up in the pocket.
If Romo were unable to step up into the pocket, this play would have been a sack. At the instant he releases the ball, three Buffalo defensive linemen in the pocket all occupy the space he vacated when he stepped up.
Romo throws a perfect strike, hitting Robinson in stride, and Robinson runs untouched for a 58-yard touchdown.
The significance of this play is that Romo started under center, took a seven-step drop and then stepped up to make the throw, all of which took time. Romo hasn't had that much time very often this season, but the threat of the running game is providing it now.
The other significant aspect is the impact on defensive coordinators. Prior to this game I had written that Laurent Robinson would be an excellent fantasy pickup because the Bills defense would focus on stopping Witten and Bryant in the passing game. This play was case in point. Witten, Bryant and the backs grabbed all of the focus, and Robinson grabbed the bomb for the score.
This play exemplifies the impact of an offensive line that is coming together, a wide receiver who has exceeded all expectations and a running back who is so dominant that he mesmerizes defenses.
And of course, it shows you how dangerous Romo can be when he has weapons and a little time.
The second drive worth noting took place with 12:55 left in the fourth quarter. The Cowboy are up 34-7 at this point, and they simply want to run the ball and burn clock. The Bills know this. In recent Cowboys history, this has been a nearly impossible task: Run the ball when they know it's a run.
What impact will Laurent Robinson have in the rest of the season?
Yet on this drive, which lasts 7:40, no Cowboys player touches the ball except Romo and his two running backs. The drive ends in a field goal, which isn't in itself all that exciting. But consider this: Dallas kept the ball away from the Bills' high-powered offense for close to eight minutes and padded their lead at the end of it.
This allowed the defense to get fully rested, which showed on the next possession, when Terence Newman intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick for a pick six on the first play.
In my article The DeMarco Murray Effect, I detail how the entire Cowboys offense has been transformed by the addition of Murray and the fullback Tony Fiammetta.
As the Cowboys move through the latter part of their season, the quick-strike scores and clock-burning ground-and-pound possessions will likely continue to help this team seal victories.
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