The Dallas Cowboys Just Aren't Smart
It may have also destroyed the Cowboys' hope of making the playoffs.
The Ravens were just a smarter football team - from the coaching staff to the 53rd man on the team.
Mental mistakes, by the coaches and players, are what cost the Cowboys.
Tony Romo (24/45, 252 Yards, 2 TD, 2 INT) started the game off rocky.
But contrary to what the buzzards want to say, he was hardly the reason for Dallas' demise.
Yes, Romo had two early interceptions. But it only cost the Cowboys three points.
Romo had long fields (thanks to the excellent punting by the Ravens' Sam Koch) and was under constant pressure from a great Ravens' defense all night.
You'd think that his offensive coordinator, Jason Garrett, would realize this and try to counter it.
When a defense is bringing constant pressure via blitzing and is getting to the quarterback, there are many ways to slow them down.
The first is obvious.
Keep extra bodies in to protect, even "max protect", to allow Romo to have as much time as he needs to find a receiver.
Garrett completely abandoned this in the second half, as most of the time Choice wasn't even in the backfield to help out.
The result was Romo running around like a chicken with his head cut off, getting hit on almost every passing play.
Another way to slow a blitz-happy team is to throw screens.
Garrett did a great job of this last week against the New York Giants.
This week there were maybe two.
Quick passes also slow a defense that is getting pressure.
Slants and hitches allow the quarterback to take one step and throw, not letting the defense players get penetration.
With the big bodies of Roy Williams and Terrell Owens, this should be a staple of every Dallas gameplan, as it would be almost impossible to defend.
Garrett doesn't ever do this.
I said last week how the Cowboys let the Giants stay in it despite dominating.
This week, my fears came to light as the Cowboys completely abandoned the run despite success.
When the Ravens' Ray Lewis, one of the greatest linebackers of all time, says that the Cowboys offense is one of the most "simplistic" offenses in the NFL, the Cowboys should listen.
Simplistic means it is easy to figure out.
It is. And that isn't smart either.
Lewis was calling plays at the line, just like I do from my couch.
Garrett did a much better job this week mixing up the play-calling and running the ball (Even twice in a row!) early. These are things he had not done in any previous game.
But, as usual, Garrett made some ridiculous play calls.
The most costly was the third-and-one from the Ravens' 16 yard line.
Garrett called an option.
Yes, an option!
I'm not sure Romo has run an option in his career at Dallas. But when you throw in that he has a severely sore back, it makes the call even worse.
Admittedly, if Choice handles the pitch, it is a first down.
But why would anyone take that kind of risk with an ailing quarterback against that defense?
The most ridiculous call was the last Dallas offensive play of the game.
Facing a fourth-and-two, the Cowboys needed one play for a first down.
What does Garrett dial up?
A bubble screen to Roy Williams, two yards behind the line-of-scrimmage (Meaning he would need to gain four yards).
The Ravens attacked, took Williams down for a lost and the game was over.
The Cowboys are not going to have success with Jason Garrett as the offensive coordinator, and, God forbid, certainly not the head coach.
Wade Phillips and the Cowboys' defense looked great for the first 55 minutes of the game.
Five sacks in the first half had the rookie Flacco flustered.
They ended the game with the same amount, as Ravens' offensive coordinator Cam Cameron made great adjustments at halftime to slow the Dallas attack.
Phillips made no such counter-adjustment.
Despite some ignorant penalties, the Cowboys' defense kept Dallas in the game.
With the score 9-7 in the third, the Cowboys stingy defense held the Ravens to another field goal attempt.
The special teams coach for Dallas, Bruce Reed, has been under fire for quite some time. The feeling is that he doesn't have his team prepared like he should.
This was on full display as the Ravens pulled the string on a fourth-and-six with a fake field goal and got a first down—which led to a Ravens' touchdown.
It looked like the Dallas safety dropped 10-12 yards off the ball on the snap.
That's when things got really weird.
Romo had just led the Cowboys down the field for a touchdown to pull them within two points.
With 3:50 left to go in the quarter and all of their timeouts, the Cowboys decided to kick deep and let their defense shoulder the load.
On 1st-and-10 from the 23, the Cowboys crowded the box, knowing that the Ravens were going to work on the clock via the running game.
Willis McGahee broke through a weak Ken Hamlin tackle for a 77 yard touchdown.
But all was not lost—yet.
After Romo led the Cowboys to another touchdown—and still maintaining all of their timeouts—Dallas kicks off to the Ravens again.
On first-and-10 from the 18, the Cowboys crowded the box again.
Le'Ron McClain busted through the defense, stiff-arming Hamlin on his way to the longest rushing touchdown by an opposing player in Texas Stadium history.
This pretty much sealed the fate for the Cowboys on what was supposed to be their historic night.
Wade has done an excellent job since taking over, but those back-to-back calls are what separates you from being a playoff team and a team watching the playoffs from their couches.
Jimmy Johnson might think Phillips' job is safe, but I certainly do not.
The Cowboys have all the talent in the world, but it means nothing when they don't play and coach smart.
With the coaches it is the horrible offensive and defensive play-calling, or having Adam "Pacman" Jones returning punts.
For the players, it is the ridiculous penalties that extend and kill drives, and things like Patrick Crayton throwing the ball downfield in celebration with four minutes to go on the Ravens' seven-yard line, costing the team 20-30 precious seconds (And you didn't think anyone saw that did you?).
In the end, this team is just not smart.
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