The squad meeting after a loss is never easy.
Coaches have been in early, graded the players, put their notes together and begin to prepare for how they are going to address the good and bad with their position groups in another round of film study. After a win, the mood is always better in the film room for the players. They joke, cut up and rib each other when they get knocked down or get a kill shot on an opponent, but a loss is a different story.
When the Cowboys study this tape, they are going to see poor adjustments on routes, missed blocks, and dropped passes. In other words, not much to cut up about. When you have 12 penalties, three turnovers, a missed field goal and go 2-of-4 in the red zone, you are going to struggle to win the football game.
*The Cowboys offensive line played well in the Texans game, but it was truly a struggle against the Titans.
When this club plays a defense that likes to twist, stunt and show movement, that presents the most problems. The Titans were undersized but just coming at the Cowboys throughout the game. Leonard Davis really struggled in this contest, but so did Marc Colombo and Doug Free.
The one that surprised me the most was Free. Through the first three games of the 2010 season, Free had been stable in his pass protection and in his run blocking. I really believed that Free would be able to hold up against the outside rushers of the Titans.
Free was beaten around the corner one time, then beaten inside another. On Tony Romo’s interception that was tipped by end Dave Ball, Free was responsible for getting Ball on the ground, but he was unable to do it. On the play, Ball slow-played Free by not rushing quickly and hanging back, Free threw his cut block too early and Ball was able to stay on his feet and get his hands on the ball. When the pass got tipped, it allowed the corner to drive on the ball for the interception.
On the right side, Colombo struggled with Jason Babin. The biggest problem that Colombo has is when he gets overextended and ends up playing over the tops of his feet. Babin was able to take Colombo hard upfield to the outside for a sack. Colombo was unable to adjust to the speed and quickness of Babin. On his second sack, Babin took Colombo upfield again, then spun inside. Colombo was unable to adjust. Babin on the spin was on the same level as Romo and was able to bring him to the ground.
The bad day for Davis started on the first offensive snap. Romo tries to get the ball to Miles Austin but is unable to step into his throw because tackle Jason Jones beats Davis quickly inside. Davis struggled with his balance all the way until he was removed with two minutes left in the first half and replaced by Montrae Holland.
When Davis is bad, he doesn’t move his feet and like Colombo he gets overextended. There was a play before he was removed that he hopped so badly inside that he ended up on one leg and Jones beat him again inside for pressure on Romo.
When Holland was put into the lineup, he did bring some stability to the position. The line protected better and they were able to move the ball in the running game.
What really was interesting was that when Davis was put back into the lineup, his play was night and day from his first half. He adjusted better and he was in better position in his run and pass blocking. He honestly didn’t look like the same player.
With a trip to the Metrodome and a date with the Vikings on the horizon, the Cowboys don’t need a repeat performance of what happened in the playoffs last season.
*With the score 17-17 and 2:12 left in the third quarter, the Titans have a first down on their own 20-yard line. The Titans open the drive in regular personnel. Tight end Craig Stevens moves from inline to behind the line, then starts back in forth in motion. The Cowboys secondary is lined up with Terence Newman, Mike Jenkins, Alan Ball and Gerald Sensabaugh four across, 9 yards from the line of scrimmage, like they were expecting something short and inside from Vince Young and the Titans offense.
Young takes the snap and play-action fakes to Chris Johnson on his left side. Kenny Britt is lined up wide left and runs at Ball, who has his eyes inside. Jenkins at right corner turns inside and begins to sprint deep as he sees Britt go by Ball. Ball still hasn’t moved and continues to look inside. What he is looking at, I am not sure. Keith Brooking carries Johnson into the flat and the only threat to Ball is Britt, who just went by him.
Sensabaugh and Newman begin their pedal, finally Ball begins to move by turning inside, but Britt is 8 yards ahead of him and just inside Jenkins and able to get a little separation in the route. Young sees that there is no safety help in the middle of the field and he lets the ball fly. Britt makes an outstanding, adjusting finger tip catch at the 32-yard line with Jenkins touching him down there.
Again, what Ball was looking at during the snap and was he supposed to be helping Jenkins with deep coverage? It was one of several big plays that the Titans had down the field.
*In the fourth quarter, with the score 27-27, the Cowboys are forced to kick from their own 15-yard line after a penalty on Colombo for excessive celebration. David Buehler had a solid day of putting the ball deep in the end zone on kickoffs, but he was only able to get the ball to the 16-yard line.
The kick went deep right (Cowboys right) where Marc Mariani fielded the ball and starts to his right (Cowboys left). As Mariani starts up the field, there are eight Cowboys between the hash and the sidelines. The remaining players on the left hand side are Kevin Ogletree, Ball and Jason Williams. Williams then crosses the hash to make it nine on that side but is not aware that the ball is coming to his left.
Sam Hurd, who is inside Williams, sees what is happening and tries to cross the face of his blocker to get into position to make the tackle but is unable to get it done Williams is now trapped inside and can’t adjust. Ogletree doesn’t see the ball coming his way but works further to his left and now really widens the hole between himself and Williams. Ball is caught in the middle and is being blocked well by Nick Schommer.
Mariani sees the hole and takes off for it. Ball is late to get off the block and tries to dive to make the play but is unable. As the ball spills outside, the kickoff team is in the trail, chase position. Buehler is able to run Mariani out of bounds but also gets a facemask penalty which takes the Titans half the distance to the goal, setting Tennessee up to score and take the lead.
The penalty on the offense put the kickoff team in a bad situation, but the execution of the coverage compounded the problem.