After a crushing defeat to the Philadelphia Eagles last week, Sunday's game was our first opportunity to see how a team led by Jason Garrett would respond. The Dallas Cowboys' opponent was the Seattle Seahawks, who have had their own issues in winning games but weren't as bad as the St. Louis Rams, a team Dallas was were able to handle easily Oct. 23.
The more I studied the Seahawks, the more I thought that this game had the potential to be similar to what the Cowboys went through last season with Jacksonville. The Jaguars had talented players at key positions, but their record didn't reflect that. I felt that the Seahawks had some players who could give the Cowboys problems along the defensive front in the passing game much like the Jaguars did, but that didn't prove to be the case.
Newman enjoys banner day
Where the Seahawks had been struggling the most was at quarterback with Tarvaris Jackson, who has a huge arm and is mobile but his accuracy is nowhere near as good enough to have any type of consistent offensive attack. The Seahawks have receivers who can get open and make plays. Sidney Rice, Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu do a nice job of getting open but in this game, the Cowboys' secondary was outstanding.
Cornerback Terence Newman played one of his better games this season and to be honest, one of the best that I have seen in a while from him. Newman was much more physical not only on the outside but when inside in the running game. The only problem he had was on the deep ball that Rice was able to get behind him on. When Newman does struggle, it's when he tends to hang on a route thinking the quarterback is going to throw the ball short. Where Jackson got him was on the pump fake to the outside, and Newman gave a slight hesitation which cost him an opportunity to make a play on the ball.
Overall, Newman had a nice drive on the slant, which he had not been aggressive enough on in my view this season. He had outstanding position on an "in" where he carried the receiver across the field and was able to knock the ball down. On his interception, again he was in outstanding position in the route down the sideline, catching a gift from Jackson who just threw the ball up for grabs.
Church, Carter, Spencer impress
Coming out of the Eagles contest, there were plenty of questions about how Rob Ryan would use his linebacker rotation with the injury to Sean Lee. Where Ryan was in a little bit of a bind was that Bradie James and Keith Brooking really showed their age last week when it came to dealing with the speedy skill players of the Eagles.
Against the Seahawks, James and Brooking played better but Ryan chose to go with a look that he had used during the season, and that is with safety Barry Church as a linebacker alongside James or Brooking. I have to say that Church looked comfortable in the role. He has nice size at 219 pounds but what I was most impressed by was the way that he was able to fight off blocks, keep himself free but also quickly read the blocking scheme and fill for the tackle.
Church had a real feel for working through the trash and making the tackle. There was a play in which Ryan had him fit tight into the "A" gap, shoot the gap and get a tackle for a loss. The only play that I observed was when he jumped around a block and it left a crease in the defense that Lynch was able to scoot through for a nice gain.
It was also the first real defensive action for rookie linebacker Bruce Carter. I have said this a hundred times but I was impressed with the way that Carter played on tape at North Carolina. He was one of those players who never came off the field. When paired with a player such as Sean Lee, you will have two athletic linebackers who can play sideline to sideline in the running game but also handle the position in the passing game.
On the first defensive snap Carter took, Ryan brought him on a blitz. You saw the quickness and the burst coming around the block but he needed to work a little tighter to take a more direct path. On one of Lynch's long runs, he got caught inside on his read and didn't get over to his right quick enough to fill the hole.
Thought Carter needed to read the play quicker. There was also a play in which he overran the running back in space. He needs to do a better job of breaking down and making the tackle in space. Where Carter did do a nice job was in his zone drop in pass coverage. He was able to drop and read Jackson's eyes and knock down the pass.
This was a strong game for Anthony Spencer. It's a shame that he doesn't play like this every week because he can. Spencer was all over the field. He was quick off the snap, created pressure and was able to consistently get off blocks in the running game. Spencer is an explosive player, and you can really see this when he is running down plays from the backside. The one sack that the defense had for the day was when he was able to run Jackson down from the backside.
Spencer was awful against the Eagles when it came to getting off blocks and being a factor in the scheme of the defense. In a game in which the Seahawks did the best they could to take DeMarcus Ware out of the game, Spencer was able to step up and make plays to help out.
Rookie Murray puts on a show
Offensively for the Cowboys it was once again the DeMarco Murray Show when it came to running the football.
Murray had a timed speed of 4.37 in the 40 yard dash coming out of Oklahoma but there are times when he doesn't look like he is running because of how smooth he really is with the ball in his hands. It's almost as if he is gliding with the ball in his hands but to me where Murray has made the most improvement is when using his eyes to help him carry the ball. There were times earlier in the season when Murray carried the ball that I didn't feel that he saw the hole or the development of the blocks.
The rookie looks more confident where he needs to fit in the running game. He now sees the backside cuts, he feels where the hole is going to develop and he is also showing the ability to finish runs.
There has always been praise for Murray as a pass receiver, but I have seen improvement as a pass protector in blitz pick-up. When Murray stays square and upright, he can handle the job. Where he has to be careful is when he tries to cut block, which I saw last week against the Eagles. The great backs are not only able to run and catch the ball but able to be a solid pass protector as well. Running the ball will get you glory, but pass protecting will get you respect from your teammates.
Good defense foils good plan
With the score 3–3 in the second quarter, the Cowboys had a first-and-goal on the Seahawks 1. Jason Garrett sent three tight ends in the game with fullback Tony Fiammetta as well. At the snap of the ball, Witten who was lined up on the line to the right, headed up the field and then broke to his right but was tightly covered by linebacker K.J. Wright into the flat.
Romo, looking at Witten, saw no chance there to make the throw. Fiammetta headed into the space that Witten had left and was picked up by safety Atrari Bigby, who was covering Fiammetta as well. Now Romo's second read had been taken away. On the backside of the formation, John Phillips was the wing left and released up the field, uncovered. Phillips would be Romo's third read and was open in the back of the end zone off the snap but as Romo's eyes turned back to him, he was now in the path of linebacker Leroy Hill. With the clock going off in his head, Romo fired the pass too high for Phillips to reach.
Second-and-goal: Garrett tried to take advantage of how aggressive defensive end Chris Clemons plays in run defense. Holland pulled to his right and Doug Free released inside to his right trying to draw Clemons down to crash inside. Clemons didn't bite on the flow and played his technique to the outside, staying at home. Murray took the flip going to his left but Clemons was now up the field and in his face. Murray was able to avoid Clemons, but Free was unable to secure his block on the linebacker. Thus, no gain.
Third-and-goal from the 1: Garrett once again is going to try and get the ball to Witten, which is not a bad thing to try on the goal line. Witten was in line on the right side and released to the corner, Murray was in the backfield and headed for the flat but ran by a blitzing Earl Thomas off the edge. Romo had Thomas in his face and had to spin to avoid his rush, and he is able to gather himself. All his options were covered and he had to force the ball high to the corner to see if Witten can make a play, but he couldn't.
The point I am trying to make here is that there are times where you have good ideas and plans for the red zone, but the defense is just a little better.