Monday, October 26, 2009

Dallas Cowboys
Heroes
& Zeroes
Game Six
Dallas Cowboys 37 Atlanta Falcons 21

For the first time all season, the Cowboys took on a team with a winning record. Atlanta, coming off a solid victory over Chicago and a 4-1 record, seemed to be a tough challenge for Dallas. The Cowboys, on the other hand, while 3-2, had not played very well in their last game (two weeks ago against the lowly Kansas City Chiefs). On paper, it looked like a game Dallas was destined to lose.

But someone forgot to tell the Cowboys. Even after the Falcons ran a 16-play, 80-yard touchdown drive to start the game, the Cows looked focused and prepared. This was a far cry from the previous few games and once the Falcons second drive started, Dallas' defense took over. Marcus Spears and DeMarcus Ware sacked Matt Ryan on back to back plays (Ryan, who is sacked an average of less than once a game, had not been taken down in 143 pass plays before those two sacks).

The rest of the game belonged to Tony Romo, who resembled the same Tony Romo of seasons past. He scrambled, he got out of sure tackles and he was deadly accurate all game long. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton was a work of art.

HEROES

Tony Romo, Quarterback -- Romo had been much-maligned in recent weeks, but he came up big today. He was sharp throwing the ball, confident in the pocket and really resembled the Romo who made the Pro-Bowl two years ago. Without realizing it, he is turning in a terrific statistical year. His 311 yards passing broke the team record for most 300-yard passing games. Not bad for a guy who was a bench warmer 3 1/2 short years ago.

Miles Austin, Wide Receiver -- Making the second start of his career, Austin proved he is no fluke and has quickly turned into Romo's #1 receiver. Simply put, the guy runs sharp routes, catches everything around him, has blazing speed and is hard to bring down. His style is very reminiscent of Hines Ward of the Steelers. Over the past two games, Austin has caught 16 passes for 421 yards and 4 touchdowns. Remarkable.

DeMarcus Ware, Linebacker -- After finally getting his first two sacks of the season two weeks ago, Ware finally regained the form that made him the runner-up to Defensive Player of the Year. He recorded two sacks, which as I mentioned above is no easy talk against Matt Ryan, and he forced a key fumble, which led to Austin's 59-yard touchdown catch on the very next play. For Dallas to compete, they need Ware to continue to have games like this.

ZEROES

Allan Rossum, Kick Returner -- Rossum was signed this past week because the Cowboys felt it was too much for Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin and Terrence Newman to handle, since they are so involved in their other responsibilities. It came to head a couple of weeks ago when Crayton muffed a punt and almost fumbled a second one. So they signed the veteran Rossum to handle kickoffs and punts. However, on his very first attempt, he pulled a hamstring and was lost for the game. However, when given his second chance, Crayton returned a punt 79 yards for a touchdown, to put the game out of reach.

Cowboys' Running Backs -- Supposedly the strength of the club, the dynamic trio of Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice only mustered 84 yards on 22 carries - which included 20 yards in garbage time at the end of the game. While the team went over the century mark, due to Tony Romo's 31 yards (on 6 carries), that is a huge let down - especially when you realize that Barber and Jones were both healthy for the first time in 5 weeks.

Roy Williams, Wide Receiver -- 12 months ago, the Cowboys gave up two number one draft choices for the former Longhorn star receiver. They are yet to see the dividends. Clearly surpassed by Miles Austin as the number one go-to guy, Williams had perhaps hos worst game as a Cowboy. He had just one catch for 16 yards, two dropped passes, an interference penalty and seemed out of sync with his quarterback. However, Williams is not only a very talented receiver, but a very proud one as well. I would be surprised if he sulks the way Terrell Owens did.

Over all, it was a big win against an upper-echelon team. Not only did they beat the Falcons, but they outplayed and out hustled them. On the downside, they still committed too many penalties and had to rely on Romo's heroics to put the game away. But the defense was stout and the emotion, which seemed missing just a few weeks ago, was back with a vengeance. Overnight, the Cowboys went from mediocre to a legitimate contender.

Let's see if they can learn some consistency.

Here is my pick for next game (in two weeks):

Dallas..............................27
Seattle.............................16

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