Heroes & Zeroes
Heroes & Zeroes
Dallas Cowboys 24 New Orleans Saints 17
I've been wanting to write a post about the Dallas Cowboys for a few weeks now. However, due to my sudden illness (which, I am so happy to say, seems to be a thing of the past), I've been unable to really put the words on paper (or whatever it's called nowadays).
Then, as if to mock me, the team pulls one of the all-time thrillers and beats the formerly undefeated New Orleans Saints, in the Superdome, no less. So where does that leave my rant?
Ah, if it were that easy...
Prior to this past weekend, I was ready to admit that as much talent as the Cowboys have, the chemistry is just not working. Whether it's coaching - which is my feeling - or simply that these players are just don't talented enough, is something that must be analyzed.
But after Saturday night, I have a new found respect for these Cowboys. I don't buy into what I have heard (on ESPN radio) that New Orleans wasn't "up" for the game. One radio host even commented that "since the Saints have home field pretty much sewn up, they had no real interest in winning."
Pardon my French, but that is horse-hockey. New Orleans has never been in this position before (going undefeated - certainly not after 13 games) and this team is very well aware of what this team means to the city of New Orleans. In addition, since their inception in the league in 1967, they have always looked up at the Cowboys championships and successes, while realizing that only once in team history had they even been to a conference championship game (they lost).
To beat "The Dallas Cowboys" - and I don't think it mattered if Dallas was 8-5, or 0-13 - to show up on national TV, at home, against the Dallas Cowboys, you better believe these Saints were pumped and prepared. When you add in that Saints' head coach, Sean Payton, was formerly an assistant coach of the Cowboys, before he took the New Orleans job, and that the Saints roster includes three former Cowboys, I just don't buy into the idea that the Saints weren't up for the game.
On the other hand, what I witnessed on Saturday night was the maturation of Tony Romo. For the first time, perhaps since he took over as the team's starting quarterback in 2006, I noticed that the famous Romo grin was often replaced with a very serious, "let's get this job done" look. Aside from one errant pass, that was nearly picked up and another that hit Miles Austin in the feet (on a 3rd down play in the 3rd quarter, Romo was brilliant. He was mobile, he was deadly accurate and above all, he had complete control of the team.
As my brother pointed out, and which I think I agree with him, had the 2009 Tony Romo QB'd the 2007 team (as opposed to the 2007 Romo), it's quite possible that it would have been New England against Dallas in the Super Bowl that year.
Tony Romo, Quarterback -- Romo is once again becoming recognized as one of the top QB's in the league. It appears that the December issues that had plagued him in years prior are no longer hampering his game. For the three games this months, his QB rating is over 103 and he has not thrown an interception in a personal best 157 passing attempts. He has shown tremendous maturity and the Saints game showed the country. Marion Barber looked like he was running with purpose again and I should mention the play of right tackle, Doug Free. When Marc Columbo when down a few weeks ago, there were obvious concerns as to whether or not Free would take over. Although he has had a penalty in each of the past four games, he has done a wonderful job filling in.
DeMarcus Ware, Outside Linebacker -- One week ago, there was questions as to whether or not Ware, the teams best defensive player (and one of the top in the whole league) would play again this year, after he was carted off on a stretcher, during the Chargers game. But there he was Saturday night, ready to lead his team out there. Perhaps the injury wasn't so severe, but lesser athletes would have taken the week off to recover, or at least be limited. Wade Phillips didn't start Ware, but made sure he was on the field when it counted. With two sack, both causing Brees fumbles, there is still no doubt as to how much better the Cows are with Ware on the field. But kudos have to go to Anthony Spencer and Victor Butler (who replaced Ware on certain running down). Both played extremely well.
Mike Jenkins, Cornerback -- During his rookie year, Jenkins earned the reputation as a guy afraid of contact. It dogged him during the off-season and when the coaching staff announced that Jenkins would have to beat out Orlando Scandrick for the starting position, he rose to the occasion. Since then, Jenkins has become the Cows best defensive back. It's getting to where opposing teams are preferring to throw to Terrance Newman's side, instead. For what it's worth, Newman isn't done yet. He's never become the perennial all-pro they hoped for when they drafted him. But he has been solid for a number of years.
Roy Williams, Wide Receiver --How many times can one player be listed in this category? Roy started the game off well, catching a 14-yard pass for a first down on the teams second scoring drive. But that was it. Twice in the second half - once in the 3rd quarter and once late in the 4th - Romo threw a strike to Williams that Roy could not hold on to. The first miss was somewhat excusable, because the defender was all over him. But the pass late in the game, on a vital 3rd down play, allowed New Orleans to take the ball over and score to cut the Cowboy lead to 7. It was a brutal miss for a guy who is supposedly the #1 receiver. Well, he isn't, certainly not any longer.
Nick Folk, Kicker -- For weeks I have been worried about Folk. Apparently, he has, what we call, the "yips." It happens to kickers for no apparent reason. The problem seems to be what when you miss a kick, you need to let it go right away and not think about it next time. Unfortunately, prior to the game, he was horribly inaccurate during practice. So when Folk blew the 24-yard kick late in the game, I was more surprised that they set up for a kick, as oppose to tyring to score a TD. Regardless, it was a horrible miss that cost him his job.
Flozell Adams, Tackle -- Flozell is a very good player. But his has a penchant for mind-numbing, bone-headed plays that just make you want to tear your hair out. His facemask penalty late in the 2nd quarter nearly killed any scoring chance they had before the half. Thankfully, Folk still made that kick from 15 yards further back. Also, he got badly beaten on speed rushes a couple of times. Since he is the left tackle, he covers Romo's blind side. Adams MUST eliminate the stupid mistakes.
As far as fallout from the game, the best news for Dallas is that they still control their own playoff destiny. Win on Sunday at Washington (a team that just lost to the Giants 45-12) and then they get the rematch they've been waiting 12 months for - against the Philadelphia Eagles. This time in Dallas. If the Cowboys win both, they will be NFC East champions.
In the mean time, two points must be addressed. Well, one of them has already - Nick Folk was released by the club and they signed former Redskin kicker Shaun Suisam, who used to kick her as well. Suisam had been having a good year (18/21 FG), but he missed twice against Dallas and once against the Saints a week ago. All three misses cost Washington a victory. But hopefully, being back in Dallas will be good for him.
The other issue is what to do with Roy Williams. Already, after his second drop, Romo stoppe looking his way. I have no doubt that Williams is a better than average receiver. But his demeanor and his approach to each play seem to leave a lot to be desired. While I know there are serious financial repercussions about it, Wade could send a very strong message to his team by starting either Patrick Crayton, or Kevin Ogletree (or even Sam Hurd) in place or Roy.
I remember in '92, the season finale against the Bears. Dalas was up 27-0 and cruisin' along. Jimmy Johnson took Emmit Smith out (he already clinched the rushing title) and in his place went Darren Lassic, a former standout from the University of Alabama (rookie). Well, Lassic had not played much and whether it was nerves, or just being in awe of the game, he fumbled.
5 minutes later, the Bears score their first touchdown. Lassic is sent back in with implicit directions to hold on to the ball. But a few plays later, he's hit and he fumbles once again. This time, it was recovered by the Bears' Chris Zorich, who ran it 60 yards for the Bears 2nd touchdown.
Well, that was all Jimmy needed to see. He pulled Lassic out of the game (I thing he decided to let Daryl Johnson run the clock out) and by the next morning (remember this was the last game of the season - although they would go on to win Super 27 that year), Johnson cut Lassic from the team.
And what lesson did it teach the team?Don't screw up because there will always be someone who will take you job. That was the attitude I saw on the Cowboy sidelines Saturday night and I hope to see it from here on out.
Next Sunday's Game
Dallas Cowboys ...............34