With one odd bounce of an overtime fumble from Saints receiver Marques Colston, the Cowboys dropped from being favored to beat New Orleans (had they recovered) to possessing less than a one percent chance of victory. It’s always interesting to see the public perception of a game change following seemingly random events; had the Cowboys recovered the fumble and gone on to win, we’d likely see a whole lot of praise for Tony Romo’s miraculous comeback and Jason Garrett’s outstanding play-calling. Instead, you’ll read about how the Cowboys, despite posting 31 points on only 55 offensive plays, abandoned the running game.
However, as difficult as it is to not allow the result of a game entirely dictate how we judge the team, it’s important. The Cowboys’ offense played well on Sunday and they need to take that same mindset and pass-heavy attack into Washington to have a chance to come out of the 2012 regular season as the NFC East champs.
Prior to the game, I suggested that Garrett continue to increase the rate of play-action passes and downfield throws. We saw four play-action passes and five deep looks (thrown at least 20 yards past the line-of-scrimmage) from Dallas. Romo completed two of the play-action passes for 74 yards and a touchdown. He was even better on deep passes, connecting on three of the five for 118 yards and two scores. Against the Redskins’ porous 30th-ranked pass defense, it would probably benefit the ‘Boys to give Bryant a handful of extra deep targets on which he can win in jump ball situations, regardless of the coverage.
I think Dan Connor is superior in pass coverage than people believe. He’s not among the league’s most athletic linebackers, but to be honest, neither is Sean Lee. Both players always seem to find themselves in the right place at the right time, though.
The ‘Boys totaled only 40 rushing yards on 11 carries (3.64 YPC), but 21 of those yards came on the four runs outside of the tackles (5.25 YPC).
Although we saw glimpses of it in past preseasons, this is the first time that Romo has consistently utilized back-shoulder throws during the regular season. On Sunday, we saw two back-shoulder throws from Romo, and both—the 16-yarder to Dwayne Harris and the 19-yarder to Miles Austin—went for touchdowns. Those passes pushed Romo’s total of back-shoulder passes to 11 on the year—significantly more than in past seasons. He’s 7-for-11 for 85 yards and four scores on those throws—good for a passer rating of 126.9.
I've never really seen DeMarcus Ware play a below-average game, but he was pretty mediocre against the Saints. He failed to get off of blocks and didn't secure the edge on a number of occasions. It's so uncharacteristic that you have to wonder how banged up his body really is at this point.
The Cowboys’ defense has some obvious issues with speed out of the backfield. That’s not exactly a recipe for success against the Redskins next week. I’ll dive into more this week, but look for Rob Ryan to play a whole lot of zone coverage against Washington to limit RGIII’s ability to attack Dallas on the ground.