GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 15: Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys looks at a receiver against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 15, 2009 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
"I've said this before, but each play is...its own play. We don't think about the situations as much, or things [like that], you just execute the play, what the defense gives you. And if you keep doing that, you have a chance to continue to move down the field in whatever fashion they want to give us to exploit, I guess."--Tony Romo
It was a frustrating day for the Dallas Cowboys' offense on Sunday. The season-long maxim of taking what you can get, of exploiting whatever the defense allows, failed, mainly because exactly what the Packers' defense were giving seemed wholly unclear. The running game began strong, before, somewhat inexplicably, being abandoned after the first quarter.
Tony Romo was under pressure all day, doing his best to create amid the chaos.
Receivers were rarely open, a difficulty compounded by three drops on the day, two of which came at crucial times.
Perhaps the Packers' defense just outplayed Dallas; perhaps Dom Capers out-coached Jason Garrett. (In fact, he almost certainly did.) But in this passive-aggressive approach, the football version of counter-punching in boxing, receiver Patrick Crayton sees a flaw.
"Sometimes, I wish we dictated to defenses, not let defenses dictate what we do," Crayton said today in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
It's hard to argue with him after such a performance. Whatever the Cowboys were looking for, it seemed, never really materialized. There were certainly some key mistakes and a couple of unfortunate breaks along the way, but they only go so far in explaining a dynamic offense going silent so quickly and definitely.
Interestingly enough, Crayton had previously argued that Dallas should run the ball with more consistency. Garrett would have done well to heed this advice yesterday, as he abandoned the run, to the detriment of the team as a whole, after the first half.
With no ground-threat to speak of after intermission, Green Bay blanketed Dallas's receivers adeptly as the pass rush harassed Romo, resulting in a season-high five three-and-outs; in waiting for something to exploit, apparently, the offensive coordinator left one of the offense's greatest weapons idling on the sidelines and occasionally blocking on forced, ill-fated pass plays.
What Garrett fails to realize, it seems, is that it rarely matters who is on the other side of the ball; the running attack is incredibly strong, and woefully under-used. This is the group that stacked up 200 plus yards on the ground against the New York Giants, the no. 1 defense in the NFL, only a month and a half ago.
Just what Green Bay's defense did to so strongly dissuade Garrett from running, one can only imagine; it must have been daunting. But Crayton hit the nail on the head in his comments yesterday, as well as those from a month ago. One might take solace after the loss in the fact that the Cowboys still rank eighth in the league in rushing, and second in average yards per carry.
All anyone can hope at this point is that, in the future, Garrett might remember it.