In a generally dominant performance across the board on Sunday, the Cowboys' offensive line was in lock step with the rest of the team, clearing the way for 146 yards rushing, the fourth-highest total on the ground of the season. But Hudson Houck, the team's revered offensive line coach is not ready to hand out medals. The reason for this, in a word, is penalties.
"We've got to get that cleaned up," Houck said, in reference to four penalties committed by his unit. "We can't have that."
Andre Gurode provided three penalties himself--two holds and a false start--in an infraction-hampered afternoon for Dallas; in the box score, in fact, penalties seem to be the only facet of the game lost by Dallas. They committed 11, for 80 yards; Philadelphia committed six, for 58 yards.
But given the relative ease with which Dallas won, this might be classified as a forgettable side note; what will be remembered, at least until Saturday night--the rematch--is likely the image of white jerseys pushing around green ones like so many blocking sleds. The offensive line, for the most part, had their way with the Eagles' front, playing with an energy rarely seen.
Consider the case of Doug Free, the right tackle who became a starter after Marc Colombo went down in Green Bay in week 10. On Felix Jones' 49-yard touchdown run, Free actually beat the second-year running back up-field to block a linebacker and then, streaking across the field again, a corner, to ensure the long touchdown.
The play stood out as a remarkable one for Free's teammates on the line.
"I make my block and look up, and [Free] is 25 yards down the field blocking the guy into the end zone," said Dallas center Andre Gurode. "He carried out his assignment and then did a little extra. That's how an offensive line works."