Sunday, November 23, 2008

Enjoying popcorn: Dal 35, SF 22

Are ya having a good time now, Terrell?

The dynamic receiver exploded for 213 yards and a home run touchdown against his former team. No need to run to the midfield star. Everyone in the building and watching on TV recognized who getting things done on the field. Terrell Owens, fresh off a controversial NFL Network interview with Deion Sanders, silenced his critics with a breakout game.

Sure Dallas Morning News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor isn't exactly planning a retraction for the paper after penning a column saying T.O.'s days as the Cowboys top target are fading that headlined the SportsDay section Sunday morning. In fact, JJT noticed how Owens was able to get free releases off the line of scrimmage all day long. No bump n run coverage meant a big day for T.O. But really, was this much more than a butt-whoopin' against a mediocre opponent?

Owens played well, but let's not forget that none of it's possible without No. 9 back there (Brad Johnson isn't escaping from that pressure). Like Owens said during Romo's absence, he can't throw the ball to himself. Romo's return made T.O,'s big day possible. Just making sure we're all on the same page.

It wasn't just offense though. The Cowboys played a complete game in the fullest sense of the word.

Dallas gained 408 yards today, scored 35 points, and reestablished themselves as one of the leagues premier passing attacks. Yes, the running game struggled, but when you have everyone up to guard against the run, that opens up passing lanes.

Defensively, the Cowboys held San Francisco when they needed to. Yes, 22 points to the 49ers doesn't look good, but consider the first quarter of the game, when Dallas allowed only 6 points despite San Francisco twice getting inside the Dallas five yard line. It could have easily been 14-0, a deficit one 75-yard TD doesn't erase into oblivion.

And wouldn't ya know it, those gosh durn special teams turned in a heck of a performance too. After T.O.'s 75-yard TD, newly acquired special teamer Carlos Polk stopped dangerous return man Allen Rossum at the 16 for only an 11-yard return. After a pair of sacks by the defense, Polk blocked the 49ers punt out the back of the end zone for a safety. As if that wasn't good enough, kicker Nick Folk booted field goals of 48, 41, 47 and 42 yards. I suppose the most disappointing aspect of special teams was that punter Sam Paulescu didn't blow up another opponent.

The only thing missing from the Cowboys today was Rowdy, so what more could you really ask for?

More notes from a solid Cowboys performance:

+ Owens averaged a whoppin' 30.7 yard per catch. It's safe to say this game illustrates just how important it is for defenses to jam him at the line of scrimmage. When T.O. builds up some speed, he can beat the defense. It's doubtful any of the remaining Cowboys opponents will allow him the freedom at the line scrimmage that San Francisco was generous enough to share. Still, it's much better having Owens happy than not.

+ Moving across the formation, Roy Williams finished with three catches for 36 yards. Not impressive stats, but it's more rapport with Romo, which will come in handy when Owens is getting jammed down the road.

+ The offensively line once again struggled with false start penalties. Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis and Marc Columbo twice jumped the gun at home. It won't be much easier for these guys when the team travels to Pittsburgh in a few weeks. In total, Dallas was penalized 8 times for 65 yards. That's gotta stop.

+ Tight end Jason Witten might be the toughest dude in the NFL. After taking a massive hit from Nate Clements, Witten was back out on the field just a few plays later. Broken ribs or not, to get back to work so quickly after that hit was impressive. Speaking of tight ends, Martellus Bennett's only catch of the day went for a TD. That's two in two weeks. Not to bad, rookie.

+ Once last point about the offense: 26 touches (19 carries, 7 receptions) for Marion Barber III seems like an awful lot for a guy with his running style considering the Cowboys are taking the field for another game on Thursday. Jason Garrett gave rookie RB Tashard Choice six carries (18 yards). Choice isn't Felix Jones, but Jones isn't an option, so the Cowboys need to work in Choice more often to preserve Barber for December.

+ Can't stress enough the importance of the two first quarter goal-line stops. Even if one of those drives ends in a touchdown, Dallas trailed 10-0 after the first quarter, and this game is much closer down the stretch. While this is in no way another coming of Doomsday, the Cowboys defense is proving that despite frequent bending, it's extremely tough to break.

+ Four sacks on Niners QB Shaun Hill. DeMarcus Ware, Greg Ellis, Anthony Spencer and Ken Hamlin each took down Hill once. While the San Fran O-line is by no means elite, it's good to see the Cowboys bring pressure. There were several other opportunities where Dallas was able to break down the protection and force Hill out of the pocket. Those no-quite-sacks still led to some busted plays for the 49ers.

+ Another interception from a defensive back! One play after San Francisco recovered a fumbled handoff between Romo and Choice, Anthony Henry picked Hill in the end zone. The pick halted a 49ers drive that was starting from the Dallas 17. To that point in the game, Dallas had allowed San Fran three trips into the red zone and given up six points. Can't be too upset with that.

+ Frank Gore was in the building today?

+ After a great game last week, Terence Newman's ability to stay the same level for this game was in doubt after more groin problems this week. After a shaky first quarter, Newman seemed to settle down. The 49ers went after Newman on the first play from scrimmage, and Isaac Bruce went down the left sideline for 21 yards. On the next SF drive, Bruce caught the jump ball on the Dallas 4 yard line while Newman stood idly by as if he didn't know he was allowed to make a play on the ball while it was in the air. On an fyi note, Bruce's fourth quarter touchdown came between Henry and Pat Watkins.

Special Teams
+ Carlos Polk is fast establishing himself as a special teams force. Remember a few weeks ago when Bobby Carpenter made the first play of his career and recovered a fumble? Polk caused it. While it looked like there was no one there to block him on the blocked-punt-safety, he still got through quickly and batted the ball back.

+ Paulescu's long punt (70 yards) looks good on the stat sheet, but the stat sheet doesn't show Allen Rossum laying on the turf clutching his leg as the ball bounced past him. Nice play by Watkins to down the ball on the 1 yard line. Excluding the 70 yard gimme, Paulescu's average drops from 48.3 to 41.0 on the day. It's not a massive difference, but consider Mat McBriar's 49.0 average stands at third-best in the NFL this season. Paulescu's season average (including today's 70 yarder) is 42.4, tied for 27th in the NFL.

+ Get the Folk outta hear! Four field goals today from deep for the second-year man. The only other person you could consider the MVP of the Cowboys special teams unit would be L.P. Ladouceur for the simple fact that no one knows who he is ... which is exactly what you want out of a long snapper. Folk has proven time and time again that he has the stones to make the big kicks when he's called upon. Dallas will need that down the home stretch.

Short week with a Thanksgiving Day feast that features a main course of Seahawk in lieu of turkey. Cowboys gotta get right back to work to prepare for a Seattle team that was pretty close to upsetting Washington. At 7-4, Dallas faces another "must win" game because frankly a loss to the Seattle Seahawks means game over. Everyone is assuming 8-4 will happen, and it should, but the game still must be played. Advantage Cowboys thanks to the experience of playing on Turkey Day and Seattle's lengthy trip.

1 comment:

MK said...

I think the Cowboys slept walk through the first quarter. The Niners' offensive ineptness is what kept them from putting more points on the board not the Dallas defense, at least that is what I saw on my couch. Romo bailed them out. Will that work against the Giants? It hasn't lately, and let's face it, the road to the title goes through the Meadowlands.

Hit Counter

Everyone's visiting the NO JOSHIN' blog. Tell your friends to take a look!
Hit Counter