Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Feast: Dal 34, Sea 9

The final Thanksgiving Day game at Texas Stadium highlighted all the Cowboys have to be thankful for.  It all amounted to a 34-9 thumping of the Seattle Seahawks in the Turkey Day classic. The 8-4 Cowboys now have 10 days off before a trip to Pittsburgh that could just as easily put this team over the top as it could send it free falling back to earth.

Amazing game for Dallas on Thursday. Tony Romo, playing in his third game with a splint on his right pinkie finger, led Dallas to three TDs on the first three Dallas drives. The QB maneuvered around, avoiding pressuring all day to buy time for his targets. A prime example came on the game's first touchdown, as Romo scrambled right while rookie TE Martellus Bennett slipped behind the zone defense. Romo floated the ball over the outstretched fingers of a linebacker, and the route was one.

The Cowboys will go only as far as Romo and the defense takes them. And speaking of that defense, it seemed like they were more than capable of stopping former Cowboy Julius Jones, but the secondary made Matt Hasselbeck look like he'd returned to Pro Bowl form. The Seattle starter completed 22 of 38 passes for 287 and one deep jump-ball interception. It seemed like the Cowboys defense gave Hasselbeck anything he wanted underneath. Then again, they also gave him plenty of opportunities to stay down, sacking him seven times.

And while there were glowing examples of what Dallas has to be thankful for - a swarming front seven and a healing pinkie - the Cowboys still have much to worry about. Mainly the early departure of Marion Barber and DeMarcus Ware from the game. The status of those two Pro Bowlers will play a major factor in just how much success Dallas can have down the stretch. After taking a look at the NFC playoff picture coming into this week, it's clear that things could be very crowded at the top.

We'll look more into the remaining schedule and updated playoff race after Sunday's games.

A few other notes from the last Turkey tussle at Texas Stadium:

+ While it might be disconcerting to see how Seattle was able to move the ball in the passing game, Hasselbeck was quick to point out the real Cowboys game plan.

"They've got an interesting red-zone plan," Hasselbeck said. "They let you move the ball, but they don't let you score.

"I know one play in particular, basically they had five guys standing at the goal line, one underneath, and the rest of the guys were rushing the passer. I mean, their heels were on the goal line, and they were saying, 'Hey, we'll let you catch it in front of us, and we'll tackle you.' "

+ Seven sacks, with three for DeMarcus Ware, helped shut down the Seahawks in critical situations. They weren't just sacking Hasselbeck whenever. They were doing it on critical downs.  Also, great holiday spirit by flapping around like a turkey for the sack dance of the day.  Here are the seven Cowboys sacks from Thursday:

1st Quarter
1st and 15 at DAL 23 (2:09) M.Hasselbeck sacked at DAL 31 for -8 yards (D.Ware).
2nd Quarter
1st and 10 at SEA 41 (6:21) M.Hasselbeck sacked at SEA 35 for -6 yards (T.Johnson).
3rd and 5 at SEA 46 (5:05) M.Hasselbeck sacked at SEA 38 for -8 yards (B.James).
2nd and 10 at DAL 11 (1:47) M.Hasselbeck sacked at DAL 15 for -4 yards (D.Ware).
3rd and 14 at DAL 15 (1:41) M.Hasselbeck sacked at DAL 20 for -5 yards (B.James).
3rd Quarter
3rd and 6 at SEA 24 (7:22) M.Hasselbeck sacked at SEA 15 for -9 yards (D.Ware).
4th Quarter
2nd and 5 at SEA 48 (5:44) M.Hasselbeck sacked at SEA 43 for -5 yards (G.Ellis).

+ T-New with a second pick in as many weeks. On first down no less. Good to have him back.

+ Great game for Cowboys tight ends today. Jason Witten caught 9 balls for 115 yards and a touchdown. Martellus Bennett caught a TD pass in his third straight game. In total, Romo completed 11 passes for 150 and 2 TDs to tight ends on Thursday. With such amazing weapons on the outside in Terrell Owens and Roy Williams, Dallas' ability to work the middle of the field with the tight ends will be the biggest factor in continuing drives and converting third downs.

+ Tashard Choice. Finally! The rookie RB got 11 touches for 38 yards (by the way, I'd trade his touches for a healthy Marion Barber, but whatcha gonna do?) in his first significant amount of game time since the preseason. Dallas needs Choice to gain confidence, and lots of it, quickly as they hit the home stretch of the schedule. If Barber can't go, Tashard is the only other Choice on the roster.

+ Nick Folk made two more 40+ yard field goals. Solid.

+ I don't really know who the Jonas Brothers are, but anyone who makes Hanson look manly is not welcome at an NFL halftime show.

+ Poor Julius Jones. He returns to his former home stadium and gets booed mercilessly. It's bad enough for the guy he fumbled, but I couldn't understand why Cowboys fans were booing the guy? He wasn't exactly a locker room cancer. And for the four seasons he spent in Dallas, this team would have never made it over the hump into a contender without guys like him holding things together for a few years. Then again, it's a short memory in sports. It's a clouded memory when thinking of T.O. disgracing the Star now that he has one on his helmet.

The Cowboys now face a stretch of four teams with a combined record of 31-13-1 (.700 winning percentage). Three of their final four opponents currently hold playoff spots. Two of them currently hold first-round byes. The "worst" team left on the Cowboys schedule just beat a division leader by 28 points. *gulp*

The way the Cowboys are playing, they could pull together and go 12-4. The way their opponents are playing now, Dallas could wind up 8-8. And there's really no way to predict which way this season will tilt. So the game, duh, must be played on the field. And we must wait and see if the Cowboys really do have what it takes when matched up against the elite teams of the NFL.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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