Sunday, October 25, 2009

Miles ahead of the rest: Dal 37, Atl 20

A year ago, the Cowboys traded a handful of picks to the Detroit Lions to acquire Roy Williams, the team's true #1 receiver of the future and the heir apparent to Terrell Owens as a go-to option for Tony Romo. Flash forward to 2009, and there is now little doubt the Cowboys have found that successor ... Miles Austin.

Austin made just his second career start, but if that's any indication, then the young wide out shouldn't be left out of the starting lineup until doesn't turn a game into a track meet. Austin caught a team-high six passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns just two weeks after his breakout performance in Kansas City where he set a franchise record with 250 yards receiving on 10 catches. The fourth year receiver is making frequent big plays in the Cowboys offense. His five touchdown passes are more than all other Cowboys receivers combined including Jason Witten.

ReceiverReceiving TDs
Miles Austin
Patrick Crayton
Roy Williams
Jason Witten

Austin is setting himself apart from all of quarterback Tony Romo's other options -- even super tight end Jason Witten. Roy Williams has caught 12 balls in five games (2.4 receptions per game doesn't seem like a true #1. Hopefully the Cowboys (4-2) don't work themselves into another "he's not throwing to me" dispute. Romo is developing more confidence with Austin than the other targets. It's why Patrick Crayton was dropped below Austin on the depth chart. And with his latest performance, is Austin going to officially leapfrog Williams as well.

Here's the Cowboys 2009 receiving numbers after Sunday's 37-21 win over the Falcons.
Receiving Statistics
Jason Witten333129.5221
Miles Austin2150223.9605
Patrick Crayton1725214.8802
Tashard Choice131158.8280
Roy E. Williams1223019.2661
Martellus Bennett77210.3150
Sam Hurd57915.8530
Marion Barber55911.8260
Felix Jones3268.7200
Deon Anderson155.050

In the last two games, Austin has 421 yards and four touchdowns. That is not only the best for a Cowboys over a two-game span ever, it's also the indicator that Austin is Romo's top-performing target. Based on that, there's your true #1. While it may have been necessary to rid the roster of Terrell Owens in the offseason to allow Austin a chance to shine, the brightness from Miles Austin is now casting a glaring and judgmental spotlight on the underachieving Roy Williams.

A few other thoughts on the first big Cowboys win of 2009...
+ Tony Romo continued to show why he can drive fans and opposing defenses absolutely crazy all at the same time. He continued to show his magician-like ability to escape the clutches of defenders on his touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton, and Romo posted his 19th career 300+ yard game, most of all Cowboys quarterbacks ever. Three touchdown passes and no interceptions while completing 21 of 29 passes shows that Romo was able to take care of the ball this week.

+ The Cowboys signed Allen Rossum this week as a return specialist. He was injured on his only return, a 16 yarder that he should have downed. Not only because it would have meant more yards, but also because he was hit hard enough to knock him out of the game. Patrick Crayton went on to return a punt 73 yards for a touchdown. If Felix Jones is healthy enough to return kicks, and with Crayton now out of the punt returners dog house, look for the Cowboys to release Rossum within the next week.

+ It's not surprising that the one Cowboy defender who looked unafraid to tackle in this game is a Cowboy who wasn't on this team last season. Gerald Sensabaugh was constantly breaking up plays, crashing into the ball carrier, and setting a tone for the defense the likes of which the Cowboys haven't seen since Darren Woodsen. Sensabaugh could have added an interception to his day as well if he could have cradled the ball into his heavily bandaged hand.

+ The Cowboys running game was lackluster at best. Dallas gained 115 rushing yards as a team with 31 of those yards coming from a scrambling Tony Romo. With the entire trio of running backs healthy for the first time since September, the Cowboys rushing game was constantly swallowed up by the Atlanta front seven. Barber seemed sluggish, and Felix Jones appeared rusty after missing the last few weeks. It's nice the Cowboys were able to dominate through the air so well, but closer games will be decided on the ground, and this was not the same unit we saw over the first few games. The rushing stats from the day:

M. Barber1447013
F. Jones837012
T. Romo631017

The Cowboys are now 4-2 with their first win over a team above .500 on the season. The Cowboys only wins prior to Sunday came again the still winless Buccaneers (0-7), the struggling Panthers (2-4), and the hapless Chiefs (1-6). The Cowboys have now earned a sliver of legitimacy to match their record. The only way to truly legitimize this team will be with a return to the postseason and snapping the playoff losing streak that dates back to the days of the Triplets. The emotional overtime win over the Chiefs two weeks ago began the process. The victory over Atlanta is now a true testament that the Cowboys are heading down the right track.

Dallas will need a win over Seattle next week to ensure the proper momentum that will be needed before consecutive road games in Philadelphia and Green Bay in November before returning home Thanksgiving week.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lots of good info. I hope Rossum comes back because I don't want Jones and Crayton to risk it. rlf

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