Cowboys 21, Panthers 7: A Few Things From Last Night

Written by theMBIIIeffect

The Dallas Cowboys improved their impressive Monday Night Football record to 42-29 and gave owner Jerry Jones the first win in his $1.15 billion dollar stadium with a 21-7 win over the visiting Carolina Panthers

While a win is a win, the Cowboys did leave something to be desired with that performance.

Here are a few things, both good and bad, that I noticed last night.

  • The Cowboys run the best draw in the NFL: We’ve got that play down. Linebackers have to respect Tony Romo throwing the ball and that opened up all kinds of space for Felix Jones and Tashard Choice last night. In the past two games, the Cowboys have rushed for 463 yards on 61 carries. That’s over 7.5 yards per carry, and a lot of the bigger plays have come on the draw.
  • The passing game was predictable, but it worked: Tony Romo likes to throw to Jason Witten, especially on 5-6 yard hooks. That’s pretty much all we saw from the passing game in the first half. Even in the second half, there wasn’t much more creativity in the passing game. Maybe offensive coordinator Jason Garrett took a hint from former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson. “The bigger the game, the simpler you get,” Johnson said. The Cowboys had to have this win, so perhaps that’s why Garrett scaled down the passing game. There was a major failure for Garrett in the red zone though, dialing up two pass plays to Roy Williams and Martellus Bennett from the one yard line. I can live with one pass play, but two in a row is unacceptable.
  • The secondary still needs work: Terence Newman sealed the game with an interception return for a touchdown and recently-promoted cornerback Mike Jenkins got that long-awaited first takeaway for the Cowboys’ defense of the year. But I’m not sold on the secondary yet. We did frustrate Steve Smith and keep him from making any big plays, but there were other mistakes. The most glaring mistake was the two-minute drill. The coverage was too loose and they gave up a touchdown. I’d attribute that more to the defense that Wade Phillips called, as he opted to play with one safety. Ken Hamlin has to bite on the pump-fake to Smith. That leaves Jenkins thinking he has help over the top when he doesn’t. Still, Jenkins should be able to keep up with a tight end. Hamlin also made a very poor effort to tackle Muhsin Muhammad after a long reception against Jenkins. Had Muhammad not interfered with Jenkins on that play, Hamlin would have let him score a touchdown because of his poor tackling. Jenkins wasn’t the most sure tackler either, but he did improve as the game wore on. If the Cowboys didn’t have a short week this week, I’d recommend a tackling-only practice for the secondary. Not tackling dummies, real people.
  • Something isn’t right with DeMarcus Ware: The outside linebacker finally got a little pressure on an opposing quarterback, but is still without a sack this year. Ware’s first step isn’t as fast as it once was. But I think Ware’s problem isn’t physical. He’s thinking too much about making a move to beat the offensive lineman opposite him when he should use that speed he has to beat the tackle off the edge.
  • Something’s definitely wrong with Bobby Carpenter: Carpenter whiffed on a tackle on a third-and-long run that eventually turned into a first down. Is it only his fault? No. Did he miss an easy tackle and not at least turn the runner back inside where he has help? Yes. I don’t know what the coaching staff sees in this guy. Veteran linebacker Keith Brooking was better in coverage last night, and he’s a much better tackler. Sure, Carpenter probably has a step on Brooking, but what does a step matter if Carpenter isn’t going to make the tackle anyway?
  • Something’s definitely right with Victor Butler: I see you, rook! How about Butler last night? He only got a few snaps, but he made the most of them, sacking Panthers quarterback Jake Delhomme twice and forcing a fumble that ended the game. I don’t know how well Butler tackles or how well he plays the outside linebacker spot, but when Butler put his hand on the ground, he got some good pass rushes in. Butler (6-2, 246) is not as big as Ware (6-4, 262) or Anthony Spencer (6-3, 255), who may be anxiously looking over his shoulder for Butler in practice this week, but that serves him well. That gives him some leverage on bigger offensive tackles, like former first rounder Jeff Otah last night. The low man wins, and Butler won twice last night.
  • Jay Ratliff is a beast: Very consistent play from the big man in the middle last night. He sets the tone on defense and is a big part of why our run defense is doing so well.
  • We were a different team after halftime: The first half wasn’t good. We had problems moving the ball and putting points on the board. It seemed to happen after kicker Nick Folk missed a field goal on the game’s opening drive. After giving up a touchdown on the last drive of the half, things were looking bad, and heads were hanging low as the Cowboys walked toward the locker room. I was waiting for things to fall apart like they would have last year. But the Cowboys stepped up. The Cowboys defense stepped up in a big way, not allowing the Panthers a first down for most of the half and keeping them stuck near their own end zone. The offense responded in a great way, putting together scoring drives and keeping the Panthers defense on their heels. Someone must have said something to the players at halftime. According to Nick Eatman of the True Blue Fan Club, Wade Phillips and Tony Romo both got after the team. “I was like ‘wow,’” Williams said. “He was getting after us a little bit. That’s good.” 

Topics: Anthony Spencer, Bobby Carpenter, DeMarcus Ware, Felix Jones, Jason Garrett, Jason Witten, Jay Ratliff, Jeff Otah, Jerry Jones, Jimmy Johnson, Keith Brooking, Ken Hamlin, Martellus Bennett, Mike Jenkins, Muhsin Muhammad, Nick Folk, Roy Williams, Steve Smith, Tashard Choice, Terence Newman, Tony Romo, Victor Butler, Wade Phillips

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