Cowboys Looking for a Secondary Reason to Give Thanks

Despite two early interceptions that nearly cost the Cowboys a chance to win against the Miami Dolphins on Thanksgiving Day, Tony Romo valiantly lead two masterful scoring drives in the second half that proved to be the difference. Dan Bailey’s chip-shot field goal that ended the game was a relief for Cowboys fans everywhere; another week, another close win against a poor football team. There were, however, a lot of good things for which to be thankful on this holiday.

1) Tony Romo was in complete control in the second half. On the final drive, Tony escaped the grasp of three defenders’ sacks and another pressure to deliver clutch throws to Jason Witten and Laurent Robinson. Robinson impressed again with two touchdown catches and his overall synchronization with Romo.

2) Dan Bailey has extended his converted field goals streak to 26 straight, which ties his coach Chris Boniol’s club record and further extends an NFL rookie record.

3)DeMarcus Ware continues to be the best in the business at his position by being the ultimate disruption. His modest stat line understates his brilliant performance on the defensive line and in pass coverage.

4) Sean Lee, despite his injury, continues to be an outstanding leader for the Cowboys and the best inside linebacker they have had at Valley Ranch since Dexter Coakley.

5) Dez Bryant proved he should have more touches (no matter how he gets them) by making the special teams play of the game on his only return of the afternoon. His 20-yard “cameo” set up Bailey’s field goal that won the game.

6) Even though veteran Doug Free had three false start penalties, the overall offensive line play was good as well. They held Cameron Wake in check and allowed DeMarco Murray to have another successful day, running for 87 yards. On the game-winning drive, they kept Romo upright and Murray moving forward.

While all that was reason to give thanks, the giant turd in the cranberry punch bowl was the secondary. The runner-up was the team’s overall penalty total (11 for 69 yards), but it pales in comparison to the last line of defense. Journeyman quarterback Matt Moore completed 19/32 passes for 288 yards, 1 touchdown (we’ll get to that debauchery) and no interceptions a week after Rex Grossman did about the same. Terence Newman played the best of the bunch, but that is not saying much about him. Orlando Scandrick continued to struggle. His pass break-up on the Dolphins final drive was a misfire by Matt Moore. Gerald Sensabaugh was not on his game. Some blame should be attributed to his injury (he took a shot in his foot before the game) but if that is the case he should not be playing. Frank Walker became part of the problem by allowing Anthony Fasano to convert a key third down that could have led to points if Dolphins kicker Shayne Graham had not missed a 47-yard attempt. He also angrily committed an unnecessary roughness penalty after Fasano beat him on a pass route that set up a 23-yard field by Graham. Alan Ball was the worst of the group, allowing Brian Hartline to catch a deep pass that kept the Dolphins moving and committing a 20-yard pass interference penalty that made him look incompetent and set up a 28-yard field goal for Miami. The fact that Matt Moore was willing and able to stretch the field at all undercut Rob Ryan’s plan to put pressure on the Dolphins offensive line and quarterback.

The major criticism last year was that Wade Phillips scheme was the reason this secondary could not succeed. Well Wade is in Houston leading one of the league’s best defensive teams, which last year was one of the WORST secondary units and otherwise with many of the same players. Our secondary is still in Dallas, stinking up the 1.2 billion dollar joint (allowing 230.7 yards per game) despite having a great coach with aggressive game plans that should be perfect for man-to-man corners given the amount of pressure that he sends at the opposing quarterback. Instead, the pressure is not able to reach the average quarterbacks they play (or the good ones, like Michael Vick) because the opponent’s wide receivers are open before the opposing QB hits the 3rd step of his 3-step drop. There is no good excuse for this performance. The only explanation is that they simply are not that good.

In response to my harsh criticism of our beloved secondary three short weeks ago, someone wrote to me, “worst in the league, that is just ludicrous,” “What is it that you see that suggests… the worst [secondary units] in the league?” It was also suggested that I am some “irrational pessimist.” A muckrakin’, Fox News-lovin’, no-good bumpkin who caint learn no good english and caint type no good articles!!!!!! Perhaps they were right. Perhaps this unit has bad luck. Perhaps they play well and I am too critical. I am sorry for my “BLATANT disregard of facts.” Sorry.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! Hopefully we can eat more bird next weekend! How about some Cardinal?

Go Cowboys!

Cowboys 20 Dolphins 19 — The Secondary Issue

Topics: Cowboys, Dallas, Dallas Cowboys, DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware, Dez Bryant, Doug Free, Gerald Sensabaugh, Jason Witten, Miami Dolphins, Mike Jenkins, NFL, Orlando Scandrick, Rob Ryan, Sean Lee, Terence Newman, Tony Romo, Wade Phillips

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