Yesterday’s game was another nail biter, no surprise when you’re talking about the Dallas Cowboys. But this time they came out on top of a one point win, after losing the previous three one point margin games. It seems that the debacle against the Packers last week taught the Cowboys coaching staff something, as they attempted to feature DeMarco Murray’s running in the second half, as well as the first.
In this game we were able to see why the Cowboys drafted receiver Terrance Williams from Baylor, as he had some key catches in the win. And Cole Beasley, once again, had a key play to help the Cowboys continue to advance the ball. Tony Romo was hurt late in the game, but stayed in to tough out the win. Dez Bryant, sans the eye shield on his helmet, was productive as well as the Cowboys overcame two turnovers in the win. And let’s not forget about the immediate contribution from kick return specialist Michael Spurlock, signed just last week. His long punt return led to the Cowboys first touchdown. Spurlock does however seem better suited for returning punts rather than kickoffs.
I am convinced that there is nothing wrong with this offense, except for the coaching. When you look at how well the offensive line has been playing in blocking for both run and pass and the plethora of playmakers at the skilled positions, it just leaves you with questions about the coaching. Yeah, the same coaches that kept calling pass plays last week when they had been running the ball so well. Yes, I know they fell they need to stay aggressive to protect the defense, but the best protection you can have for your defense is a great running game that keeps the opposing offense on the sidelines. When they do have to pass, they must continue to move Dez around to restrict coverage, as they have started doing lately.
Anyway, I digress. Back to yesterday’s game. In a defense that has struggled all year, it is quite a surprise to me that perennial backup and slot corner Orlando Scandrick is now this team’s best corner. If they had put Scandrick on Washington receiver Pierre Garcon all day, the game wouldn’t be as close as it was. So why is high priced free agent acquisition Brandon Carr struggling, and why was high draft pick corner Morris Claiborne struggling before he went out with a hamstring injury? It’s because they were signed to be bump and run corners that are now being asked to play zone in Monte Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme.
And it appears the best corner they have for playing zone coverage is Scandrick. Scandrick can play bump and run too, so the solution is still to tweak the defensive scheme and play much more bump and run. This is what defensive line coach Rod Marrinelli did when he was the defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears, and we saw how good that defense was with him in charge.
So, the Cowboys still control their own destiny and are one win against the Eagles way from winning the division for the first time since 2009. The Eagles are a better team than the one the Cowboys faced earlier in the season, but they aren’t unbeatable. On top of that, the Cowboys get them at home, where they’ve had a pretty good record this year. The good news is if the Cowboys can beat the Eagles next Sunday they win the division. The bad news is, no matter who they face once they get in the playoffs, with this defense they are likely to lose.
So, we can all rejoice if they make it to the playoffs, but one and done is the likely result with a defense they can’t stop any of the better teams. My RX for the defense next year is for the Cowboys to allow Kiffin to save face by letting him retire, rather than be fired, which would hopefully make way to move Marinelli up to defensive coordinator. This won’t happen if Kiffin is fired, Marinelli is too loyal to him. So, Kiffin retires and Marinelli takes his place and gets this defense back on track after a very embarrassing year. However, there is more work to be done as the Cowboys need to make defensive players, especially lineman, a priority in the next draft.
Don’t miss the chance to see the win-and-in game in person on Sunday night by getting your Cowboys tickets here.