I said it last week, and I’ll say it again: as Romo goes, so go the Cowboys.
Watching the game on Thanksgiving, it was obvious that Romo was the reason the Cowboys won that game. Despite his two early interceptions, Romo made plays in the fourth quarter that many quarterbacks could only dream about. I counted at least four plays where the defense had him dead-to-rights for a sack, and yet somehow he managed to get the ball away and complete the pass for a first down. I mentioned last week how Romo was almost Vick-like in his escapism abilities; the same can be said for this game as well. What he did was nothing short of amazing.
That said, I have a big problem with the way the offensive line performed against the Dolphins, especially in the fourth quarter. The reason we saw those unbelievable plays by Romo was because the offensive line was not doing a very good job of protecting him.
Doug Free continues to have a very average season, and I have no doubt that the Cowboys will move Free to right tackle and Tyron Smith to left next year. In fact, Tyron Smith is probably the Cowboy’s most consistent offensive lineman right now. Game by game, he’s grading out better than any other lineman, which is surprising considering he’s a rookie. Kyle Kosier continues to struggle with his injury, and Phil Costa simply isn’t the answer at center. Finding a replacement at center and left guard will be a high priority in the off-season. As it is now, this unit has got to do a better job if Dallas has any chance to make a deep post season run.
Dez Bryant was mostly quiet once again, and I wonder when he will become the force to be reckoned with that we all expect him to be. There are times that he flashes that ability each game, but then he seems to fade out the rest of the way. He’s another one that needs to step up his game. Once Miles Austin returns from his injury, I think the Cowboys will use Bryant on punt returns more often. He’s shown in the past that he can be a game changer at that position. In this game, his only return was 21 yards to set up the game winning drive.
Defensively, the Cowboys continued to allow some big plays against their secondary. Granted, Matt Moore has caught fire in the last several weeks, but I wouldn’t consider him in the same class as Rodgers or Brady…or even Eli Manning for that matter. Rob Ryan is going to have to find a way to tighten up that secondary, but essentially it comes down to the players making plays on the field. The return of Mike Jenkins will certainly help.
Against the rush, the defense held Miami to just 89 yards and 3.6 yards per rush. That’s a definite improvement, building on their performance the previous week against Washington…although neither Washington nor Miami strike fear into opponents with their ability to run the ball. It will be interesting to see how the defense handles Beanie Wells of the Cardinals, who ran wild on Sunday for 228 yards on just 27 carries against the Rams.
Tony Romo – The man is Mr. November, compiling a 19-2 record in the month as the Cowboy’s starting quarterback. He’s the reason the team is winning, and the way he’s playing should put the Cowboys in good position to win the NFC East. If ever he was going to break the “inconsistent” and “choker” label, it’s now. If he rolls through December and January the same way he did November, he will quiet every one of his critics and haters.
DeMarco Murray – The Cowboys have found themselves a workhorse in Murray. He’s the type of player this team has sorely needed at running back. His ability to fight for extra yards, spot the open holes, and make people miss adds a versatility to the offense that wasn’t there previously. His continued success will only help relieve the burden from Tony Romo. Though he hasn’t been spectacular the last two weeks against two very good run defenses, he has made plays when it mattered most. It was his ability to run the ball late in the game that allowed the Cowboys to get in position for the game winning kick against the Dolphins.
Laurent Robinson – Just think, he was a free agent in early September before the Cowboys picked him up. He’s been a gem of a find, and one of the main reasons for the Cowboy’s offensive success with Miles Austin hampered this season with injuries. Remember that guy who plays for the Chargers now that everyone was clamoring for in the first few weeks of the season? Yeah, me neither. All Robinson does is make plays…and he’s got the right name for it.
Sean Lee – Watching the Miami game, number 50 was all over the field. You would never know by watching that he has a club for a hand, with the cast he wears on his injured wrist. For some linebackers, that might be a hindrance. Not for Lee. He continues to make plays and, in my opinion, is the most consistent defensive player the Cowboys have. Certainly a star in the making.
Orlando Scandrick – For the second straight game, Scandrick struggled mightily. He was beaten deep several times by Davone Bess, and I wasn’t thrilled with his comments about Bess being better than Wes Welker. That seemed like an excuse for his poor play, which is inexcusable. I worry that the Cowboys have overpaid for Scandrick, who may be nothing more than a third-string cornerback. Though I have seen him play better before. He needs get out of this rut he’s in.
Demarcus Ware – Call me crazy, but I have not been impressed with Ware’s performance the past couple of weeks. He mostly disappeared against Washington, and the only time I heard his name mentioned against the Dolphins was when he recovered Matt Moore’s fumble. This team captain, defensive leader, and dominant player needs to step up his own game as the Cowboys are heading down the stretch. Too many times he’s getting stonewalled against opposing linemen and being taken out of plays.
Terence Newman – Another defensive leader who has seemed to find himself in a rut the past few weeks. Everyone saw the play where he was beaten so badly by Brandon Marshall that he wrapped his arms around the poor guy’s neck well before the ball got there to try and prevent a touchdown. That was just the culmination of what has been a very average to below average performance from the former pro bowler. The Cowboys cannot afford for Newman to play this poorly while they are beginning their playoff push.
Doug Free – The left tackle committed three false start penalties against the Dolphins, which has been a worrisome trend this season. He’s having much less success this season than he did last year. It may be that his natural position is not left tackle at all, but right tackle, which I believe to be the case. It’s too late in the season for him to switch sides with Tyron Smith, but it will be interesting to see how he plays next season on the right side with Smith on the left. For now, he needs to do a better job in all phases of his game.