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The defense did its part tonight - the offense needs the off-season to figure out how to play again

Tim's picture

I hope we can all agree that this one is not on the defense. This was one of the worst offensive performances of the year. Not the playcalling, which was fine, but the execution.

On defense, Ryan clearly decided to concede the run and make Griffin beat us with his arm. Had the offense done its part, I think that would have worked. Romo's three interceptions were stunning to me. Two of them were so off-target that I am a little surprised there was even a defender close enough to adjust to them. I disagree with Collinsworth on the last one – Romo was not "fooled." Even if there had been no defender in the area, the receiver would have needed to come back two or three yards to catch that pass. Like the deep ball to Austin earlier, it was the defender who saw the pass and adjusted to it first. And Romo was way off target on a lot of other throws that fell incomplete during the game, as well. (For what it's worth, Griffin was even less accurate, but none of his got picked off.)

So I am not sure how much it really mattered that Dez and Austin were out for long stretches – if the ball is not close enough to catch it, what's the difference who you are throwing to?

Not a single flag was thrown until the fourth quarter, but the flag of the game was a roughing call against Jason Hatcher that pretty much sealed it. After all the offense did to lose, until that flag, there was still a chance. Hard to believe, but it's true. Still, you can't blame the defense. Hatcher was not playing dirty or going for Griffin's head – he was blocked down low and came forward into the quarterback. It was an accident, but they always flag that one.

The defense saved the points on the first two interceptions, and would held it to three points on the third one, if not for that flag.

It's all on the offense. It's all on Romo. It hasn't all been on Romo in the past (44-3 cannot, obviously, be on one person) but tonight it was. For the year, he tied his career high in interceptions, but with a lot fewer touchdown passes. I said at the midway point it was his worst year of his career, but I thought he had turned it around for a few weeks there. His interceptions were on significantly more pass attempts than he's ever had, so the percentage was not terrible (2.9%) but three games this year were legendarily awful.

I have to admit this is not the game I expected. Not at all. Even in defeat last week the offense played extremely well. Tonight, they couldn't seem to do anything right. And yes, I am saying that Romo is not the only one who underperformed – only the worst.

There's no doubt that injuries are, in fact, an excuse, but this one still stings. It tells me absolutely nothing about what this team, or these players, can do in the future, but it was a terrible game, and a sickening feeling to go into the off-season with.

I'll write up a full season post-mortem in a few days or a week. Right now, I think I will just go vomit.

philyew3
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Unquestionably, Romo suffered a personal meltdown, from which he may struggle to recover. He had a good opportunity to break free of the nay-sayers, but instead folded in a completely unexpected way. For the first time, justifiably, he will look at this and truly feel that he was to blame for this defeat in a winner-take-all contest. 
Of course, he wasn't alone. It isn't solely the responsibility of the QB to neutralize repeated blitz packages: WRs needed to run snappier routes, the OL and the other assigned blockers needed to plug the gaps better. Each INT was the result of imminent in-the-face pressure, which previous incarnations of the Cowboys' offense might have done better to prevent...but Romo has been dealing with that successfully in recent weeks, so it was quite shocking to see him fail so miserably when it was all on the line.
I can't, however, agree that the defense "did its part" - unless you consider that they were so debilitated by injury that it was expected and acceptable they should allow the Redskins to answer two Dallas scores immediately with TDs on their next possession. I agreed with the person who last night said something to the effect that it doesn't matter how far down the depth chart you have to select from, you should still be able to expect players to tackle effectively. Instead, as a result of some of the most woefully inept tackling and positional errors, they gave up 273 yards on 42 carries - that's an horrific 6.5 yards par carry. By the way, I thought that it was you who said that.
The bottom line is that this team had no right to be in the playoffs, if you consider the playoffs to be some measure of superior skill. With or without Bryant and the other walking wounded on the offense, they would have struggled massively against the Seahawks. Nevertheless, I wanted them to beat the Redskins because it was the Redskins, and because it was an opportunity for Romo to prove the naysayers wrong. Instead, he has succeeded in adding a huge exclamation point to their - overall - still incorrect claim of TOLD YOU SO!
 

Tim
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 I guess I should expand a little bit to clarify what I meant by "the defense did its part."
 
I am grading on a curve based on expectations for both units. We knew going in that the defense was atrocious. But up until that last interception, they'd held Washington to only 21 points, playing on the road. They gave up zero points after the the first two interceptions. They even did enough to hold the Redskins to a FG attempt following the final interception, until an unlucky fall caused a flag for roughing the passer (that was obviously not an intentional blow to the head.)
 
The defensive game plan was obviously to concede the run and make RGIII win it in the air. Go back and look at what he managed to do passing. I'll give you a hint: nothing. Now, did they expect "conceding the run" to add up to 270 yards? I think not. But I also think that Washington would have let up a little bit on the running if the offense had managed to score a couple more times - that was the other part of the game plan. The part that didn't happen.
 
The offense only needed to score more than 21 points, something they'd been doing with ease recently. Up until that last meaningful drive, I still had full confidence they'd win, even though they'd been underperforming.
 
So, I agree the defense tackled poorly and executed poorly, but if you had told me going in that they would hold Washington to 21 points, I would have bet a lot of money that Dallas would win that game. That last 7 was 100% on the offense.
 
I also agree that this was a very uncharacteristic performance by Romo, but it will feed the media narrative. And, at the risk of taking a "sour grapes" view, you're alos right that this team was going noplace in the playoffs anyway.