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Nice Win, but Don't Eat the (Philadelphia Cream) Cheese, Cowboys Fans

Tim's picture

I will resist the temptation to open with criticism after a win - but I'll get back to that.

Winning a road game against a division opponent, with the season's last dwindling ray of hope on the line, is a really good thing. The Cowboys closed out a tough stretch with a win. I feel good about it. Let's look at a few specific players and positions:

Romo. Still mired in the worst season of his career, Romo has now given us two turnover-free games in a row. His TDs are now almost equal to his INTs for the year. In the second half, when Philly started dialing up a few more blitzes, he (wisely, I think) tucked the ball down and took the sack. Yet he still managed what may have been the play of the game, escaping what looked to be two sure sacks, then still having the presence to pumpfake before finding Miles Austin for a 25 yard pick-up on 3rd and 4. A couple plays later, he hit Bryant for the tying score. If Dallas punts there, it's a whole different ball game.

What's missing for me this year from Romo, though, is the downfield passes that used to be his real strength. Not only does the team rarely throw downfield this year, when they do, Romo seems to be "off" more than I am used to seeing. He missed an open Dez Bryant on the sideline yesterday, for example. I don't think it's all protection or lack of a running game, either. There have been some drops, but Romo's deep balls have not been as good. As a result, his yards per attempt remain a career low, and the TD passes also remain well below his career average.

We need more playmaking from Romo.

Dwayne Harris. I told you a couple weeks ago that Harris was statistically the better returner on the team. He sure showed something yesterday. The guy cathes it and runs north-south. That gets you 5-7 on every return, but when there's an opening...well, sometimes it can go 78 yards to paydirt. Yesterday, it gave the Cowboys their biggest lead to that point, and they never fell behind again.

Offensive Line. I know they gave up a few sacks, but unless I am mistaken, they all occurred on blitzes. I don't remember a lot of big breakdowns, or guys getting blown off the ball. They opened up some running lanes, leading to about 4.5 per carry for most of the game (the late 4th quarter clock-runs and a Romo kneeldown lowered to full game average.) Is this group starting to come together, or is Philly just that bad?

Mo Claiborne. I heard on the radio this morning that Claiborne is the first DB to get five penalty flags in a single game since Fred Smoot eleven years ago. Claiborne also gave up a TD catch. He had a terrible game, and it was reported that he apologized to his team-mates in the locker room afterwards. Now, a couple of his downfield penalties may have prevented scores, but if you need to grab a jersey to avoid disaster, that's a good decision - not a good play. One of his holds negated an Anthony Spencer pick-six. Speaking of...

Anthony Spencer. Does anybody feel bad about the franchise money being paid to this guy? He's having a really good year, and yesterday had a great game, nearly causing two turnovers (see Claiborne, above,) covering receivers, rushing the passer, stopping the run.

Bruce Carter. I'll jump on this bandwagon. One of the things we all admire about Sean Lee is that he is "all over the field." The difference is that Sean Lee is all over the field over the course of the entire game; Carter seems to be all over the field simultaneously. He materializes in this plane of the space-time continuum just in time to blow up a receiver who just a second ago looked like he was all alone in the flat. I bet he could do that "Matrix" thing where he runs up walls and dodges bullets. Wow.

Rob Ryan. The defensive coordinator is starting to ease my doubts. That unit still commits too many penalties (especially offsides which is inexcusable when it happens that often,) but he has put together a scheme, and coached up his back-ups so that we almost don't notice when they are playing without 4 or 5 key contributors. Who guessed that we'd get some key plays from Pepra, Frampton, and Sims?

Kevin Ogletree. He played, right? The only time I remember seeing him (and I might be remembering wrong,) was a play where Romo got flushed out and was sprinting to his right, waving at Ogletree to head downfield. Instead, KO stopped, and Romo threw the ball away.

Beasley saw some playing time yesterday. Coincidence?

The biggest question heading into yesterday's tilt was a simple one, really: which 3-5 NFC East team is worse? I guess we can safely say it's Philadelphia. That's not one I'd crow too loudly about, but it's something. If you were concerned about the Dallas offense, I'm not sure they showed a whole lot to make you feel better yesterday. They did manage to run the ball, but they scored only 17 points, and could not pick up first downs when they really needed them to kill the clock once and for all.

The "easy" part of the schedule is coming up: the 2-7 Browns, the 3-6 Redskins (twice,) the 4-5 Bengals, and the 4-5 Saints - with the 5-3 Steelers the only team remaining that has a winning record. But before you get too excited, just remember that those guys probably all have the 4-5 Cowboys chalked up as one of their "easy" ones, too.