Let’s take a look at some post game notes from the Cowboys upset win over the previously unbeaten Saints tonight down in New Orleans.
Romo in the pocket
Tony Romo did an excellent job of handling the pressure from Gregg Williams defense tonight. All night, he used his feet to slide away from pressure, and when he had to—step up into the pocket and deliver a solid throw. But, more importantly, he always kept his eyes downfield, and when your QB allows you extra time as a receiver to get open by avoiding pressure, you can convert your routes and come back to the football. The 3-step game, the vertical routes, and the way he could find TE Jason Witten when he did feel pressure, made this—from my perspective—Romo’s best game of the season, especially considering the amount of pressure and different looks the Saints gave him from a defensive perspective. 22-34 for 310 yards, a TD, and complete control of the game plan the entire night.
I was impressed watching Miles Austin play tonight against a secondary that relied on a lot of man-to-man and trail-man technique for New Orleans. The vertical game is something we expect with Austin, however his ability to create after the catch and turn a 3-step route into a 30-yard gain shows me why he is becoming more reliable in this offense. Every time he catches the ball, he has a burst that can get him up field—and that is why he is targeted more from Tony Romo than Roy Williams. Tonight, Romo threw 13 passes to Austin, compared with only 3 to Williams. He is a game changer.
The loss of Reggie
I felt that the injury to Reggie Bush in the first half was a big factor for this New Orleans offense—especially on the final drive. Against a Dallas defense that brings pressure, Bush would have been ideal in the short to intermediate passing game and working against a linebacker in the Cowboys base defense. When he left, so did the Saints ability to run the routes that make Bush productive: the option route, the slant (when removed from the formation), the screen, and the short crossing routes that match him up versus a linebacker or a safety.
Barber and Felix
A solid game plan in terms of preparing the running game from Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. As good as Romo was tonight, Garrett didn’t abandon the running game and did a good job of mixing the personnel and giving the Saints different looks. The Cowboys used the power game—the Power O, the Lead Open, and the Lead Draw—out of the full house backfield, in their Tank personnel (2 TE, 2 RB, 1 WR), and when they needed to press the edge, they ran the outside zone out of the single back look in their Ace personnel (2 TE, 1RB, 2 WR). Both Marion Barber (17-62-2TDs) and Felix Jones (14-58) ran hard and were able to allow Garrett to call a balanced game.
Brees vs. the Dallas Rush
Did anyone else feel that Drew Brees was uncomfortable in the pocket all night? When Dallas went into their sub packages—Nickel and Dime—they used a four-man rush that exploited the New Orleans offensive line and allowed the Cowboys to play coverage in the secondary. By doing that, DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were able to get into a three-point stance and abuse the offensive tackles of New Orleans by using a straight speed rush around the edge. Two sacks a piece for both Ware and Spencer and a night we are not used to seeing from Brees—who had three turnovers.
Where’s the defense?
It wasn’t scheme that got this Saints team beat for the first time all season. Instead, it was the lack of fundamental defensive football by New Orleans—something that we aren’t accustomed to seeing in ’09. New Orleans tackled poorly in the secondary, Free Safety Darren Sharper was slow getting out of the middle of the field on multiple occasions, and rookie cornerback Malcolm Jenkins was targeted all night—looking like a fish on that first touchdown pass of the game to Miles Austin on the double move. And, just as we talked about Romo using his feet to escape pressure, some of that can be put on the Saints pass rush—as they failed on multiple occasions to keep contain. I was surprised to see that tonight.
Nick Folk’s miss
Bottom line: Nick Folk has to make the field goal to give the Cowboys a two score lead before the two minute warning. As a pro kicker that has to be an automatic, and just as we talked about yesterday in Rumor Nation, Folk looked like a kicker who had lost his confidence—by pushing a short kick to the right and off the upright. Expect the Cowboys to hold kicking tryouts this Tuesday at Valley Ranch—and for Folk to be out of a job.
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