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Upon Further Review: Team Left Too Many Opportunities On Field
From my press box seat at CenturyLink Field, my first impression of the offensive side of the ball was that the Cowboys left too many opportunities on the field, and that the poor execution was in large part why the team didn’t come away with a victory. Sure, give Seattle credit for a nice game plan and its ability to limit DeMarco Murray and the passing attack with tight coverage and pressure. But when this offense had the chance to make those types of plays that could turn a game, they didn’t.
In my pregame look at the Seahawks defense, I really believed that Jason Witten was due for a big day just because of the the matchup problems that he would create. The one thing the offensive coaches wanted to do with Witten was to attack the seams. I didn’t feel that there was anyone on the Seahawks who could cover him successfully. Witten was targeted 10 times in this game, but only had four catches.
In a normal situation you would have thought if Witten was targeted that many times, he would have caught eight of those balls and scored a touchdown as well. Witten still managed to make some nice grabs in heavy traffic, but I thought he missed an opportunity on the first third-down play when he ran a good route to buy a little separation. The ball was wobbly out of Romo’s hand and Witten didn’t adjust to it, something we have seen him do plenty of times before. Instead of converting the third down, they were forced to punt and Seattle blocked it for a touchdown.
On the next series, with the offense moving the ball, Garrett and the offense is faced with a second and 10 on the Seahawks’ 26-yard line. Witten is lined up on the right side of the line, John Phillips is wide right with Miles Austin slot left and Dez Bryant outside of him. At the snap, Austin breaks hard to his left with Bryant running the slant behind him. On the right side, Phillips is running the same route as Bryant, but Witten breaks inside instead of out.
Romo pumps like he is trying to move the defender, but the combination is messed up, so he pulls the ball down and works to his left. On the top, Bryant is still working off the slant but carries Browner down inside with him. Witten starts to work to his left toward Bryant and Browner. Linebacker Bobby Wagner is on the blitz up the middle and Murray tries to cut him instead of hitting him square, which he has done plenty of times before. Romo makes a poor decision to try and force the ball to Witten with Wagner in his lap. The ball is out in front of Witten, right in the stomach of Browner, who makes the interception.
On that one play, three bad things happened to the Cowboys. Witten’s wrong route, Murray on the cut block and Romo trying to force the pass all result in a turnover.
At receiver, I was surprised that Bryant had as poor of a game as he did catching the ball. Because of his style, he usually thrives in this type of outing, when he is matched up against physical corners. The drop right before the interception was a total lack of concentration because he ran the perfect route against the single-high safety curling inside. Romo, with a solid pocket, sees the route develop and throws it in the perfect spot for Bryant to catch the ball around the 10-yard line, but the ball bounces off his hands and incomplete.
Later in the second quarter, Romo tries to fit the ball in to him on a third-and-2 play from the Cowboys’ 21-yard line where again, I thought Bryant ran a nice slant. But the ball was high because center Ryan Cook got pushed back into Romo and the quarterback couldn’t step forward to make an accurate throw. But like Witten, I have seen Bryant make that tough play before. Instead, the ball falls incomplete and the Cowboys have to punt.
One last play I would like to point out from Bryant’s day was the muffed punt right before the half. I thought it was outstanding strategy on Garrett’s part to try and give Bryant an opportunity to return a punt. If he catches the ball cleanly, he just had to beat one man to give the offense a chance to maybe throw to the end zone for a final play. With the fumble, they have to kneel the ball down and go into half.
One final observation from the Seahawks film: I am still waiting for Lawrence Vickers to be that blocker that I scouted when he was with Cleveland and Houston. Vickers has yet to impress me with some of the opportunities that he has been given in this offense. I thought I was going to see a fullback that got to the edge or worked inside and was going to splatter defenders at the point of attack. There have been too many times where Vickers has not gone in there and cleared path for Murray.
Last season with Tony Fiammetta you saw defenders out of the way and secure. With Vickers, I have seen too many instances of him catching blocks or missing completely. When the play calls for a lead block, then that block needs to be made. There are some games ahead, Chicago and Baltimore come to mind, where you had better handle their linebackers in the running game or you will have poor days running the ball.