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3 Questions: A Surprising D; Orton's Play, Fourth-And-1

Posted Dec 29, 2013


Were you surprised how well the Cowboys defense played?

I believed all along that if they were going to lose this game, it would most likely be because of their inability to slow down or get enough stops to help their offense. There was no question in my mind that with Sean Lee out of the lineup, they were going to struggle with Eagles running back LeSean McCoy. Not just with his ability to run the ball, but also catching it as well. And there were times in the first half where they were clearly on the ropes, but managed to find ways to hold things together with a stop or two that kept them in the game.

Linebacker DeVonte Holloman got better as the night wore on. On several snaps early in the game he was too aggressive and overshot some reads where Lee would have been right there to make the play. There were some routes where Holloman was picked on and the majority of those struggles had to deal with his lack of reading formations and understanding down and distance.

I thought it was a great effort by the defensive line to create the pressure they were able to get. As long as the Eagles were manning those twist stunts, they were able to get rushers home, which was something they had to do if they were going to win this game.

I liked the adjustment of bringing J.J. Wilcox into the game at safety for the struggling Jeff Heath. The move appeared to settle the secondary down and the coverage improved, which allowed them to get off the field.

As much as I believed this defense was going to be the problem against the Eagles, they deserved a much better result.

 

What are your thoughts on Kyle Orton?

I was not surprised that he played as well as he did overall, although there were some plays where I thought there could have been some better results. Orton didn't lose this game, but if he could have connected on some early throws, the Cowboys might have been in better shape on the scoreboard.  

I felt like they could have attacked the middle of the field more and even gone with some slants to Dez Bryant to get things going. Jason Witten was able to take advantage of the space inside and Bryant did as well on his touchdown catch.

The offense could have done more after the turnover, as it netted only three points when the opportunity was there to grab more. Orton did do a nice job of getting rid of the ball, which helped his offensive line, but there were times when he appeared too willing to check it down and not try for a bigger play.

Having studied Orton all these years, I had an idea that he would live to fight another day, but I will be very interested in watching the tape to see if he had other options. Overall, though, you have to give him credit for what he was able to do on such a big stage.

 

Were you surprised by the call on fourth-and-1?

First off, it was a great drive to get the ball off their own goal line, pickup 59 yards and getting three first downs. There were some really nice chunk plays along the way to Bryant, Witten and Miles Austin to get the ball on the other side of the 50. And I really did like the call of the “Crack Toss” on third down. It's a play that worked earlier in the game, with tackle Tyron Smith out front, that ripped off a nice gain.

When head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan went back to it, I thought they hit gold again, but DeMarco Murray only managed two yards when they needed three. Still, when that play was called, there was no question in my mind that the Cowboys were going to go for it on fourth down if they needed a yard.

I can understand Garrett and Callahan wanting to throw the ball there, and I even understand trying to get the ball to Murray. However, I would have tried to pick the Eagles there. Run a play that gets him into the flat quickly, but without the potential of having to deal with men in the flat.

On the play, it looked like Witten was even covered on the next level, so the next best option would have been to hand the ball to Murray with fullback Tyler Clutts leading the way in front of him and running behind Smith and Ronald Leary on the left side.  

I just felt like it was too cute of a play in that situation. After the fumble, Murray had been running with a chip on his shoulder. Why not give him that opportunity to pick it up?

You had the Eagles on the ropes with how you had been moving the ball on that drive, getting it off the goal line. But not allowing Murray to hammer it in there after the toss was a play-calling mistake in my view.

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