IRVING, Texas – The offensive line played what could be considered its best game of the season last week against the top-ranked Steelers defense.
Guard Mackenzy Bernadeau said continuity, some help from quarterback Tony Romo and strong individual play contributed to the overall solid performance, but he's by no means satisfied.
"It was a good performance," Bernadeau said, "but I still think we can get better. I stress that I want us to be able to protect the ball, to be able to run the ball well, but there's also a lot of room out there for improvement."
Running had been a problem all year, but the lanes opened up against the No. 1 rushing defense in the league for DeMarco Murray, who averaged 5.8 yards per carry and cruised into the end zone on his 3-yard rushing touchdown behind a perfect block by left tackle Tyron Smith.
At the same time, quarterback Tony Romo felt comfortable in the pocket and had time to deliver any play action pass he needed to get out. The Cowboys reached Ben Roethlisberger more than the Steelers got to Romo, who threw for 341 yards.
"As an offensive lineman, playing on this team, you're just happy with the win," Bernadeau said. "At the same time, you do take pride in being able to run the ball for a certain amount of yards or not give up sacks. Whether Tony throws for 500 yards or we rush for 200 yards, as long as we win it really doesn't matter. I think we take pride in being able to do both, and we want to do both."
Bernadeau admitted it would be nice to get Murray more than 100 yards or near the 200-yard mark while still finding balance in the passing game. He said the line still hasn't played its best game altogether, but he was proud of the line's performance for getting the running game going while also keeping Romo comfortable and on his feet.
He said the communication's been more consistent, which he attributed to practices and preparation, particularly the ones leading into the Steelers game. The Cowboys were ready most of the Steelers' blitzes, and he credited Romo for reacting and communicating to the offense line when he saw a specific blitz coming.
Right tackles Doug Free and Jermey Parnell are still switching out occasionally, but apart from that, the offensive line remains the same as it did in the early part of the year. The results just seemed to be different.
"It does help having everybody playing together," Bernadeau said. "We're still getting used to one another, how we play and how we communicate and what not. But at the same time, it doesn't matter who's in there, we're supposed to just mesh well and fit, because we're all taught the same techniques, we know the assignment and what not. But it definitely helps getting used to the guys you're playing next to."
After getting criticized all year for its play, the line put together a commendable performance against the league's best defense. Bernadeau knows his fellow linemen can't regress this week against the league's worst defense, which actually held the Buccaneers scoreless last week.
"It was a good performance, but it's in the past," Bernadeau said. "It doesn't mean anything if we don't do it against the Saints."