ARLINGTON, Texas - The mistake that we make as fans is that we tend to look at a team's record and believe that's really who they are. No matter how good or poorly a team is playing at the time, there's always a chance that if everything falls right, they'll have an opportunity to win the game.
It wasn't shocking to me, nor anyone who worked in this Cowboys organization, that the Raiders would come into AT&T Stadium and give them their best shot. I thought this game would be very much like the last time the Cowboys played at home against the Vikings, who were a playoff team just last season.
The Raiders have a young quarterback in Matt McGloin, who in his two starts, did a nice job of giving Oakland's offense the opportunity to have some form of a passing game, whereas Terrelle Pryor was no more than a running quarterback who forced offensive coordinator Greg Olson to run a college offense without the threat of passing the ball.
In the first half, McGloin was outstanding and every throw that he made was on target and put in the perfect spot. Former Cowboys wide receiver Andre Holmes, was filling in for Denarius Moore, had a career night. To his credit, Holmes showed the promise and ability that this Cowboys front office felt he had. He played a heck of a game and hopefully he will get more of an opportunity as the season winds down. [embedded_ad]
The key for me in this game was how the Cowboys were going to play in the area of run defense. Kiffin's group was able to get off blocks, which had been a huge issue the last two weeks. Even without Sean Lee, the run fits from the linebackers were better, and having an extra safety in the box a play or two made a huge difference in trying to handle the run.
As much as the first half was a struggle for this Cowboys secondary, they showed up in the second half doing a much better job of putting themselves in positions to finish plays. Their coverage was tighter and the front was able to help them with better pressure, which forced McGloin to have to hurry his throws. That, I believe, should have been the game plan all along – shut down or control the run and make the rookie quarterback have to beat you.
The Cowboys played shutdown defense on third down in the second half, and with Dallas' offense playing keep away the entire third quarter, the game became too much for McGloin to have to go win on his own.
For the Cowboys, their ability to physically run the ball on the Raiders was the difference in this game. There is no way I thought you could saddle up DeMarco Murray and throw in some Lance Dunbar and outrush the Raiders. Without studying the game film, I can tell you that the five starters on the Cowboys offensive line came to work with a purpose.
There were plays where Tyron Smith, Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free were perfect in sorting out defenders and finishing their blocks with authority against one of the top-10 run defenses in the league. Things weren't perfect by any means early in the game, but with the mix of Murray and Dunbar, they were able to wear down this Raiders defense and finish drives. That gave the Dallas defense the opportunity to play with a lead and put the game away. These Thanksgiving Day games are never easy because of the quick turnaround. It was going to be a physical game on both sides of the ball, and the team that was the most physical was going to win. Today be thankful, it was the Cowboys.