IRVING, Texas – There are so many takeaways from Sunday's game aside from the injury to Tony Romo, but it's only logical that the conversation begins and ends with the quarterback.
I wanted to break down the tape of the play that knocked Romo out of the lineup, and we'll get into that. But there is no shortage of ground to cover in this second Cowboys' win of the season. So before we jump into the game prep for Atlanta – or, more importantly, the upcoming conversations about quarterback – let's take a look back at the Eagles:
- The play that Tony Romo got hurt on was a busted coverage by the Eagles and he was trying to take advantage of the situation, but safety Malcolm Jenkins made a reactionary play to stop it. When the Eagles didn't cover Jason Witten with a linebacker, Romo tried to check a play to get him the ball. Jenkins read what was happening and stepped up to defend the play, which caused Romo to have to pull the ball down. If Romo had thrown the ball, it likely would have been a pick six going the other way – so he didn't throw the ball. Romo started to move out of the pocket to buy a second chance, but the protection broke down and the result of the play was a sack and the injury.
- When teams have success defending the run, it generally starts with how you play on the edges and the Cowboys were outstanding in this area. The film showed it was foolish for the Eagles' offensive staff to believe that tight end Brent Celek could handle DeMarcus Lawrence and Jeremy Mincey one-on-one. It was clear from the opening snap that Celek was not going to be able to match up with the quickness and power of these Dallas defensive ends. Both Lawrence and Mincey were able to hold the point in a way that, even when the Eagles tried to get blockers to the outside – the penetration they were able to get on Celek up the field disrupted the blocking schemes and the linebackers had a free run on these Eagles running backs.
- When I saw Connor Barwin's sack of Tony Romo on the first drive of the game, I was curious about how Barwin got home so clean on the twist -- because we usually don't see that kind of mistake with Doug Free and Zack Martin. On this particular play, Vinny Curry rushes up the field and instead of trying to play off the block, he tackled Martin like he was a ball carrier. With Martin unable to adjust and Free out of position, Barwin had a clean path to Romo -- who had no chance of avoiding him. Of the seemingly hundreds of calls that Tony Corrente and his crew made during that game – they missed that one badly.
- Give Brandon Weeden a lot of credit for not only the execution of the 42-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams, but also give him credit for the mental adjustment that he made to make that play happen. Weeden first saw the depth of cornerback Byron Maxwell and how far he was off, but he also noticed that the Eagles were in a coverage where there were no safeties in the middle of the field. Both safeties were near the line of scrimmage playing for the possibility of a run, and Weeden took full advantage of the extra space with a confident and accurate throw to Williams.
- A nice changeup defense for Rod Marinelli was his package when he went with a three-man line and dropped eight back in coverage playing zone. The coverage caught Sam Bradford off balance, and, instead of taking shots down the field, it forced him to look underneath for completions. It's a dangerous way to play with all the crossing routes that the Eagles like to run, but the Dallas linebackers and secondary played with outstanding zone discipline and awareness clogging up those throwing lanes on Bradford.
- Not only was it a great effort by Danny McCray to block that punt off the foot of Donnie Jones, but give some credit to Byron Jones for his execution to make it happen. Jones took such a hard rush to the inside that it drew personal protector Chris Maragos his direction, which allowed McCray to get around the corner clean. It was the second time the Cowboys used that particular rush in the game after McCray had a nice run on the first Eagles punt of the game, where he got close.
- I thought we might have seen Kyle Wilber as that nickel rusher with Randy Gregory sitting out, but Wilber only saw some limited snaps at Sam linebacker along with his normal workload on special teams. The Cowboys went with a rotation of DeMarcus Lawrence, Jeremy Mincey and Jack Crawford at defensive end for the entire game, which was impressive in itself with the rush that they were able to generate.
- When the Cowboys running game started to click in the second half, it was largely due to the work of Travis Frederick. There was nothing easy about the assignment that Frederick drew in having to deal with Bennie Logan, but he managed to make it work. Frederick was able to gain better positioning and leverage as the game wore on, which allowed these backs more of an opportunity to make the cuts necessary for positive runs when those yards were tough to come by. Frederick was able to outlast Logan when it counted the most in the second half.
- Playing against the Eagles' scheme was a great learning experience for Tyler Patmon and how he is going to have to carry routes all over the field as the slot corner. Where I worried about Patmon was him dealing with those crossing routes where he had to fight through bodies to keep contact with his man -- but he made it through just fine. There was a snap or two where I thought he lost that contact, but because of his athletic ability, he managed to rally back into position to make a play on the ball. Right now he is playing on more toughness and guts than experience, but when he gets that – he has a chance to be special.
- Jason Garrett said La'el Collins was far from perfect in his debut, but to be honest – it was better than I expected. Collins played with technique and power, but more importantly he played with smarts. The only thing that really worried me about Collins and the possibility of him playing in this game was if he was going to make a crucial mistake at the wrong time. The coaches had faith in him and he rewarded them with a great effort. It is likely that Ronald Leary is back this week, which is a good thing. But if I am Jason Garrett, I am thinking about giving him more snaps in practice just to try and build on what we saw against the Eagles. It could help his confidence for other game opportunities he might get.
- I like what I saw from Terrell McClain in his role in the defensive tackle rotation during this game. He saw action at both the nose and under-tackle spots and was disruptive in his snaps. His play gives me some hope that we might see him get more of an opportunity to play next to Tyrone Crawford -- not only in nickel situations, but in the base defense as well. The only thing holding him back has been his health, but if he can keep that he can be that athletic upgrade they are looking for inside.
- If Kellen Moore in fact is added to the active roster this week – I promise to have a scouting report up on him as soon as it happens.