IRVING, Texas -- As the weekend gets underway, here are my three biggest impressions from studying the tape of Thursday night's game between the Cowboys and Bears.
- Just recently I was asked on one of my weekly radio spots to rank the group of Zack Martin, Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick in order of how each has played through the first 12 games of the season.
Without hesitation I fired off Martin, Frederick, then Smith -- which I felt like surprised the guys on the radio. It was meant as no disrespect to Smith that I put him third, but it was more about what I have seen from both Martin and Frederick with the work they have done this season.
Going into the game on Thursday, if you asked me who would have had the most difficult blocking assignments, I believed the matchup of Frederick and Stephen Paea would have been the one that I would have focused on. Smith's matchup with Jared Allen would have been in there, as well, but if the Cowboys were going to have overall success on offense, it was going to be Frederick handling Paea with little or no help on the majority of the snaps.
It would not surprise me one bit if, after Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack grade the tape, Frederick was the highest-ranked of the five linemen that played in that game. His ability to not only play with power and leverage was impressive, but how he was able to position himself throughout the game is what allowed DeMarco Murray the ability to take the ball front side or make that necessary cut backside.
I thought Frederick was outstanding against the Seahawks, but this game overall was even better for him.
- Brandon Carr has received his fair share of criticism from me throughout this season. I have gone on record to say that there have been times where I did not recognize the player with the techniques that he was playing with week-to-week. It was disappointing, to say the least, because I had seen him play at a much higher level.
What gave me some hope about Carr and how he could potentially play against the Bears is that when he faces a receiver that doesn't have great deep speed or quickness, it tends to play in his benefit.
Alshon Jeffery was not going to run away from him, and there were several snaps when the scheme called for man coverage that Carr was right where he needed to be -- which forced Jay Cutler to have to work the ball in another direction. His technique and positioning was outstanding. He wasn't struggling to catch up or off balance.
The one problem he did have with Jeffery on the touchdown is that he did get pulled down, but he has to know that is going to happen when dealing with a player that has such size. Even if he would have battled back and drawn a flag, it would have still been better than what happened on that play.
I thought Carr was far more aggressive off the edge as well in regard to dealing with the Bears' running game. There have been points in this season where his tackling has been non-existent and instead of making business decisions out there he was willing to do more dirty work and that was encouraging to see.
- There are some days where, as an offensive or defensive coordinator, you have the absolute best play called for the situation but it ends up as a disaster.
Marc Trestman dialed up a screen pass to Matt Forte that was a thing of beauty, considering Rod Marinelli countered with a blitz. Marinelli brought Orlando Scandrick from the outside and Rolando McClain from the inside, but it was opposite to the side the screen was thrown.
On the play, Forte lined up as a wing to the right and chip blocked Henry Melton, which allowed Cutler the necessary time to get right tackle Jordan Mills down the field and in position to lead the screen. As Cutler got the ball to Forte in space, Anthony Spencer, Bruce Carter and Barry Church rallied to the ball – only for Forte to make a cut that causes Spencer and Church to overrun the play. In an amazing feat of athletic ability, Spencer planted his right foot in the ground and spun back to the inside, which put him even with Forte.
Forte was at this point eying down J.J. Wilcox, and he never saw or felt Spencer – who was once again in position to make a play. Spencer reached for the ball with his right arm, and in a ripping motion, hooked Forte's right arm -- spinning him around and in the process knocking the ball out of his arm.
As impressive as that tackle was by Spencer, there were six defenders within five yards of the ball when it hit the ground. Barry Church was first to have a shot at it, but it was Sterling Moore who was able to secure the ball and alertly return it to the Bears' 32-yard line.
The turnover led to a Cole Beasley touchdown catch three plays later, giving the Cowboys a two-touchdown lead and puting the game back in their control.