IRVING, Texas – Having spent the morning with tape from Sunday's loss to Arizona, I've got a few observations.
If you watched the game, I probably don't need to point out the problem spots to you. Having said that, I wanted to take a look at the Cowboys' quarterback play in this game, as well as the Cardinals' success defending the Dallas ground game.
Here are my notes from the film:
- Usually on film you can see some positives, even when a player has a poor game. In the case of Brandon Weeden, I cannot say that.
Like I had offered all week in my stories and opinions, I believed Weeden would have been fine with the offensive game plan and the execution of it. There were the practices in training camp, to the preseason games and the emergency duty against the Redskins last Monday that gave me hope that with better offensive talent around him, Weeden he would not struggle against the Cardinals -- but he did.
Weeden wasn't the same quarterback we observed in those other opportunities I spoke of --matter of fact, he was more similar to the one that was in Cleveland. He stared down his receivers, he wasn't accurate with his throws and he had costly turnovers. What surprised me the most about his game was how many plays he left on the field. The Cardinals are not going to give you much on defensive, but when they did make a mistake and he had a receiver win in coverage, he had a hard time finding him.
I don't believe you can put this on Arizona and the pressure they create because they only blitzed him thirteen times, with six of those taking place in the fourth quarter. The line, tight ends and backs gave him enough time to make throws but he just couldn't get it done and that is on him.
- I thought it was a difficult day for Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams and the film showed that was the case. Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie were up to the task with some occasional help from Tony Jefferson and Rashad Johnson buzzing into the flat underneath. The officials allowed both of the Cardinals corners to be physical on the outside up to and past the five yard zone.
Where this Cowboys passing game missed some opportunities was with Cole Beasley. Beasley's numbers will not indicate that he had an outstanding game, but when you see the routes he was able to run against nickel corner Jerraud Powers, it was a shame Weeden failed to get him the ball. Beasley had an answer for Powers the entire day and the Cardinals caught a break in that matchup.
- The way Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles handled the Cowboys running game was using his linebackers as run blitzers. The player that had the most success with this technique was Larry Foote, and from knowing his history in this league, I understand why he was able to pull it off.
Going back to his days with the Steelers, Foote has always had a nose for the ball and a feel for how to attack those gaps and creases to pick out the ball carrier. In this particular game, at the snap of the ball, Foote would read Mackenzy Bernadeau or Zack Martin and when their head went away he would crash the play side game, getting up the field.
His sole purpose was to attempt to disrupt the blocking scheme of the offensive line by making them have to adjust on the move and freeing one of his teammates up to make the tackle. It was an effective technique that limited DeMarco Murray from getting through the holes and ripping off those chunk runs.
- In my game recap on Sunday I wrote about how missed or blocked field goals are like turnovers. What was surprising about the field goal that the Cowboys had blocked before the half is that, as a unit, they had been air tight in their execution. As a matter of fact, going back to the Houston game, they were giving the special teams hammer award for the job they performed that day.
On this particular attempt I thought the Cardinals did a really nice job of attacking two players with three bodies. Cardinals linebacker Lorenzo Alexander attacked the right shoulder of Jermey Parnell, which drove him back out of his stance. While Parnell was attempting to recover, safety Rashad Johnson jumped into the gap between Parnell and James Hanna's outstretched right leg. Cornerback Justin Bethel exploded off the snap to the outside of Hanna, who only managed to get his hands on Bethel's back as he sharpened the corner.
By the time Dan Bailey had planted his foot and swung his leg Bethel, was a little ahead of Johnson -- but both clear of blockers and in position to block the kick. If there was a silver lining to this, it was the effort in which Dan Bailey and Jason Witten reacted to keep Patrick Peterson from scoring on the play and inflecting more damage to the situation.