Thoughts for the film room at Valley Ranch on the Cowboys victory over the Bengals.
Two Better Than One?
Plenty of questions after the game on how right tackles Doug Free and Jermey Parnell played against the Bengals. During the week, it was the first time that Parnell received extensive reps during practice with the first-team offense other than the time that he had to make a start for Tyron Smith on the left side.
To be honest, I was surprised that Parnell was put in the game during the second series, but with a good week's of work, he was ready to go. Head coach Jason Garrett has split reps during practice before with guards Mackenzy Bernadeau and Derrick Dockery, but he didn't make the switch during the game. By giving Parnell snaps during the week, he seemed to light a fire under Free that there was a possibility that Parnell could be put in the lineup.
Going into the game, after studying the Bengals, I wasn't as concerned about their defensive end spots as I was with the matchup inside at tackle. Where both Free and Parnell have their troubles is when they play a rusher that can take power, then convert their rush to speed. Michael Johnson, Robert Geathers and Carlos Dunlap are longer rushers, but not the type that are going to try and overpower you.
By the fourth quarter, and with the game on the line, Garrett and offensive line coach Bill Callahan decided that Free was the man they were going with and Parnell was used in the short-yardage package where he was able to make the nice adjusting second-level block that gave DeMarco Murray some more room.
Free was much better on his set and his hand placement, which against the Eagles was awful. There were a couple of plays when Dunlap and Geathers were able to get their hands inside of him and cause him problems. On the holding call he received in the game, I thought it was a poor call on film. His man came down inside and tripped, making it look like he was pulled down.
As much as I liked Parnell at left tackle, I think he has a really good feel on the right side. Where he gets in trouble is when he gets overextended and plays over the top of his feet. On the right side, he seems to have a better set and base to help him.
After what I observed in the latter stages of the Bengals game, I believe again you will see them split reps in practice in order to have Parnell ready, but Free will still be the starter against the Steelers.
Born to Run
There is no question that this offense is better with Murray in the lineup, and you don't need to be a NFL scout to understand that. Where Murray helps this offense is not only with his running ability, but what he can also do catching the ball out of the backfield.
When we speak of complete backs, Murray is a perfect example of that. During the last drive of the Bengals game, I was standing in the end zone, and at field level, was amazed with his ability to show patience, balance, vision and power. His catch with the Cowboys facing a second-and-10 from the Bengals 35-yard line was as clutch of a play as there was all day.
Romo set him to the left side out of the gun. The Bengals ran a twist stunt inside, but Bernadeau, center Ryan Cook and Dockery, who was in the game for Nate Livings did not handle it well, allowing defensive tackle Wallace Gilberry to have a free run at Tony Romo, who backed out to avoid the pressure. Murray is on a route one-on-one with linebacker Rey Maualuga, who he freezes in his tracks with a nifty shake move, breaking to the sideline. Romo, falling to his left, managed to get the ball to the outside where Murray grabbed it out of the air then turned up the field for 5 yards.
On the next play, with the Cowboys facing a third-and-5 instead a third-and-10, Garrett made a solid call by putting receivers Miles Austin and Dwayne Harris to the field right and Bryant wide left. Out of the gun, Murray is on Romo's left side. At the snap, Zimmer brings seven, but Murray slides across to take the handoff as the line blocks down with Livings back in the game, pulling to his right.
Witten is at the point of attack and manages to tie up Dunlap enough to allow Murray to get around the corner in the direction of cornerback Terence Newman, who tries to come forward, but Harris gets enough of him as well. Dunlap makes a heck of a play to dive at the feet of Murray to trip him up, but Murray shows tremendous balance putting his hand down on the 27-yard line and diving to the 25 for the first down, thus ending the ball game for the Bengals. The numbers were not great for Murray overall, but that matters little when he can finish games like he did.