MANSFIELD , OH
The core of this defense were career 3-4 scheme guys who were drafted/signed to play the 3-4. Is that something to attribute to these poor performances with the 4-3 scheme?
Rowan: It's a fair question, as the scheme and coaching staff are the biggest changes the team made in the offseason. But the only place I think the scheme change really affected the Cowboys for the worse was at linebacker. I think the assumption was that the linebackers were well suited and perhaps even better suited to play the 4-3 in this scheme than they were with the 3-4, but the performances haven't followed. We'll never truly know what a healthy line would have been like with this four-man front. DeMarcus Ware's in the midst of one of his least productive seasons, but I don't know that the 4-3's the reason for it. We saw him dominate in training camp at that spot, he sometimes still uses the same stance he has in the past rather than putting a hand on the ground, and he's also drawing some single blocking assignments. He's just not winning those battles the way we're accustomed to seeing consistently.
David:Yeah, I'm with Rowan. I can specifically remember talking to Bruce Carter about how he was better suited to the 4-3, as that was his college scheme. Justin Durant and Ernie Sims both came from 4-3 defenses, as well. Jason Hatcher played three-technique in a 4-3 in college, and we've said all along that Jay Ratliff was probably better suited for a 4-3 defense. Yes, there have been some guys, like Ware, who have had to adjust. But I don't think that has been the problem. It comes down to a lack of [embedded_ad] experience and a lack of talent, caused partly by injuries, and a lack of execution by the remaining veterans.
I understand everyone's frustration with losing this last game and not finishing, but if the opposing team is going to stack the line, you have to pass. If the 'Boys keep going 3 and out they would have lost anyway. Don't you think this is more about no defense due to poor drafting than play calling or coaching?
Rowan: A lot of it boils down to the poor defense, but I disagree with the assessment that they had to pass and the Cowboys kept going three and out. Their only three and out in the second half came on a drive where they called three straight passing plays. I think the Cowboys could have won despite their defense had the play-calling been better and featured the running back who's averaging 5.5 yards per carry this year and was averaging 7.4 yards per carry in that game. Maybe a stacked box stops Murray, but they hadn't done it all game. Given the size of the lead, the Packers needed to prove they could stop him before the Cowboys stopped trying.
David: I keep going back to the Detroit game, because I was very critical of the Cowboys' decision to run the ball in a similar situation. The difference? In Detroit, they had been averaging 1.9 yards per carry. The ground game was clearly ineffective. That wasn't the case on Sunday, when Murray was ripping off a first down every other time he touched the ball. In a circumstance like that, run until the defense proves it can stop you. The Packers at no point proved they could stop the run – Murray averaged 5.8 yards per carry on his seven second half attempts. Despite that fact, the Cowboys stopped running anyway.