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Scout's Eye: Assessing Moore, Another Strong Day For Free; Other Thoughts

IRVING, Texas – It's interesting to think that, for all the take about these last two games being meaningless, this will be some important tape for the Cowboys to study in the offseason.

We got our all-important first look at Kellen Moore on Sunday, and now comes time for the all-important film session of his game. Moore has another opportunity to impress this weekend when he starts against Washington, so it's important go back and digest his performance in Buffalo.

There's plenty of other notes worth inspecting – including the defense's troubles against Tyrod Taylor, as well as several other interesting developments from the tape.

This might be a disappointing season, but we'll still miss it in the coming months when we're counting the days until football returns. So let's jump into the tape for one of our last remaining opportunities.

Let's check it out:

  • I consider myself a fair judge when dealing with these players and how they perform. If I am wrong, I have no problem admitting it. I was harsh in my postgame assessment of Kellen Moore, and after studying the game on the way home, the mistakes he made were there, but he did not play as poorly as I initially believed. The pass to Brice Butler that resulted in an interception was on him, as was another pass later in the game on third down that was too low. Moore also missed on a screen to Robert Turbin that would have likely resulted in a significant gain. But there were also some passes where he didn't get any help. With better body control, Butler would have been able to secure the fade and get both feet down. The ball to Terrance Williams where he climbed the pocket was in a spot where it should have been caught. He ripped a ball to Butler for a big gain, but Travis Frederick got called for holding. On the same drive, Devin Street had both hands on the ball but was unable to come down with it. I put too much of this game at the feet of Kellen Moore, but I stand corrected in the way I believed he played. His teammates could have helped him more.
  • I was wondering how Rex Ryan took Jason Witten out of the game on Sunday. Film showed it was the Dallas coaches that did it for him. I had an idea that the plan would be to try and help Kellen Moore as much as possible, and they did that with "max" protection. Jason Garrett said they went in this direction because they wanted to firm things up protection-wise because of the different looks the Bills like to use. I cannot recall a game where Witten stayed in to block as much as he did Sunday. When Witten did get out in the route, he had to fight a linebacker bumping him along the way, then a safety picking him up. I did also notice that he didn't have as many of those down field routes that we normally see from him. James Hanna ran a wheel route off a pick, which was the one shot for a tight end that I saw but Moore was unable to connect with him. The tight ends did do a nice job in the running game as a group.
  • My initial thought was that Deji Olatoye might have busted on the 37-yard pass to Sammy Watkins right before the half, so I watched the play again. The secondary was in zone coverage, and once Tyrod Taylor took off on the scramble, all zone concepts are off. Watkins did a nice job of staying active and working across the field. Olatoye might have been able to drop deeper and adjust to the route, but I think this is where his lack of game experience hurt him. A veteran corner might have played the situation differently.
  • After the game I wrote in my notes about the type of game Tyron Smith had in dealing with Jerry Hughes. The film showed that Smith was indeed on point, but Doug Free was solid as well. There were several snaps where his blocking at the point of attack in the running game allowed both Darren McFadden and Robert Turbin to have some nice lanes to rush the ball. Free was also solid in his combination blocks with Zack Martin and Jason Witten. For an offensive tackle that normally doesn't play with much power, Free was outstanding in that area.
  • Buffalo was able to hit some big plays against this Dallas defense, especially on third down and against zone coverage by throwing the ball to the outside. With both Brandon Carr and Deji Olatoye turned inside, the ball to the outside made it difficult for them to have to turn to react to the ball. Olatoye almost knocked a ball down on a pass to Chris Hogan right before the half, but just couldn't quite get his hand in there.
  • I loved the toss sweep call by Scott Linehan to Darren McFadden on 3rd-and-6 in the first half. The execution of the play was top shelf. McFadden got a block at the point from James Hanna that sealed the corner and two really good cutoff blocks by Jason Witten and Travis Frederick to get him a little further up the field. The play reminded me of the type of calls Linehan made last season with DeMarco Murray.
  • It's a shame for a defense that struggles to create turnovers that Barry Church broke his arm trying to hammer the ball out of Tyrod Taylor's hand. Earlier in the half, Church made a tremendous defensive play chasing Karlos Williams down from behind and knocking the ball loose. Church has given that type of effort all season in order to create turnovers but it just hasn't work out for him.
  • I was surprised that we didn't see more boots and waggles from Kellen Moore being that the running game was having some success. The one that they did run was successful with James Hanna lining up in the backfield. The offensive line gave the appearance of a run, which drew the defense to one side of the field and allowed Hanna to sneak out of the backfield and into the flat for a simple pitch and catch. It was well-designed and even better executed for a first down.
  • All season long, this Dallas defense has managed to give up one play a game that's just a back breaker. This week it was the 3rd-and-6 scramble by Tyrod Taylor for seven yards from the Buffalo 12-yard line with less than 6:00 left in the game. A stop there forces the Bills to punt into the wind from their own end zone, allowing for a potential big return from Lucky Whitehead. Instead, Taylor avoided the rush from Greg Hardy, Tyrone Crawford and Demarcus Lawrence -who all had a chance at him -- and instead secured a first down and kept the drive going. Six plays later the Bills scored a touchdown and sealed the game.
  • Nice creative blitz from Rod Marinelli where he brought pressure with Barry Church, Terrance Mitchell and Rolando McClain. Marinelli was taking a beating with his three-man rush and threw this changeup at Taylor -- and it did its job getting the Dallas defense off the field a couple different times. McClain did a nice job of giving the appearance that he was dropping on the play by looking away, then attacking the gap while the blockers picked up other rushers. The Bills struggled badly with this particular blitz.
  • I said it in my postgame notes: Cole Beasley needed more than just two targets in this game. After what Beasley was able to do with Moore under center against the Jets – I just thought we would have seen more opportunities. Maybe what scrapped that plan was the fact that Beasley got sick during the week and didn't have much practice time, so the coaches didn't want to commit that much of the game plan to him? My sources were telling me that Beasley was really struggling and could have very easily been inactive for the game. So even having him line up was a likely surprise. But while on the field – there could have been more there. The Bills were having their own struggles in the secondary with Ron Brooks starting for Ronald Darby and Nickell Robey having to move around as well.
  • Just when you want to complain about Sean Lee – please don't because you will look like a fool.
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