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Scout's Eye: Blitz Pickup, Hitchens' Toughness Among Game Thoughts

1) I have to admit that I did not give this Detroit Lions front seven enough credit when I studied them for the matchup this week. My thought was that with the way this Cowboys offensive line had been moving people all season, they would be able to do the same to the Lions. It was the Packers game that influenced me in this manor because I felt like the Cowboys, across the offensive line, were better than the Packers, and by getting some ideas scheme-wise from that game, would help them have a solid plan of attack. What appeared to be the biggest issue for the Cowboys in this game is when they are really humming along the line, they are not stuck along the line of scrimmage. But there were too many runs in this one where the Lions were able to flatten the blockers to the point where there were no lanes or creases for Murray to run through. The Lions did an outstanding job of playing square and not allowing these Cowboys offensive linemen to get their shoulders turned. By holding up the blockers it allowed their linebackers to run to the ball and fill before the play had a chance to get going. As a unit, it was very similar to the type of game when they faced Arizona and how the Cardinals were able to defend the run.

2) I am interested to see when I study the tape on Monday morning what the issues were with the blitz pickup for the Cowboys. There was a sack or two during the game where it appeared that Romo might have been the reason the ball did not get out. Even on the podium after the game, Romo admitted that there were some reads on him that he wished that he would have handled differently. As an offense, when you see middle pressure from a defense, that is a huge concern because that usually deals with an assignment problem, which hasn't happen much at all this season. It has always been the belief of the front office that Romo can always account for the pressure from the outside, but it's through the middle that gives him the most trouble. I also want to take a look to see how those routes developed down the field and if the coverage was a factor as well because that could very well be the case as well.

3) It didn't surprise me one bit that Anthony Hitchens played in this game. When I had the chance to visit with him on Wednesday, one-on-one in the locker room, I asked him if he thought he was going to play and there was this look on his face like, "Why are you asking me that question?" No matter who you asked in that locker room about Hitchens, the first word out of their mouth was "Toughness," and if there was a way for him to play, he would find a way to make it happen. My gut feeling turned to certainty when I watched him go through his pregame workout with Matt Eberflus and Britt Brown. I knew he was going to be on the active roster. For him to play the number of snaps that he did on the outside and then move inside when Rolando McClain had to leave the game, once again just proves the toughness that his coaches and teammates were describing. His play against tight end Brandon Pettigrew down the field to carry him the way he did tells me that not only is he a tough guy, but a talented one as well. Of course, that should be no surprise either.

4) There has not been a member in the media that has been as critical of Brandon Carr as I have. There was nothing that I liked about the matchup of him and Calvin Johnson coming into this game. What I did like as the week wore on was the talk of adjustments to not allow Carr to have to deal with Johnson in too many one-on-one situations as they had in 2013. I kept hearing the phrases "better adjustments" and "not doing the same things over and over." Rod Marinelli and his defensive staff gave Carr help, but there were also some snaps where he was matched up in single coverage, and he more than held his own. Not only against Johnson, but other receivers down the field as well, especially when the ball went in the air. I also need to give him some credit for a much more physical style when it comes to his play on the edge when the ball spills his way. His willingness to throw his body around actually paid off in some defensive stops, and that was encouraging.[embeddedad0]

5) Shame on all you folks that gave up on Terrance Williams at certain points during this season. What I hope you all understand now is that as long as he keeps running his routes hard, Tony Romo will find ways to get him the ball. There is not a better receiver on this squad that when the play breaks down, finds space in the secondary the way he does. And that includes Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley. There are plenty of people who thought that Romo had lost confidence in Williams, but that wasn't the case at all. There were plenty of snaps where Williams was open like he was on Sunday, but the ball just went in another direction. Williams might drive you nuts in the way that he receives the ball, but there's no doubting in his ability to make big plays. This season he has proven that.

6) I would like to go on record that if I were Jason Garrett on that fourth-and-6 call with six minutes left in the game, I would have punted the ball. This is why coaches coach and scouts scout.

7) I guess I don't have to answer when the question comes up on Twitter anymore: "When will DeMarcus Lawrence get a sack?" Have patience with the kid. Every day in practice he works one-on-one with Marinelli on his technique, which has improved greatly since he has come back to the squad after missing the majority of training camp. There is just too much talent in that body not to see this through. The more opportunity he has to play, the more we will see results. Now Marinelli needs to work on those fumble recovery skills. I thought that J.J. Wilcox was going to rip his head off after the play. Nice to see Lawrence bounce back and seal the game.

8) Golden Tate had one big play in this game and Orlando Scandrick was not covering him when it happened. It was another gritty game from Scandrick, who has taken over a leadership role on this defense. We have seen this from Marinelli the last several weeks by him matching Scandrick up with the opponent's receiver that he feels presents the biggest problem, scheme-wise. Scandrick has been up to the challenge each week, and that is what big-time corners do.

9) Was there ever a question who Romo was throwing to on that fourth-and-6 play? In his postgame press conference Romo implied that Witten adjusted his route in order to buy himself some space. Romo said that if Witten had continued on with the route called, that there was no way it would have been completed. In a game where this Cowboys offense was fighting for inches Witten is never a bad option, and this quarterback has known that for a long time.     

10) Explanation from a Pool Report with referee Pete Morelli on why the pass interference call was overturned on Anthony Hitchens. "The back judge threw his flag for defensive pass interference. We got other information from another official from a different angle that thought the contact was minimal and didn't warrant pass interference. He thought it was face-guarding." In college football, face-guarding is a penalty, but not in the NFL. Morelli also added that the official with the better view came from the head linesman. In all my years in the league I had never seen a call like that made – marked off then reversed. It was a huge break that forced the Lions to punt.

11) For those of you that are always concerned about Chris Jones and his inability to be the type of punter that you want on your squad: For the game, Jones had a net of 47.5 yards per punt and three of those four were downed inside the 20. Also just another note, the Lions Tate and Jeremy Ross managed to finish the day with 2 total yards on punt returns.

12). I have to admit that I am excited to be going back to Lambeau Field where I spent five years of my scouting life with the Packers. There are two things I always say you should do in life. First, attend a Mardi Gras, and the second, attend a game at Lambeau Field. If you love the history of the NFL, there is no better place in the league. This will be a great challenge on the road, but this team has proven all season long that playing on the road suits them just fine. #FinishTheFight

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