IRVING, Texas – At long last, we've come to the end of this Cowboys campaign.
It's been a long road, especially considering the unfavorable record this club compiled down the stretch. But as always, there's useful information we can pull from the tape of this game. This Cowboys team was facing a 4-12 record, and they found themselves in a 24-0 hole.
I don't need to tell you that it's not all good – how could it be after a 34-23 loss, not to mention a losing season. But there's plenty of positives we can pull from this game, especially when it comes to the young players on this roster who have a role to play going forward.
One last time for this season, let's focus in on the game film. From there, we can move on to what needs addressing heading into the offseason.
Let's get into it:
- Your hope going into the 2016 season is that this was a game that Terrance Williams can build on. He was able to put together a complete game from a receiving standpoint. His route running was outstanding and the way he was able to buy space and separation was impressive. He looked comfortable catching the ball, and there were several snaps where he was able to work back to the ball in order to help Kellen Moore – which was something that we had not seen from him in previous games. With Dez Bryant out of the lineup, Williams did a much better job of handling that lead role than he did earlier in the season.
- I can't say enough about the job Terrance Mitchell was able to do in this game as the nickel corner and really what he has done the previous two weeks. I thought his game got off to a great start on the tackle he made in the flat on 3rd-and-6 that got the defense off the field. From that point on he was physical in the running game and was a force on the blitz that caused the fumble by Colt McCoy. There was a reason that he was drafted by this club, and it appears that he has a future here.
- Thought that Jay Gruden did a really nice job of using Jamison Crowder in this game. In the second quarter, knowing Dallas was likely going to be in man coverage, he sent Crowder up the field on a beautifully designed wheel route from the slot. Crowder was able to grab space when the two receivers drove to the inside and he worked to the outside. The secondary was unable to sort it out completely and Cousins dropped a perfect pass on Crowder for a big gain.
- As well as Kellen Moore played in this game, I will say that there were a couple of sacks that I felt were on him for holding the ball. There were options open to him if he would have just seen them a little quicker. It appeared that he locked onto a receiver and that player was not able to win whereas another one had. I know as a shorter quarterback he has to move in the pocket and I felt like he drifted into some problems as well.
- It's clear that when this defense blitzes, having Sean Lee in the lineup tends to cause more issues for the offense than any other linebacker the Cowboys have. There were some situations where Rod Marinelli tried to bring pressure – much like he did the first time these clubs met – but it wasn't as effective without Lee. The coordination and result were badly out of balance especially against a line than had problems with this before.
- It didn't surprise me to see Jason Witten more involved with the offense this week as opposed to what we witnessed in Buffalo. He needed to be an option for Kellen Moore and he was. The Redskins played several snaps in zone coverage and any time you handle Witten that way -- he is going to find space. His one touchdown on the goal line was well-designed and executed. He has always had the awareness when he gets near that end zone to make sure that ball gets across.
- After watching the tape, I understand why Kellen Moore threw the ball inside to Cole Beasley on his goal line interception. I am sure Moore thought that Beasley would win off the line with his quickness, but Will Blackmon was playing loose. If Blackmon was a little tight, Beasley would've gotten that win. Blackmon was able to beat Beasley to the spot, which made it difficult for him to get there. The other option Moore could have chosen was Witten over the ball to his right, which would have been a safer throw to a square target.
- Byron Jones has to carry the receiver up the field on that zone coverage that resulted in the Rashad Ross 71-yard touchdown. Brandon Carr was correct to take the underneath coverage, and Jones has to make sure to get over the top. There were times this season where Jones was a little too aggressive and in this situation it came back to hurt him.
- Greg Hardy played with great effort in this game, but I didn't feel like he played with great technique. Hardy should have been able to break tackle Ty Nsekhe down and he wasn't able to do so. There were far too many snaps where Hardy was fighting these tackles down the middle instead of off the edge. He made it easy for them to handle him and that's not his game. There was too much hand battling for Hardy instead of winning, and that was disappointing.
- It was out of character for Jason Garrett to call for the fake punt to Jeff, Heath but I am happy he went that route. His club needed a shot in the arm after going down 24 points. The call allowed him to maintain the ball, which led to the first touchdown of the game to Jason Witten. The design was simple and the execution was perfect with Heath following the blocks upfront. The call I didn't like was the onside kick with 4:18 left in the game -- I thought that was unnecessary with three timeouts to use.
- Thought one of the best defensive plays of the day was when Alfred Morris was trapped in the end zone for a safety. It was a tremendous effort by Tyrone Crawford to power up the field to force Morris to have to hesitate. Once he did that it was just a matter of DeMarcus Lawrence and J.J. Wilcox filling in to make the tackle. Crawford has been playing with a bad shoulder for the last several weeks and for him to make those types of plays was a real credit to him and his toughness.
- I think it's a great sign that Will McClay turned down the opportunity to interview with the Detroit Lions and their opening for General Manager. I believe that, not only with just the first round selection but with several high picks throughout the draft, that this club can add some difference makers. McClay needs to be front and center as they work through this draft.