Scout’s Eye: Heath’s Play, Blocking Mack and Irvin, Jones’ Fake, More

  • Can’t say enough about the effort of Jeff Heath to drive Derek Carr out of bounds on the play to cause the fumble. I will be interested to see if the Cowboys were in zone coverage on the play and it was just Heath’s reaction that took him toward Carr. That appeared to be the direction they were going from what I had seen on some previous snaps. On the fumble, Heath might have been in man coverage and just left his man to contest Carr at the goal line for a heads up play.
  • Khalil Mack and Bruce Irvin are difficult to block. Put them on the same side and you have double the problems. It didn’t surprise me that both of them had their moments of success, but for the majority of the game, I thought that La’el Collins and Byron Bell hung in there even though at times there appeared to be some struggles, especially from Bell. When Tyron Smith went out of the game with his knee injury, I was almost positive that we were going to see Jason Witten and James Hanna help more to Bell’s side, but it was minor compared to what it could have been. The extra work that Bell had been receiving paid off when they needed him the most.
  • How did Anthony Brown not intercept that ball from Carr on the Raiders’ final drive? The ball game could have been over right then and there if Brown had just put that one away. There were several opportunities for turnovers that the defense just didn’t capitalize on that could have made this a much easier victory.
  • Would have never bet that Jason Garrett would have allowed special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia to talk him into a fake punt on his own 24-yard line. Really nice job of James Hanna and Keith Smith creating a seam off that right side in order to get Chris Jones into space. 
  • Great job by Sean Lee drawing the pass interference call on Jared Cook to take a touchdown off the board. Just goes to show you when you play good technique in coverage and make receivers go through you to get to the ball, good things can happen. Lee was in outstanding position to defend the pass and Cook had no choice but to drive him out of the way to make the catch. The Raiders would later miss the field goal right before half.
  • Up and down night for Byron Jones. He had a big miss on running back DeAndre Washington on third down that kept a Raiders drive going that ended up in points. But he later came back to knock a ball away on a third-down pass to Cook, which gave the ball back to the offense and they were able to drive for the game-winning field goal.
  • It will be nice to have Ezekiel Elliott back in the lineup, especially when the offense faces those calls on the goal line. I was expecting to see Rod Smith down there inside the 1-yard line, but three straight handoffs to Alfred Morris netted nothing. Smith was able to hammer in the first touchdown of the game from the goal line, which made it surprising that he wasn’t used in that crucial situation where a touchdown made it a safer lead.
  • It’s a shame that Jourdan Lewis was called for that pass interference on the Raiders final drive. Up until that point, I thought he had played pretty well. It was a rookie mistake not to find the ball and to also allow Michael Crabtree to gain the position that he did on him. It appeared that Crabtree had no intention of catching the ball and allowing Lewis to run into him was all part of his plan. Lewis had been playing with improved technique the last two weeks.
  • The final stat sheet said that Marshawn Lynch ended up with 76 yards for the game. To be honest, I thought there was going to be a possibility for much more than that. I was surprised that the Raiders didn’t try and pound the ball more, but give this Cowboys defense some credit for holding up. Lynch was able to hit them for a couple of chunk runs, but for the most part they did a great job of getting helmets to the ball. As a group, there was some serious gang tackling going on, and that was key. There were only one or two snaps where there wasn’t a host of defenders on top of Lynch.
  • I didn’t like what I had seen from this Raiders secondary coming into this game. Thought there were going to be better opportunities for some big plays. Jason Witten and James Hanna were able to come up with a couple of catches, but other than Dez Bryant’s big catch, it was a quiet night. The Cowboys receivers as a group were only able to come up with seven receptions total. I would have bet my paycheck that Cole Beasley would have come up with that number on his own working against cornerback Travis Carrie. Maybe I didn’t give the Raiders enough credit, but I need to figure out what the problem was because those numbers should have been better.
  • I still don’t know how Seth Roberts caught that tipped ball by DeMarcus Lawrence. That was outstanding pressure by Lawrence to get to Carr. For the ball to get knocked in the air the way it did, and for Roberts to be in perfect position to run under it was deflating. As we saw earlier from linebacker Bruce Irvin’s tipped pass from Prescott, those usually end up as interceptions. It was a strange night for the Cowboys defensively in creating those types of opportunities for turnovers, but thankfully the Jeff Heath hit on Derek Carr ended up working in their favor. 
  • I wonder if the NFL is going to come out and have to say that referee Gene Steratore was incorrect by sliding the card between the ball and the marker. I have never in my years of working in the league (since 1992) seen an official use a piece of paper from his pocket to determine a call. Steratore stated to a Pool Reporter post game: “I didn’t use the card to make the final decision. The final decision was made visually. The card was used nothing more than a reaffirmation of what was visually done. My decision was visually done based on the look from the pole.” Which begs the question, why use the card in the first place? It was nice to see a break go the Cowboys way, especially with Steratore as an official, but I am sure this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this.
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