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Scout’s Eye: Misses In The Passing Game

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FRISCO, Texas – It’s always useful to go back for a re-watch.

No one’s going to like the result, and the Cowboys certainly won’t be happy with their offensive performance on the road. But there was some valuable insight to be gained here from the way they played and how they can improve going forward.

Coming off a second watch, I’ve got some new perspective on this Cowboys offense and the things they did well – as well as some opportunities they missed. There’s also a lot to like about the way this defense played, which has become a theme for this season.

And of course we’ll get into the officiating.

Here we go:

· My initial thought was that, on the opening series of the game, Dak Prescott was trying to hit Cole Beasley on the crossing route. Instead he was trying to load up to get the ball to Michael Gallup against Greg Stroman. If Ryan Kerrigan doesn’t beat La’el Collins inside and hit Prescott’s arm, this play had a chance, because Gallup had a step up Stroman up the field.

· The Cowboys’ defense only had one sack on the day and it came from David Irving. As has been the case all season, generally, when they have a sack some other players are doing some heavy lifting. It was a tremendous job by Jaylon Smith on the blitz and Randy Gregory charging hard to the inside to affect Alex Smith’s eye level. Smith missed a chance to hit a wide open Maurice Harris if not for the pressure from those two. Irving was able to clean up only because Smith had nowhere to go but toward him in the pocket.

· The only defender that wasn’t blocked on the quarterback sneak by Dak Prescott was D.J. Swearinger. He came from the outside to knife inside and perfectly timed his hit, striking Prescott with his right shoulder directly on the ball. It also appeared that Prescott was much too tall entering the line. If he’s down lower it’s likely that he take a good shot but is still able to protect the ball, because he had more than enough yardage for the first down.

· DeMarcus Lawrence doesn’t get enough credit for the run defense he plays every week. His tackle of Adrian Peterson short of the goal line was a thing of beauty. Lawrence was in perfect position to handle the read-option by staying at home and playing his assignment. Once Smith handed the ball inside, Lawrence was on top of Peterson before he had a chance to react, beating the block of Vernon Davis as well to make the tackle. Instead of scoring a touchdown, the Redskins were forced to kick a field goal.

· On the play where Dak Prescott got smashed along the sideline, he had Michael Gallup wide open along the right sideline as he had beaten Josh Norman in coverage. Prescott shot a quick glance at Gallup but then focused on Allen Hurns, who was being held inside by Josh Harvey-Clemons and Fabian Moreau -- but with no call on the play. Prescott did his best to try and get the first but took a huge blow by Greg Stroman in the face.

· In my Scout’s Notebook after the game, I gave Sean Lee credit for making the saving tackle on Kapri Bibbs on third and short to get the defense off the field. Lee forced Bibbs back to the inside, where DeMacus Lawrence was waiting. Lawrence did an excellent job of forcing Alex Smith to pitch the ball and then, once the pitch was made, working back outside to trip up Bibbs.

· On the touchdown catch by Michael Gallup, the routes called for double-moves on both sides of the field. Initially Prescott wanted to go in Allen Hurns’ direction, but his move on Josh Norman did nothing at all. Prescott had a clean pocket to his left and that is where he found Gallup with a good five yards of separation on Greg Stroman. Safety Montae Nicholson overplayed the opposite side and had no chance to rally back over to help.

· I was right in what I saw on the Ryan Kerrigan sack/fumble and touchdown for Preston Smith. Michael Gallup had beaten Greg Stroman again -- this time he did it on the “out and up.” What I didn’t see was on the other side of the field, that Deonte Thompson was running the same route but was hit by Josh Norman some 15 yards down the field. There should have been a flag there for illegal contact but none was thrown. I am disappointed that Prescott didn’t see Gallup earlier and the official missed a call that is made nine out of 10 times in a game.

· On the Redskins’ final drive working to kill the clock. The Cowboys went with their base defense to try and get Alex Smith off the field. At the time, I thought Jay Gruden made a huge mistake asking Smith to throw the ball on third down with the Cowboys still holding a timeout. When Smith dropped back, there was no one open so he sprinted to his left. Initially, I thought he had a chance for the first, but Sean Lee ran him down with a solid high tackle all while driving him out of bounds. It was a big-time play by Lee, who had missed some games with a hamstring issue but didn’t show any of that on the tackle.

· Tremendous job by Blake Jarwin to stay active on fourth down to give Dak Prescott a place to deliver the ball. Prescott was focusing the entire time to his left, until he saw Jarwin breaking the other way to his right. Not only did Jarwin catch the ball cleanly, but he was able to hustle to the sideline to get out of bounds to save time.

· I have no idea how Cole Beasley was able to come up with that ball on the final drive with the offense facing a third and long. Prescott was looking his way the entire time, even with Preston Smith right in his face. Somehow Prescott got the ball over the top of Smith and into the hands of Beasley for a huge first down.

· Watching the game back again, I still have no idea how they could make that call on L.P. Ladouceur. The only thing that he does is drop the nose of the ball down flat with his right hand and then adds his left hand before he snaps it. When Caleb Brantley and Da’Ron Payne see him drop that nose, that’s when they cross the line of scrimmage. As I said in my Scout’s Notebook, if they don’t jump there is likely no call. Also one other thing I’d like to point out: the official that’s in charge of protecting the snapper, Allen Baynes, is not the one that makes the call.

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