IRVING, Texas – A few leftover notes from my breakdown of the tape from the Cowboys' 34-31 win against the Rams:
- It's rare when an elite player makes another elite player quit during a game, but that happened when Tyron Smith faced Robert Quinn on Sunday afternoon. Smith was technique perfect with his lateral agility, foot quickness and balance. As the game wore on, no matter how hard Quinn tried to rush, he was not going to get by Smith. There were several snaps in this game where the Rams were just rushing with three men due to the fact that Smith was on Quinn so quickly. Quinn could not even react to get up the field and completely stopped on his rush. For four quarters it was as dominant of a performance I had seen from an offensive linemen in several years.
- There was once a time where I was not really sure what kind of route that I was going to see from Dez Bryant in a game. He was not disciplined and his attention to detail was poor. I believe that Bryant will be the first to tell you that that the route he ran against Janoris Jenkins that resulted in Jenkins' pick-six was not his best effort. Bryant did nothing to get Jenkins out of his pedal and he was just sitting at the sticks keying Bryant's route. Jenkins has a history as a gambler and guesser, but Bryant made it too easy for him. But the mark of any great receiver is to not make the same mistake twice. On his 68-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, Bryant was able to do just that. He punished Jenkins by running his route in a way that put him in a terrible spot. As Bryant drove up the field he was able to make a slight move to the left, which had Jenkins believing that he was going to break to the outside. Jenkins, believing that Bryant was going to break on the out, had to spin in that direction to defend. It was a beautiful job of selling the route and once again proves how far Bryant has come in his development.
- Anthony Hitchens will never be confused with Rolando McClain when it comes to stoutness at the point of attack. This defense is clearly different without McClain in the lineup, but give Hitchens a great deal of credit in the way he handled his first game as a starter in the NFL. It took him a series or two before he was able to settle in and feel more comfortable with what was happening to him. What Hitchens lacks in power, he more than makes up for with his ability to play with acceleration and burst. He is a sideline-to-sideline player in every sense of the word. When he sees the ball he is going to get it. His reaction on the Rams 4th-and-1 attempt in the third quarter was game-changing for this team. For him to read the guard pulling away and to beat the block back was as instinctive of a play as you will ever see. There are veteran linebackers in this league that would have not hit that hole as quickly as he did to get the back on the ground. Hitchens will most likely get another chance to start this week against the Saints, but like he was against the Rams, he will be ready. [embedded_ad]
- Before the season I had been very critical of the play of Nick Hayden and felt that Hayden was just a bridge to the next defensive tackle on the roster. I was exploring ways to replace Hayden as soon as possible. What Hayden might lack in beauty as a player he has more than made up for it with his hustle and ability to stand at the point of attack and take on blocks. There were plays in this game where Hayden was doing exactly what he needed to be doing scheme-wise, but his teammates around him were not holding up their end of the deal. There were times where Hayden put himself in position to make plays along the line of scrimmage or well down the field due to his ability to use his hands, shed blockers and find the football. Where I did not give him enough credit in his game is his ability to play with range along with his desire to finish the play which he was outstanding against the Rams.