Here are some thoughts from the offensive side of the ball after watching the film at Valley Ranch following the Cowboys' 16-10 win over Tampa Bay:
*O-Line Struggles *
There is no doubt that the offensive line struggled in this game overall. There was no push at the point of attack to help the running game and there were too many physical breakdowns in pass protection that were unacceptable. In our preview of the Buccaneers we addressed the problems that their defense could cause with their movement up front. Ryan Cook and Mackenzy Bernadeau didn't play their best games. Cook had been solid in his first two games but was poor in this one. He struggled getting to the second level a running play and allowing linebacker Mason Foster to run and make a tackle on Murray on a "Boss" play. On a draw play early in the game, he can't secure Roy Miller who makes the tackle for no gain.
On the first sack, didn't handle the twist stunt well enough with Bernadeau and Livings where Romo took a shot from Michael Bennett. In the 3rd quarter, there was another sack where Cook is trying to help Livings on McCoy but he is too strong and is unable to control him. The result of the sack caused a fumble on the play. On the last Buccaneers sack, Bernadeau lunges to try and keep Gerald McCoy on the line. When he missed with his punch, McCoy was able to get around him clean. Romo never saw McCoy on the hit but also on that same play, Bennett beats Free as well and if McCoy doesn't get the sack, then Bennett most likely will. The area that concerns me the most is not the pass protection but what has gone on the last two weeks in the running game. Some of the best pass plays that the team were able to run on Sunday was off play action pass, if you don't run the ball with any success, you will have defenses not even honoring that.
Receivers Come Up Big
Last week against the Seahawks the Cowboys wide receivers really struggled with the press coverage in getting into their routes. This week, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree did a much better job of attacking these Buccaneers cornerbacks. Going into the game they knew that Wright and Talib were going to try and knock them around after what Seattle had done to them. The receivers were able to fight through the press and give this offense a chance to make plays.
Austin, Bryant and Ogletree showed dependable hands on some difficult throws. Austin's route on the 49 yard pass at the end of the 3rd quarter against Wright was a thing of beauty. What made that route even better was what job that Jason Witten was able to carry safety Mark Barron out of the middle of the field and allowing Austin to run pass Wright. Give a tip of the cap to receivers in this game for stepping up and making several tough plays in a tight game.
Breaking Down TD run
Where the offense struggled to block in the running game for the majority of the day, the was one bright spot where they did get the play blocked cleanly that allowed DeMarco Murray to find the end zone. With the ball 2nd down and goal from the Buccaneers 10, the Cowboys get in "11" personnel with Witten on the line left, Austin slot left and Ogletree outside left.
At the snap of the ball Murray starts to his left on the "Boss" play, Smith is able to reach the Clayborn on the outside, Witten and Austin start inside on nickel corner Brandon McDonald. Witten picks up McDonald and Austin bumps off him to go after Ronde Barber trying to fill from the safety spot. Austin is able to knock Barber off his path allowing Murray to cut behind him. On the outside Ogletree is able to get push on Wright driving him into the end zone. Witten also has McDonald in the end zone as well. Murray lowers his head and is able to get the ball in for the touchdown. It was the only real positive rushing play for the Cowboys but it did show that they could run the ball effectively if the play was blocked correctly.