Rate the Cowboys: Week 5 vs. Cincinnati

Marvin Lewis consoles Wade Phillips

Marvin Lewis consoles Wade Phillips

Although I am generally displeased with the Cowboys’ overall performance against the Bengals, I am think everyone needs to keep some events of this game in context. This is especially true of those calling for the head of Wade Phillips. Some thoughts:

Want to Fire Someone? Start with Bruce Read

* Perhaps the coaches could have devised better game on both sides of the ball, but the area that has broken down most consistently at the worst times in the past two seasons has been special teams. Against Cincinnati, the Bengals put themselves in a position to take the lead (before Chris Perry fumbled) thanks to an onside kick that the Cowboys never saw coming. After the Perry fumble, Dallas scored quickly with 12 minutes left to take an eight-point lead. Cincinnati looked beat until the Cowboys’ kickoff team gave up a 60-yard return to Glenn Holt. This put the Bengals in great position to drive 37 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to two points.
* Holt’s fourth quarter return was the second kickoff he returned to Dallas territory. The first was a 46-yard return. This return gave the Bengals the ball at the Dallas 48, and after moving the ball 25 yards, the Bengals kicked their first field goal. Until this return, Cincinnati had crossed midfield, and the Cowboys had taken a 17-0 lead.

Not Wade’s Fault: Pacman’s Drop

* With the Cowboys leading 17-6, Carson Palmer threw an errant pass in the direction of Chad Johnson. The ball ended up in the hands of Pacman Jones, but he dropped it. The pick would have ended a drive that resulted in a Cincinnati touchdown that cut the Dallas lead to 17-13. Pacman dropped a second pick late in the game.

Apparently Not Wade’s Fault: Tony Romo’s Turnover Woes

* Romo’s uh-oh moments often come at inconsequential times. His fumble at the Dallas 42 with two minutes left in the first half was not an inconsequential moment. Marion Barber did not help matters when he grabbed Jamar Fletcher’s facemask after the recovery. This series of events led to the second Cincinnati field goal of the first half.
* Leading 17-13 late in the third quarter, Dallas moved the ball to the Cincinnati 35. Romo threw an errant pass, apparantly trying to force the ball to Witten. It was picked off by linebacker Keith Rivers, who returned the ball 39 yards into Dallas territory. This set up the Bengals’ third field goal and cut the Dallas lead to 17-16.

Not Wade’s Fault: Patrick Crayton’s Case of the Drops

* There must a reason why Patrick Crayton is the team’s second receiver. His drop of a Romo pass in the third quarter is not one of those reasons. Although Romo underthrew the ball, the football hit Crayton in the hands at the Cincinnati 30. The play could have led to at least a Dallas field goal attempt. Instead, Dallas punted.

* * *

Anyway, I know the head coach is ultimately responsible for anything that happens to a team, but I don’t think cheerleading was the answer yesterday. That is, unless the cheerleading consists of: hey, don’t leave your lanes on kickoff coverage; hey, tackle; hey, keep both hands on the ball so you don’t fumble; hey, don’t drop the ball; hey, that linebacker in the black jersey that is camped out over the middle plays for the other team, so don’t throw at him. Way to go, guys.

My votes:

Tony Romo – 2 Stars: Romo seemed off all day. He underthrew several receivers and made some bad decisions. His statement suggesting that turnovers are expected from quarterbacks who make great plays ignores… most great quarterbacks other than Brett Favre.

Marion Barber – 4 Stars: Barber had 84 yards in 23 carries in a generally good outing. His only really big mistake was a facemask penalty. In fact, Barber’s only really big problem right now is that Felix Jones is so much fun to watch.

Terrell Owens – 3 Stars: There are conflicting stories about whether Owens has been getting open. A few have suggested that Romo is not even looking in Owens’ direction. His 57-yard touchdown was critical in the game, but he may be something less than a great decoy.

Patrick Crayton – 2 Stars: Crayton did very well on the tip drill on what turned out to be the game-clinching touchdown. His drop in the third quarter, though, was bad. Crayton is generally looking very Billy Davis-like at this point. Consider this:

Billy Davis, 1998: 14 rec., 270 yds., 2 TD. Quarterback during part of the Cowboys 3-2 start? Jason Garrett.
Patrick Crayton, 2008: 16 rec., 207 yds., 1 TD. Offensive coordinator? Jason Garrett.

Jason Witten – 4 Stars: Witten was not sensational, but he has been the most dependable player on the offense. By far.

Offense – Pass Blocking – 5 Stars: Romo appeared to have plenty of time to throw the ball. He was sacked once, but often had plenty of time to underthrow his intended targets.

Offense – Run Blocking – 4 Stars: Barber was stuffed a few times, but Dallas generally had success running the ball on first down.

Offense – Role Players and Backups – 4 Stars: Felix Jones returned to the field this week and continued to dazzle. If he can reach the edge, good things have happened.

Penalties – Offense – 4 Stars: Four of the team’s six penalties were on offense, but two of them were stupid personal fouls (Andre Gurode and Marion Barber). The false starts were minimal.

Run Support – 5 Stars: Chris Perry and Cedric Benson combined for 61 yards on 23 carries. Tank Johnson had a hugh play in stripping the ball from Perry early in the fourth quarter.

Pass Rush – 2 Stars: Dallas picked up two sacks late, but far too often, the team could not generate anything. This was reminiscent of the defense under the Bill Parcells’ regime: don’t matter how many we send, they’ll get stuck in the mud somewhere.

Tackling – 4 Stars: Tackling did not appear to be a problem as a whole, especially with regard to run defense. One bad thing, though, was that Pacman Jones led the team in tackles.

Coverage – 3 Stars: Carson Palmer did not light the defense up, which is what some have seemed to suggest, but the secondary seems to play awfully loose for having so much talent on the field. Some of this must have to do with the lack of pass rush, though.

Penalties – Defense – 4 Stars: Two defensive penalties all game. That’s pretty good, though one was a pass interference call on Anthony Henry.

Nick Folk – 4 Stars: Common theme: Automatic on field goals, but not a single touchback this season.

Mat McBriar – 5 Stars: McBriar only had three punts, but one went 66 yards and another was downed at the Cincinnati 8. Pretty good.

Coverage Units – 1 Stars: Two returns into Dallas territory=10 Cincinnati points. Terrible.

Return Game – 2 Stars: Punt and kickoff returns were inconsequential.

Penalties – 5 Stars: Good news: Dallas had no penalties on special teams.