Beat Writers Recap: Cowboys vs. Colts

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Beat Writers Recap: Cowboys vs. Colts
By Calvin Watkins
ESPN Dallas

Before we move on to Michael Vick and the Eagles, let’s take a final look at the Colts and Cowboys.

Here are a few thoughts from the game in our weekly Beat Writers Recap.

*The Cowboys pass rush has been lacking this season. But it’s not because of it’s effort. Several times outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer were a step away from hitting Peyton Manning on Sunday and he got rid of the ball. Ware isn’t getting double-teamed all the time, but tackles are forcing him wide making his journey to the quarterback take longer. When Ware goes inside on pass rushes, he then faces a guard and sometimes a running back that holds him up. Three step drops are nightmares for pass rushers like Ware and Spencer, who are quick off the ball and are very strong, and that’s what Manning did a lot of on Sunday. Ware is having a strong season, but quarterbacks, tackles, guards, tight ends and running backs are aware of him on almost every play.

*Poor Chris Gronkowski. The rookie fullback missed a block on a blitzing linebacker that got Tony Romo injured vs. the New York Giants. Sunday, Gronkowski, on special teams, missed a block of the Colts Kavell Conner on a kickoff and his tackle resulted in Dez Bryant suffering a broken fibula, ending his season. In the preseason, the Cowboys coaches worried about Gronkowski’s ability to block at the point of attack. It was one of the reasons Deon Anderson made the 53-man roster coming out of training camp. But Gronkowski got better in the early portions of the season and Anderson’s health forced the team to give him an injury settlement. But you wonder about Gronkowski now after two mistakes led to key players getting injured.

*Jesse Holley said he learned his lesson. Don’t assume someone is going to do something all the time. On the blocked punt by the Colts Taj Smith in the fourth quarter, Holley thought Smith was going to come outside with his rush. It was something Smith had done all game, so Holley prepared for an outside rush, but Smith went inside and blocked Mat McBriar‘s punt. Though it appeared Smith’s knee was down at the 1 when he recovered the punt, he got into the end zone and it was ruled a touchdown. There weren’t sufficient replays for the Cowboys coaches in the press box to review and tell interim coach Jason Garrett to challenge the play. Meanwhile, Holley quickly recovered in overtime and blocked Smith cleanly on a punt.

*Garrett gets ripped for his play calling from time-to-time, but one thing we like about him is his formations on the opening drive of the game. He used a two tight end set four times, motioned a receiver four times and had no running backs in the backfield twice during the nine-play drive ending with a 20-yard touchdown run by Tashard Choice. Felix Jones, Dez Bryant, Roy E. Williams, Martellus Bennett and Choice all touched the ball on the opening drive. Garrett likes balance in run vs. pass but also in who gets the ball.

*Notes:Jay Ratliff almost tackled Manning twice on handoffs during the game, he did a nice job in anticipating the snap count. … Zone defense seems to work sometimes and the Cowboys were in it several times when they picked off Manning passes. The lone time they weren’t, Alan Ball came over from the hashmarks to intercept a pass. Mike Jenkins did a good job of leading Reggie Wayne toward Ball, who did a good job of reacting to the play. … Mat McBriar came in with net punting average of 43 yards per game, but finished with a season-low 31 yards per punt on Sunday. The blocked punt hurt his average and it was the first time he finished a game with a net average in the 30s since October.

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