Unfortunately, a ton of things have gotten in the way of doing a proper Cowboys week one breakdown, so instead of a full post here are simple bullet points I've got after re-watching the game play-by-play a few times since it ended.
Of course, it's also time to be paying more attention to the up-coming game, so feel free to ignore me.
- Tony Romo was absolutely magical. Time and time again, he did what he does best, by moving away from pressure to create a play where it looked like none was possible. He had a few overthrows, but that will happen. He was accurate and efficient despite having very few chances to sit in the pocket and watch the field. What offense the Rangers got was largely thanks, not in spite, of him.
- Holland actually looked pretty solid. In the first half, he moved outside on a sweep and stuck an absolutely fantastic block. It's a single game, but I didn't see any real mistakes from him and a few very good plays.
- Barron, on the other hand, was even worse upon review. I didn't see a single play from him that I would have called good. The Redskins knew the Cowboys' weakness and frequently had as many as three defenders standing up in front of Barron, which reduced him to dancing off of the snap trying to guess who would come. Almost every passing play he was either completely blown past or pushed all the way back to Romo. Or he held. Football is a team sport and you can't pin a loss on a single player, but it's hard for me to imagine winning many games when a literally useless player is taking up a spot on the field.
- I was not too inspired by outside runs from the Cowboys, though that may have been good pursuit by the Redskins linebackers. This brings up a non-player issue in that game, however, and it was play calling. The Cowboys clearly knew Barron would be a problem and called a whole lot of screens and quickly-developing plays, but they just weren't working, and neither were the sweeps that were called a few too many times. Further, Chris Collinsworth was right: despite Barron's failures, the Cowboys often did have enough of a pocket to try a few more deep shots than they did. Garrett stuck too his guns and continued to call screens and short passes the Redskins continually sniffed out, limiting the Cowboys offense despite excellent play by Romo.
- Speaking of play calling, the call at the end of the half was the difference in the game and was the wrong call. Blame goes all around. Garrett has to go downfield if he wants to go for it. Romo can't flip that ball. And Choice has to go down with it.
- The Cowboys secondary was awe-inspiring on further review. Jenkins was absolutely phenomenal at closing, allowing him to cover more ground. The rest of the secondary locked in on their men extremely well, and only McNabb's McNabbiness prevented multiple coverage sacks. Some have discussed an NFL trend towards being less aggressive on the blitz recently, but if the Cowboys secondary can lock on to receivers that well, they might continue to be among the more aggressive defenses in the league.
- DeMarcus Ware is firmly a complete player. Not only does he rush the passer, like we know, but he contains well on outside runs and I think I'm even comfortable with him covering a non-elite tight end most running backs. He's just such a freakish athlete, seeing someone so well-rounded whose primary role is pass rushing is fun.
- Buehler has officially made me nervous. It's a completely different game if he hits a very makeable field goal.
- Too many teams waste plays by spiking the ball and calling unnecessary timeouts before they need to in two-minute drills. This is something Chris Brown of Smart Football rails against. I was encouraged by the Cowboys' ability to use their first downs to run quick, low-risk plays rather than spiking the ball or wasting a time out. It may have just been this game, or maybe the Cowboys have a bright two minute offensive plan. And it would have worked against a defense that had stymied them all day if not for Barron's inability to do anything well.
- Brandon, who is better than me at almost everything, has a break down of an interesting take on the Razorback the Cowboys used in the third quarter dubbed the Cerberus. It's certainly an intriguing set, and I want to see more of it. Like he says, it's a form of introducing the Wild Cat while keeping Romo an option to take advantage of cheating safeties. I'm a sucker for football innovation, no matter how small or pulled-from-the-past, so I want to see more variety from the Cerberus.
I come away from that game fairly encouraged. A loss always hurts, since it's 1/16th of your season. That said, almost everything about the Cowboys looked good except for play calling and Alex Barron. Barron will hopefully not be an issue anymore, but the play calling is a serious concern. The game plan may have merely been over-compensating for Barron and future games may have better variety and a willingness to go away from calls that aren't working; we can only hope.
But the talent is clearly there. Despite everything going against them, a sieve at right tackle and poor play calls, the Cowboys almost beat a solid team on the road. We don't know much in week one, and this certainly wasn't enough to change our confidence in the Cowboys. They'll need to get a win somewhere they might not have otherwise to correct the poor start, but there's no reason yet to assume they can't. The schedule may mean homefield or a bye would be tough, but I still firmly believe the Cowboys are the favorites in the division.
Just as long as Alex Barron never starts another game.