|Dez does his best Alvin
The Cowboys are growing up. Their statistical superiority last week could be downplayed because it came against a struggling Seahawks team. Today, they made a stuttering — and division leading — Bills team look pedestrian, and they did it in old school Cowboys style.
First, Jason Garrett dusted off the game plans he used so well in 2007, when he had a healthy o-line and a young Marion Barber. The same kind of game plan that the Triplets Cowboys ran for Norv Turner and Ernie Zampese. Garrett leaned on the finally-healthy right arm and rib cage of Tony Romo, who was 12 for 12 with three touchdown passes early in the 2nd quarter. Romo was nearly perfect in the first half, throwing 20 for 23 with those three scores, as Dallas romped to a 28-7 halftime lead.
The fourth came on a one-yard goal line run just before half, and it seems to give the young offensive line a booster shot. Dallas threw the ball just three times in the second half, as Garrett was able to feed DeMarco Murray and Phillip Tanner heavy carries. They responded, taking a variety of counters and toss plays wide of the Bills front for big gains. This let Dallas sustain long, time-consuming drives and end the contest in old-school time. The game time was done well under three hours, the way those Emmitt-heavy games were back in the ’90s.
The key was the best execution of the year. The line took no penalties. Nothing to stop rhythm and put the team in 1st and 20. It pass protected Tony Romo very well. And it run-blocked effectively. They found three plays, the lead draw, the toss, and the counter, which worked for 5 yards nearly every time they were called. When Dallas was in 2nd and 10, Garrett knew he could run a draw and get 5 or 6. In 3rd-and-5 he had the entire pass play menu at his disposal. He could throw up the field to the wideouts. He could turn to old-reliable Jason Witten. He could even throw a flare to Murray and know that a lowered shoulder could convert the play and move the chains.
Clean play, and faster execution makes the OC look a lot, lot smarter.
On defense, Rob Ryan stayed with what he’s done all year, but also got better execution. He opened in nickel packages, to negate Buffalo’s spread passing game. He challenged his front six players to take on blockers and tackle better. Nickel LBs like Frank Walker and Barry Church did a superb job stopping the shallow crossing routes the Bills like.
They, Sean Lee and the safeties Abe Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh attacked the short routes and running back Fred Jackson, denying the big play. Jackson made some big runs, but he never ripped off a series of solid runs. This put Buffalo in a lot of 3rd-and-longs, and the pass rush forced Ryan Fitzpatrick into several hurried, off-target throws.
It was a perfect weekend for the yo-yo 2011 Cowboys to turn back the clock. With three sub .500 teams on the horizon, more Sunday-style execution could finally bring the Cowboys that long sought winning streak.
— It was a game of little things adding up to a big win. Dez Bryant had a clean game. No drops, and a big play five scrimmage plays into the contest, when he reached over a Bills corner’s helmet to snag a Tony Romo pass for a score.
— It was also another huge weekend for Laurent Robinson, who has blown up almost as quickly as Miles Austin did in 2009. This is a former 2nd round pick, so he’s got talent. He and Tony Romo have developed an almost instant rapport and Robinson has the deep speed to spell the injured Miles Austin.
— A big week for the interior line of Holland, Costa and Kosier. The Bills don’t have an A-grade rush, but they kept big-time rookie Marcell Dareus quiet.
— Terence Newman has bounced back from his lost evening in Seattle with two big games. He’s got some spring in his legs and is driving well on the football.
— It also takes a little luck. Dallas was never in danger of losing the games, but when the Bills beat them with calls, the ball bounced Dallas’ way. Sensabaugh undid a big Jackson run by forcing a fumble and Fitzpatrick missed a wide open C.J. Spiller, who got way behind Alan Ball on a go route.
— a nod of appreciation to Dan Bailey, who has made me forget the kicking game. Thank you, sir. Thank you kindly.