The high that came from whipping our division rivals, was completely deflated here in week two against the Denver Broncos. Today we were the one’s handed the beat down and that has to leave an absolutely awful taste in our mouths. For a minute I thought the Giants players stole our uniforms? Mercifully, the end of the game was cutoff due to the SNF game starting on NBC and didn’t have to watch Dak make a weak throw towards Dez that Talib returned for a pick six.
In my keys to victory story on Friday, I thought I was pretty clear that we had to pack our defense and running game to beat Denver. Apparently, both didn’t make the flight out of DFW airport as expected! The best OL in the game couldn’t provide a sliver of room for Zeke to run. Denver was run blitzing from the start and completely stifled our running game. We were down only 7-0, thanks to McManus missing a chip shot from 49 yards out. That was the Broncos second possession and they were running roughshod over the Cowboys. When it was announced that there would be a suspension of play with thunder approaching the stadium, I thought it was the break we needed to regroup and make crucial in game adjustments, on both sides of the ball. Anything to counter the amazing start that Denver had. After the hour delay, we start with two incompletions whose design was dreadful and naturally ineffective. Those plays were the best they could come up with after that hour break? Pathetic! On third down, Dak was under pressure and escaped for seven, but short of the first down. My hopes of seeing some adjustments in blocking to get the running game going, were for naught.
Did you feel as baffled about this as I did? Were you expecting them to make adjustments and work on the running game? Troy said it in the opening, “the team that runs the ball best, will win”. Simple, but true and quite prophetic at the same time.
Then we got the break we needed to get back into the game. Demarcus Lawrence, blows through and gets a strip sack on Siemian. Maliek picks it up, rumbles a few yards and he loses it, only to have Anthony Brown carry it in for a possible TD. Did anyone see the replay where the ball came out on MC? The last replay showed that it should it wasn’t under control and we should have had the TD. Ok, so the Boys have it at the Denver three and on first down, they try running it inside and Zeke is stuffed, yet again. Why didn’t they get a little creative and spread them out? At least do something to counter their loading the box? Well, when in doubt, go back shoulder to Dez! Cool, that gets us on the board. What I didn’t like is that it was here that they conceded to them that they won’t be running the ball much from here on. The coaches feared running the ball, something none of us thought we’d ever see when Zeke’s on the field and healthy.
Entering the next possession for Denver, we had a room for some optimism. We just got the third sack of the season by Lawrence which led to the TD. Considering that Mayowa led the team with 6.5 sacks, having DLaw with 3 in a game and a half, got the old adrenaline pumped. We’re all watching and hoping that maybe we’d get into Siemian’s head a little and perhaps get another turnover. Instead, the next possession we unequivocally learned we can’t stop the great Trevor Siemian and CJ Anderson, not today. It didn’t help that Nolan Carroll (concussion) and Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring) caused a shortage at corner. This pressed Jourdan Lewis into action at left corner. A play they ran with great success was a “pivot” which found our defenders floundering on the ground when the home team, pivoted and gained significant separation. Lewis got caught several times on this route and gave up at least one TD in the flat. A second play at the goal line found him trailing, but its my belief that it was on Byron, not Lewis for that blown coverage. We should also note that Lewis got his first interception later in the second half.
The loss isn’t a catastrophe by any means, where if you’re 0-2 you have only a 13% chance for the playoffs, while 1-1 teams rise slightly to 40%. But this was in my opinion an overall average to below average QB running their offense. Last week in the first half he looked below average, but had a nice second half. Today, he looked very good, knowing where he wanted to go pre-snap and did so confidently. Rare did he have to read the defense on where he wanted to go with the ball.
What was noticeable was that in their running plays, their lineman were getting to the second level rather quickly. There were plays where they opening big lanes by well executed blocks on Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith. We’re not used to seeing Sean Lee blocked as he was in this game, they made it their mission to get a hat on him. Not that Lee or Jaylon weren’t in on the tackle but they were all too often five plus yards down field a little too often or just missing a tackle because of being blocked. Jaylon was credited with ten tackles and Lee had nine. Tackling wasn’t our strong suit in this game which only compounded the problems on defense.
The start of the second half went exactly like the first half. Denver ran their offense, like the Boys did last year. They mixed the runs and passes with a 15 play drive, eating up 7:04 of the clock. This was the death blow to the Boys, just wearing down the defense. To give an idea how badly we were dominated in this one, by the time we got our first possession of the second half at the 7:56 mark of the third, they had run off 57 plays to the Cowboys grand total of 18 of which 13 were passes by Dak. In the second half alone he threw the ball 37 more times, giving him 50 for the game and a career high, I’ll assume.
Were there any bright spots? A few at most and the obvious one would have been the two sacks by Demarcus Lawrence, with the first one getting us on the board. That’s two weeks in a row, but he was also active on running plays, usually in a chase position. Any week that Jaylon Smith is getting snaps is a good thing, same goes for Jourdan Lewis. Until I see the “coaches tape” on Wednesday a better assessment can’t be made other than the naked eye. The other positive was that for the better part of three and a half quarters, La’ell did a pretty solid job in pass protection against Von Miller, as he was a non factor. Only at the end when he was jumping the snap to get a sack was it a challenge for LC. The Miller sacks really were more coverage “sacks” than his beating Collins outright. Again the coaches tape may show something else, but that’s what these eyes saw. I also want to see how much holding was going on in the secondary by Denver, which is notorious for that. Dez was in had fights on every play to get free from their DB’s. Dez had to play defender too many times today and on the first interception, the ball went through his hands to Harris. Witten had a good game overall, yet he had an uncharacteristic drop in the end zone. Sometimes its just not your day when you have those two fail to bring in passes that they got two hands on.
My assessment that this team was better than the Broncos, enough to beat them at their own place, proved to be a serious miscalculation. Its still my contention that the recipe for victory was a good one, just they failed to pay for passage on the plane for the defense and the running game. Now the challenge is to rebound from this against a very average and depleted Cardinals team. The recipe for beating the Cowboys is on tape, so how will the coaches respond. After a terrific coaching effort in week one, this one appeared as though the coaches failed to hop on the flight as well!
Side Notes on Stripes: That leverage call on Lawrence was ridiculous. The offensive player keeps his head down, intentionally and they make that call. If Lawrence prevented him from getting up, then I can see the call, but that wasn’t the case. How badly we were outplayed the one play wouldn’t likely have made a difference, but they were able to get a 1st down out of it, taking the FG off the board and drive the balance for a TD. The work of the stripes was pretty bad overall in this game, fortunately, it wasn’t a closer game that would magnify their deficiencies. The sack fumble play is top of the list, as that should have been a TD. Watched our RDE on a play in the first get strangled on a completion by the Broncos and no call. When you play as bad as we did those calls become lost but they’re still important. What did you think of that “leverage” call? Xavier Woods was blocked in the back on special teams near the ball carrier and no call? Wondering where the whistles were on that one too?
Anthony Brown was called for holding when it appeared to be the standard hand checking. Aqib Talib always had his hands on Dez and I don’t recall any laundry on the field for that? I think there was one call on them for holding, but the game was out of hand at that point.