Cowboys-Cards Postmortem: Good, Bad And Ugly

There's quite a bit to sort through after Dallas' backup plans were exposed as wanting. While football will always be the quintessential team game, here's a look at our interpretation of which players were on which side of the ledger.

Some games, you just have to call them as you see them.

THE GOOD

Henry Melton

Melton has really started to round into shape over the last few weeks, getting consistent pressure and actually being able to bring down the quarterback. His sack on the first drive forced Arizona into a third and long and the down where Patmon got his interception. His half-sack came on a third and long where he bounced off a block and looped in to take Palmer down with some help from Spencer and Crawford.

Melton has 3.5 sacks over the last two weeks and is being a disruptive force on limited snaps. How limited? Melton has only played over 27 snaps twice over the first nine games, and his 26 snaps yesterday was the fifth time he ended up with either 26 or 27. That is obviously a number Dallas focuses on (rookie Demarcus Lawrence logged 27 snaps in his season debut yesterday) as part of their wave philosophy.

Melton’s recent play will jump start the conversation about what Dallas will do with him come the offseason. There is a team option that would kick in three additional years after 2014. If he continues to show this is the player they will have, they team will have to strongly consider either accepting the option or renegotiating the deal to keep him happy and in the fold. That could easily come in the form of turning base into a signing bonus.

Zack Martin

Yeah, so, the rookie is the Cowboys best offensive lineman this season. No one on the line has been more consistent than the former Notre Dame star and he proved it again yesterday. His blocking on Dunbar’s 40-yard screen catch was awesome in and of itself (and credit to Dunbar for waiting for him to make it), but his pulling on run plays is becoming the stuff of legends.

Martin has also turned into a highly effective pass blocker. Last week’s stunt confusion is the only sack he’s relinquished on the season (Pro Football Focus erroneously doesn’t attribute it to Martin, but it was on him) and he had his fourth clean slate of the season (no sacks, hits or hurries allowed). As he develops along with his young line mates, this offense should hum beautifully for a decade as the skill positions change around them.

Anthony Hitchens

Hitchens logged his first meaningful snaps of the season since Week 5, filling in for Justin Durant who is out after successful surgery to repair a torn biceps. Hitchens played ahead of Bruce Carter, both in base and the nickel defense, which was a bit of a surprise. He didn’t disappoint. While his pass coverage was a little iffy, he was a monster on run plays, recording five defensive stops and not missing a single tackle.

The fourth-round pick out of Iowa not only looks like he belongs, but looks like he might become a fixture. It appears that Dallas will look to retain Rolando McClain after the season, but Durant and Carter are both free agents as well. If Hitchens shows the stage isn’t too big, Dallas might be inclined to let both test the market, and plan on filling in the depth behing he, McClain and Sean Lee with cheaper solutions.

Tyler Patmon

The UDFA opened the scoring of the game by intercepting Carson Palmer and returning the pick 56 yards to the house. Patmon of course gained notoriety throughout training camp and the preseason as a player to be watched. Monte Kiffin even compared him to a young Ronde Barber in the Tampa 2 scheme. Patmon hit the radar of the casual fan during the preseason when he anticipated a screen pass to a running back, broke on the ball and took that interception to the house, too.

Dallas is bringing Patmon along very slowly, waiting until Week 6 to activate him from the practice squad. He’s only logged 23 snaps over the course of the season but he has not been attacked and is warranting more opportunities to prove himself.

THE BAD

Brandon Carr

There have been a few stretches over the last three seasons where Brandon Carr has looked like a player in the upper third of the league’s cornerbacks. Sunday was not one of those times. Carr gave up a touchdown to unheralded Cards receiver Jaron (not John) Brown on a play where he was still called for pass interference (his third coverage penalty in two weeks). He also missed three tackles on the day, bringing his total on the season to 9.

Carr has yet to register an interception on the year and hasn’t deflected a pass since Week 6 against Seattle.

Mackenzy Bernadeau

Bernadeau was filling in for Ron Leary who was out with a groin injury. While his pass protection was more than adequate, the loss was felt in the run game. Bernadeau got absolutely no push on far too many runs, allowing the Cardinals to maintain the line of scrimmage.

Dallas ran behind left guard four times for only nine yards on the day. On the fateful fourth and one run, Bernadeau was blown up at the point of attack and pushed into Martin who was trying to pull around and get the left side of the wall established.

Dez Bryant

Yes, the majority of Bryant’s bad day should be placed at the feet of the backup quarterback, but Bryant also dropped two passes and ran some questionable routes. Bryant has had two consecutive weeks of struggle, and one has to consider if a player that seemingly has trouble trusting the people around him is “going through it” a bit with this agent swap.

James Hanna

THE UGLY

Brandon Weeden

This category is unequivocally reserved for one player, quarterback Brandon Weeden. First, let’s make sure we are all aware Weeden did have times in the preseason where he looked more than capable of captaining the ship should Romo miss limited time. Next, let’s remember that Dallas signed Weeden to a deal that costs the team less than the veteran minimum, and he was more of insurance as a camp arm that surprised over the summer and moved into the number two role when the club got Orton’d.

With all that being said, Weeden was Jake-from-State-Farm hideous on Sunday. Questioning his accuracy would mean that you consider his aim as something related to what that word means. He would stare down primary targets, sometimes from the moment the huddle broke.

Scott Linehan and Jason Garrett clearly dumbed down the offensive playbook and it appeared that Weeden wasn’t interested in anything except for getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers, Bryant and Terrance Williams. Unfortunately, he only completed four passes to them on 16 targets, and those weren’t until the fourth quarter.

There were at least four plays where Cole Beasley ran across the middle of the field and Weeden pretended like he didn’t exist. Instead, he’d rather throw the ball to Bryant who was double and sometimes triple covered.

That was when Weeden actually threw the ball beyond the yard-to-go marker. Arizona packs the box to stop the run, and therefore has plenty of guys in coverage if the field isn’t stretched. Yet Weeden was incapable of stretching it. His Yards-In-The-Air percentage over this game and the two Washington series was at 41.7%. That’s the third lowest of anyone that has started a game in 2014, and two of those guys have been replaced by their backups.

Taking away the screen to Dunbar, at one point in the third quarter Weeden was 7 for 16 for 44 yards. It’s laughable to see writers say that Arizona would have had the same success even if Romo had played. Maybe, if he went out on the field with crutches.


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