10) The Cowboys' defensive learning curve continues. The Phillips 3-4 surrendered 35 points in the opener, 20 points in Week 2 and just one TD and one field goal in Chicago. Pressure upfront from Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. … and Tank Johnson on his way. Playmaking in the secondary from Anthony Henry (four interceptions and a TD in the last two games). … and a fully-healthy Terence Newman on the way. Yeah, Chicago's receivers lack explosiveness, their O-line has problems with quickness and Rex Grossman sucks. But the Dallas defense was in complete control. … and seems to be completely in synch with what Wade Phillips is trying to teach.
9) Did I mention Rex is horrible? Or does his QB rating of 27.5 say it for me?
8) As a comparison, Tony Romo is something just this side of a phenom. This time, he does it in his home region, in front of a collection of family and old friends, on national TV in prime time, and against the supposed best defense in football.
"We respect the Chicago Bears, we really do,'' said Romo (22 of 35, 329 yards and two TD passes). "We just tried to make some plays.''
Time after time, Romo pulled a David Blaine, levitating over Bears, shape-shifting around Bears, making Bears disappear. After his 13 starts, he's got 3,501 passing yards – one of just three guys in the Super Bowl era to reach that plateau.
As one non-football friend of Romo's told me this weekend: "He's too goofy to know he's not supposed to be this good.''
7) Kick away from Devin Hester? As a full-time strategy? I thought it was ridiculous going in, and the Cowboys proved me right.
Oh, you still directional-kick. You still try to cut the field in half. You still squib when clock-appropriate. But you should no more "Never kick to Devin'' than you should walk Barry Bonds on every at-bat. Walk Bonds EVERY TIME and is on-base-average is .1000.
No, you pick your spots. You cut the field in half. You stay in your lanes. And in the end, you keep Devin Hester from doing anything notable.
6) This is the most points allowed at home by the Bears since 2004. But it didn't look that way at halftime, when the score was tied 3-3. Of course, that's when Princeton grad Jason Garrett gets to take off the headphones and put on his thinking cap. Dallas scored 31 points in the second half here. That means the high-flying Cowboys have scored 30 points in their first halves and 86 points in their second halves. "Half-time adjustments'' – no longer a cliché?
5) But for a handful of miscues – two by the Cowboys, one by the zebras – Dallas might have been dominant in the first half, too. With intermission coming, Romo found a wide-open Patrick Crayton in the end zone for what would have been a momentum-stealing short touchdown. But Crayton let it clank off his hands and body. That set up a chip-shot FG try. … but the Cowboys' interior offensive line allowed Nick Folk's kick to be blocked.
So we're stuck at 3-3, right? Wait. … because with 0:03 left on the clock, Ware sacked Grossman in Chicago territory. It was fourth down, so Dallas should've had one more possession, a chance for Folk to bomb a long-distance try. But inexplicably, the official waved his arm to signal "run the clock'' and time was allowed to expire.
I looked closely, but Tim Donaghy was nowhere in the stadium.
4) John Madden and Al Michaels made quite a point on NBC of how Bears cornerback Charles Tillman had been instructed to "be physical'' with Terrell Owens, to knock him around, to lean on him. What they missed: When T.O. has the desire, nobody "out-physicals'' him.
Tillman was frequently the victim during Owens' big night – a night that featured T.O. slanting over the middle, running routes designed only for the manliest of receivers, and totaling eight for 145. Both season-highs. Phillips and Garrett are not only lining him up at different receiver spots; they even sent him in motion after lining him up in the backfield.
Simply put, this coaching staff is treating T.O. like he's special. And he's responding. … because he IS special.
3) If I wanted to be picky, I'd note that Roy still tries to blast ballcarriers when a simple tackle would do, and I'd bemoan the penalty problem, and I'd kill the refs for the inconsistency in whistling the "horsecollar tackle'' (which in my day was simply called a "tackle''). But the penalty problem was eventually rendered insignificant. And Williams, with a pick and a fumble recovery, did make plays. And the refs don't listen to me anyway. So I guess I don't want to be picky.
2) Chicago's defenders get a lot of pub for being "blue-collar guys.'' But after you play against this Dallas offense, you're not only blue and it's not only your collar. You're black-and-blue, and you feel it all over. The Cowboys O-line is a bullying bunch (do coaches really think it's the offense's best feature?) and between MB3 (102 rushing yards, two TDs) and Jason Witten (six catches, 90 yards and a TD) even the skill guys wear figurative brass knuckles.
1) At this moment, you're a fan of the finest team in the NFL. And being a Cowboys fan, it feels so proper. … because if you're a Cowboys fan, you feel it's, you know, kind of your birthright.
A Top 10 for a Top Team
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