They proved they're willing to do the little things that championship-like teams must do to succeed. Most importantly, this was a true team effort. Tony Romo was off. More so in the first half than the second half, but he was not the Tony Romo most are accustomed to seeing. You know what? That's OK. It's going to happen. It's a long, long season, and it's impossible to be "on" every contest. The important part is the "pick up" factor was there. When the aerial game wasn't clicking, the running game stepped up, and when coupled with an assertive defense, the Cowboys collectively got the job done.
Before moving any further, it has to be stated that Jason Garrett and Brian Stewart did a very nice job of adjusting. Adjusting to the flow of the game. Each coordinator was very astute and attuned to the dynamics of field play. It would be most interesting to see how far they ventured from the scripted game plan. The alteration had to be substantial. The most reassuring factor was the Cowboys playing a very physical game. The Packers came out and popped them in the mouth, a couple of times, but instead of backing down on the road, the Cowboys countered with tremendous physicality. By the end of the game, the Packers were beaten down, physically and mentally. As the MBIII yards continued to mount in the fourth quarter, you could almost hear the Packers' defense gasping for air. The comparisons are always going to be made to the 90's championship teams, but last night was certainly reminiscent of 90's fourth quarter antics. Run the ball... grind clock.
Garrett slowly and frugally is ingratiating Felix Jones into this offense. Each week a little more is implemented and executed. He played the Barber and Jones mix to perfection. If you're a defensive coordinator in this League, you can't rest soundly if the next opponent is the Cowboys. The offense is a multi-faceted producer. Coordinators are picking their spots on how they choose to address the Cowboys' offense. It's the ol' squeezing the garden hose trick. You can stop one, maybe two, elements, but the pressure will mount further down the line, and an explosion is likely to occur. The Packers, from the opening kick, decided that Terrell Owens was going to be limited in this game, and he was. The over-the-top safety was present all night long. Thus, the Cowboys were forced to feature the run and find the singled-up receivers.
Miles Austin's night was personified by his post-game smile and giddiness. He needed the performance, and the organization needed to see him step up. Both entities now have that needed "confidence" factor working. Austin knows he can play at this level, and Garrett and company will be more apt to look his way when teams choose to isolate Owens. It was good to see no lingering effects from the knee injury. When Sam Hurd gets back, this receiver corps should be productive and potent. Like Romo, Patrick Crayton sure stumbled in the contest as well. Fortunately, the support group was in place, and both relied on friends to bail them out!
One of the friends you always want on your side is Marc Colombo. He patrols the field of play like a soldier on look out. If anything starts to rumble, count on #75 being close or playing go-between. It's always comforting to see Colombo watching out for his teammates. Even when Barber is the one involved in a heated discussion, Colombo has his back. Nothing like seeing the big truck step right in the middle of a verbal sparring or pushing match. There aren't too many out there who will argue with the Cowboys' right tackle. Peace maker or bouncer? How about both? Do you think the Bears are kicking themselves for not staying with his rehab and recovery a little longer?
Marc Colombo's line mates are to be applauded as well. They did a tremendous job opening holes for Barber and Jones, and they seemed to keep Romo fairly clean. Plainly stated, the Packers have a very good, active defense. Their line collapses pockets, and their linebackers are very active. Woodson and Harris have always been noteworthy, and the safeties are unknown and highly-underrated. The Cowboys' offensive line had their work cut out for them, and Kyle Kosier's return brought back the continuity factor. They functioned very well as a unit. Unless these eyes failed again, a false start penalty by the front five did not exist. Well done. Well done, indeed.
As good as the offense was when they needed to be, it's the defense that put together a kick-off to final whistle performance. They came to play and did so all night long. Aaron Rodgers was never quite comfortable. It's amazing what preparation will do to a game plan. When Rodgers entered the contest last November, he was virtually an unknown and enjoyed second half success against the Cowboys. Monday night's square off was a different story. The defense really did a great job shutting down all phases of the Green Bay offense. Ryan Grant was not a factor and no Packer receiver "went off." This receiving corps has much more talent and production than the Eagles receivers presented, yet they were held in check most the night. Adam Jones came to play a little football last night. A very good night could have been an excellent night had a punt return broke or a couple of potential interceptions been corralled. Anyone like Jay Ratliff's intensity? Now, there is a seventh round steal.
Straight-line forward rushing turned into second half stunting and pressure. When the Packers backfield was empty, the Cowboys were coming. They made no bones about sending Anthony Henry to flush Rodgers out and down. Great collective effort. The hope is this unit maintains this intensity and shows some type of consistency. The difference between the Philly performance and the efforts against the Packers were night and day. Porous would have been a kind term for the Philly results. Whether it was Wade Phillips, Brian Stewart or both, they found the spigot to shut off. They just need to secure it tightly for every game to follow. Not truly possible in the NFL, but growing together, gaining confidence and establishing consistency is quite possible.
So, why was this non-A game performance so encouraging to see? Quite simply, it's the make-up of the NFC East Division. If anything is crystal clear, barring major injuries, the race for divisional bragging rights will be an all-year affair. This division is rock solid, and it stands to be a blood bath right through the month of December. No, the "P" word is not going to be used or referenced here, but there is no better prep to "get there" than squaring off against division opponents. If there was any flaw to the defensive "bail out the field general" performance, it was the art of tackling. Too many times defenders came without breaking down to properly execute the tackle. Review of the game tape will show this happened way too many times. If the pursuit was not there, this could prove to be costly. Just fundamental football. No doubt this will be stressed in this week's preparation for the slithery Clinton Portis, Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El. Sure tackling will be a must when the Redskins come calling Sunday. Yes, once again, another NFC East battle royale.
Rest assured, #9 will be back in the saddle and riding high. Good teams do the little things to win, even if it means winning ugly. This contest will be looked upon several times during the course of this year. The Cowboys will need to draw from the Green Bay win to pull out contests which await them. As a player or team competitor, there's no better feeling than having your back covered.
Great team win.
Got Your Back
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