Damned if you do and damned if you don't. (Note: "damn" – is a word in the Bible – nothing to censor).
First things first.
Run the Damn ball. Duh. Is this Remedial Football 101. 99% of the board or more said it. All the local media said it. Maybe by running it this last game – against a Top 10 run defense – it showed Rod FINALLY recognized that HE's the Coach – the HEAD Coach – of the team … the ENTIRE team. Maybe. We'll see.
Next – don't let T.O. beat you. I'm sure that was a big issue – and by golly – we smothered him.
Unfortunately – remember early in the year when we faced teams with just 1 or 2 good weapons? Some of us warned: beware when we face teams with 3 or more good weapons. And – alas – if you bend over backwards to take away T.O. – you are probably opening up enhanced opportunities for others.
Witten. Certainly a major weapon … but what are you going to do? So Witten – who'd never had more than 10 catches in a game … had an amazing 15. Why? We really didn't bother covering him or even disrupting him coming off the LOS. Now – some of us think you SHOULD still be able to cover him some and disrupt him some … even while working to stop T.O. – but for whatever reason … we didn't. Remember Proehl in Carolina? Weinke just kept throwing it to him – as we just kept not covering him. In the end … we died then and we died Sunday.
Still – a good game.
In some ways.
Not finishing drives – you knew it'd kill us … and it did.
Not being able to convert in short yardage situations. Even when Mulitalo, Peterman, and Raiola were having notable success blocking in the middle of the field in non-short yardage situations … they were mincemeat when … push came to shove. I remember seeing Peterman just get pushed backward to the ground – just as an example. That's not what you're expecting to get.
I'm sure a good many issues have been discussed the last 36 hours. I'll check them in a bit. What I'd like to spend the rest of THIS post on is … coaching. Specifically, the final 5 minutes.
The message. KEEP THE CLOCK RUNNING. Nice short instruction. From Martz. From Joe. From … … … … … ROD.
The message to the OFFENSE: Don't run out of bounds and don't commit penalties and don't …. throw an incompletion. The CLOCK is the crucial element here. Take … a sack if you must. Or scramble toward the LOS and get what you can. We NEED to get them to use the time out or to squander … 40 seconds or so.
The message to the DEFENSE: Don't let them get … out of bounds. I remember in a previous game how the announcers said the Lions were going to have trouble in the final minutes as they wouldn't be able to get the ball to the outside. They'd have to go to the middle of the field and hope to escape to the sideline. Well, duh – that's what we needed to do to the Cowboys offense.
Now perhaps the coaching staff was as clear and adamant as I'm saying they needed to be. This ain't hindsight folks – I was screaming at the tv screen before we failed to follow the simple instructions.
2nd and 7 with 4:08 remaining. Kitna incomplete to McD. 6 seconds go off the clock instead of 42. 3rd and 9 – 2:26 remaining … Dallas out of timeouts. Kitna incomplete to McD. 5 seconds instead of 26 seconds used up. My memory is that one or both of these passes were essentially throwaways – intended incompletions. Why – why – why? Just sit down, Kitna. Or run for whatever you can get. In this instance – throwing it away to avoid a sack … is the WRONG choice! Dallas fit 6 plays into the time – the extra time – that we gave them for their offense.
The announcers said how Rod heavily drills these guys on how to play in the final minutes. Every practice. Well – then either they don't learn (meaning Kitna and others) or … the coaches just are stupid and don't teach the right things. (How presumptuous of me to say nasty things about the staff -- so be it).
Travis Fisher. Tackle the receiver – and tackle him in bounds. Please. Witten has qualities, but being elusive isn't one of them. Whiff. Now – this isn't a 40 second situation – but it is a good 10-15 seconds (the opposing offense can rush things a bit). Then the 16 yard out pattern to Hurd. Nice play by them – but we needed to be in outside position -- take it away entirely. And Barber made his way to the sideline on a later play. 4 times they got to complete passes and get out of bounds. 10 plays in the final 2 minutes – with no timeouts. Folks – that doesn't happen. Not to a competent or competently coached team.
It's great that we could stay with a very good team. It's great that we ran the ball well. It's great that we were pretty productive passing even without Roy . It's great that we smothered T.O. It's great that we won the turnover battle (yes – I know about the one that got away). But – ummm – we LOST. And we shouldn't have.
I'm sure some are blaming the refs. I'm sure some are blaming the failure to fall on the fumble. But while those complaints are certainly valid or worthwhile to mention – I think we failed … to play intelligent football in the final four minutes. There was plenty of opportunity for the coaching staff to get the message through – so I tend to blame … THEM.
I'll read your comments and those by local media shortly … but those are my initial thoughts. (Editor's note: AtticusSpeaks shares his morning-after thoughts on The Den message board (the official forum of RoarReport.com). This will now become a weekly 'blog' on the front page of the web site. To interact on the message board with Atticus and others, proceed to The Den.)