By Jack Sitt
There was a lot to like about the Cowboys play against the Saints. Jason Witten broke the record for receptions by a tight end in a single season. Dez Bryant had a career day, and Tony Romo had one of his better performances of the season. However, all was erased by the poor play from the Cowboys defense as the Saints took the game 34-31 on a field goal in overtime.
Tony Romo may receive some criticism because the Cowboys lost the game, but Romo did all that he could. He did his part as he threw for 416 yards and 4 touchdowns. He got Dez going as he had a monster game. And he additionally led a sensational 14-point comeback with less then 5 minutes to go in the 4th quarter. He had a nice back shoulder throw to Dwayne Harris to put them down 7 with under 4 minutes to go. Then, he got the ball back with 1:29, and led a 7-play drive that got capped off with a beautiful back shoulder to Miles Austin. People question Romo’s play late in games, but this throw to Austin came on a 4th and 10 with the game on the line.
It should be noted, that these clutch drives came when Romo was running the no huddle. He has really excelled with this offense, so it is a mystery why they don’t run this offense more often. When they went back to their standard offense in overtime, they could not get anything going. However, all factors considered, the Cowboys offense was not the problem. It was the depleted defense that cost them.
Drew Brees dropped back 53 times, but the Cowboys pass rush did not record one sack. Demarcus Ware is the anchor for the pass rush, but was limited by injury. As a result, Drew Brees usually had a clear pocket, and torched the Cowboys defense.
Ware was not the only Cowboy who was injured as the defense had to start its third string middle linebacker. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter were both inactive, and this left the Cowboys without any linebackers to stop Darren Sproles. He made some key plays in the running game and additionally recorded 104 yards receiving.
The Cowboys secondary did not help the cause as they got burned by short timing routes the entire game. The Saints exploited Claiborne as they often beat him with quick slants in key situations. Most memorably, the Jimmy Graham 7 yard slant in overtime on a third down and 3. The Saints probably would have been forced to punt if Claiborne got the stop as they were at the scoring 41-yard line.
The Cowboys continue to be the biggest tease in all of sports. They constantly make comebacks, but then blow the lead late in games. They constantly make a push for the playoffs, but then loose their positioning late in the year. However, thanks to the loss by the Giants, the Cowboys can still win the division with a win over Washington next week.
In order to make a late run, the Cowboys have to run more no huddle because Romo is at his best in that offense. On defense, they wont be able to fix their problems at middle linebacker because Lee and Carter are not coming back, but they still need to get their pass rush going. It additionally wouldn’t hurt to get Claiborne to tighten his coverage.