- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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The last beat writers recap of the 2011 season is here. We know you're excited.
Here we go.
*The Cowboys made an interesting decision to make cornerback Frank Walker inactive for the Giants game. With Walker out it meant the Cowboys stayed with Orlando Scandrick, Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman and Alan Ball as the only corners. When Jenkins went down with his shoulder injury, it reduced the number of corners available to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. The move to sit Walker was to give Ball extended playing time. The Cowboys want to see if he can be a third corner in the future. He failed to recover a fumble and was flagged for a pass interference. Ball ended the game with three tackles. He struggled in pass coverage and raised more issues about the secondary going into the offseason.
*It's easy to say Doug Free needs to switch from left tackle to right tackle. He's going to face elite pass rushers on the right side as well. But there were times this season, and especially in the Giants game, where he didn't seem strong enough to contain the pass rush. Free might need more of the offseason program than anybody on the offensive line. It's not so much to gain weight, he's listed at 323 pounds, but to pick up strength in the upper body.
*Tony Romo said he got a pain injection for his throwing hand that was swollen on the top near the wrist. But after Romo got his shot, prior to kickoff, his hand was numb and had trouble feeling the ball in warmups. Romo missed wide receiver Dez Bryant, who ran the correct route on a third-and-four during the first possession. Romo didn't have a good grip on the ball, and we wonder if that's due to his hand having issues or he just messed up. Romo threw maybe two bad passes the entire game, the pick over the middle in the second half was bad, but not every throw is going to be perfect.
*Jason Hatcher had one of his better games on Sunday night. The line for Hatcher: Three tackles, half a sack and two quarterback hurries. Hatcher seemed to play faster this year and with more power. He emerged as the best defensive end on the team and when you think about the players who were signed after the lockout, his was the best move.
*In what might be their last game together, inside linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking combined for eight tackles, two tackles for loss and one pass breakup. ... Good to see Bruce Carter get some first half snaps with the first-team. It's a sign of things to come. ... Whatever the Cowboys do in 2012, they need to find a returner in the punting and kicking games. Dwayne Harris, Dez Bryant whoever. It doesn't matter, but the team needs to find somebody to do it and develop into this area. ... Romo was sacked six times on Sunday night. He seemed skittish in the pocket and that's not good sign with the season on the line. ... Punter Chris Jones had a net average of 38.8 with two inside the 20, really three if not for Ball's mistake of downing one at the four after he was penalized for stepping out of bounds on the return. ... The Cowboys finished the game with zero interceptions and two missed chances at loose balls. Sad.