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Upon Further Review: Signals, signals, signals

12/15/2014

The Dallas Cowboys had a commanding lead, lost it, and then regained it to beat the Philadelphia Eagles 38-27 on Sunday night at Lincoln Financial Field.

With that we have our weekly Upon Further Review of the game.

1. Football coaches and players can make the game sound so complicated when really it is as simple as driving down the highway. Sunday night, Tony Romo and Dez Bryant made a complex game look simple with a few hand signals and head gestures. Romo threw three touchdown passes to Bryant in single coverage affirming an incredible chemistry between the two men. With everything that goes on the field, Romo gave Bryant a simple thumbs up confirming what the fellow receiver saw. There was no safety help for Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher, meaning Romo had Bryant one-on-one for a deep pass. Bryant caught his three touchdown passes from Romo in single coverage. Sometimes when the pair sees this alignment, the original route changes. Instead of say a slant, the Cowboys most likely send Bryant down the field on an in-cut, fade or go route. The pair works on their hand and head gestures during the offseason. If a safety sneaks toward the line of scrimmage or aligns himself on the other side of the field, Bryant might point at the corner or Romo might nod or give a thumbs up saying go deep. When it happens, magic occurs, which is what happened Sunday night.

2. The two best defensive linemen for the Cowboys all season are free agent pickup Jeremy Mincey and 2012 third-round pick Tyrone Crawford. Each had two sacks and combined for five tackles in the victory. One of the biggest disappointments for the Cowboys defense has been Brandon Carr and Henry Melton. The Cowboys can’t do anything about Carr in the secondary because his replacement doesn’t reside on the 53-man roster. Melton, who was expected to start at defensive tackle, is coming off the bench because of Crawford's play. The Cowboys’ coaches and scouts were excited about Crawford’s return from a torn Achilles in the offseason. It gave you pause about the excitement because how could one player create so an expectation with such limited playing time. Well, Crawford isn’t losing the starting job anytime soon and when teamed with Mincey, who has gotten a fresh start after bouncing around a few teams following some time with Jacksonville, makes for a strong pair. The pass rush still struggles, but when the Eagles were trailing in the fourth quarter it seemed Mincey and Crawford raised their games.

3. The Cowboys have been trying to get rid of right tackle Doug Free for about two years now. They forced him to take a pay cut or get released a few years ago and they had his replacement on the roster in Jeremy Parnell. Free suffered a severe ankle injury in the victory over the Eagles allowing Parnell to receive significant snaps at right tackle. Parnell was a little slow off the ball at times but when the game progressed he improved. It took a while for him to get his footwork in order and he didn’t play a bad game. The longer Free is out, and this is the second time this season he’s suffered an injury, the more opportunities Parnell has to take the job. Free and Parnell each become free agents when the season ends. While the Cowboys have expertly rebuilt the offensive line, it will be interesting to see if drafting a tackle in the early rounds becomes important given the defensive deficiencies. While the Cowboys are fighting to maintain first place in the NFC East, the future at right tackle is also another battle.