In our weekly Beat Writers' recap, we review the Cowboys' dramatic 27-24 victory over the 49ers on Sunday.
*Hate to start off with a negative, but Alan Ball, despite his interception on Sunday which led to a score, is playing tentative. He plays so far off defenders, you wonder if he's told to do that or if that's how he plays. The 49ers targeted Ball several times, including on consecutive third-down plays in the first half. On a third-and-5 from the 26, Ball played what seemed like 50 yards away but in reality was 7 yards off the receiver. In contrast, Mike Jenkins, the other corner, plays head on with the receiver he's covering but sometimes he backs off. Ball allowed Joshua Morgan to make a 12-yard catch. Then on another third down, with Morgan in the slot, Ball gave up a 10-yard play. If Terence Newman returns this week, as expected, it should help the Cowboys in the secondary. Frank Walker, who was signed last week, might play with more confidence and it will be interesting to see if he gets more snaps than Ball on Monday night against Washington. Bryan McCann got zero defensive snaps as Walker moved in.
*Jason Hatcher has played well this season in his new role as the starting right end. His two sacks of Alex Smith in Week 2 were a result of him just taking advantage of the offense. His first sack came when he went untouched, resulting in a 9-yard loss. The second, at the start of the third quarter, led to a 6-yard loss. Hatcher, lined up as a defensive tackle, took a jab step to freeze guard Mike Iupati. Hatcher then juked by him. When Anthony Spencer flushed Smith out of the pocket, Hatcher was there for the sack.
*We're starting to like this Dwayne Harris kid. The rookie from East Carolina returned only two punts for 25 yards Sunday. But it was his 14-yard return from a 63-yard blast from punter Andy Lee that was the most impressive. Harris fielded the punt at the Cowboys' 15. Harris, who didn't seem rattled with the high punt, fielded it cleanly and got his yards down the sidelines. If the Cowboys make some roster moves, don't expect Harris to go anywhere.
*The nice thing about Miles Austin is his patience. Early in the game he had two drops and seemed out of sync with his quarterback, Tony Romo. But Austin and Romo found a groove late in the first half. He made a nice 12-yard reception on the final drive before the 53-yard strike for a score got him in rhythm with his quarterback. The 5-yard touchdown reception from Jon Kitna was a nice route by Austin. He started in motion then ran toward the goal line but sprinted to the corner of the end zone and Kinta made a good throw over two defenders for the touchdown. You can talk about Austin's third score in which he prevented his knees from touching the ground as he dove in, but it's the smaller routes that also make him so good.
*Give Tony Romo and the offensive line credit for handling the 49ers' pressure on the game-tying drive. Romo gets rid of the ball quickly on his first two completed passes to Jesse Holley. The 49ers rushed four the first two plays and sent five on an incomplete pass to Jason Witten. But they sent seven on a third-and-6 from the 43, enabling Romo to get the pass off to Austin for 7 yards. One of the strangest things during this drive was the fumble by Austin. After the ball came loose, 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock was just standing there with the ball on the ground. He didn't see it and we're not sure if anybody yelled fumble, but Doug Free did a good job of recovering the ball -- probably the play of the game.