Beat Writers Recap: Cowboys-Dolphins

November, 29, 2011
11/29/11
1:22
PM ET
We've reviewed the Cowboys-Dolphins game on Thanksgiving Day and provide you with our weekly Beat Writers Recap.

Have fun.

1. The biggest thing we noticed in this game was the tackling of the Miami Dolphins against the run. This team doesn't miss many tackles especially in the open field, which limits the big play abilities of DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. If you look at Murray's numbers, 22 carries for 87 yards, it looks like a productive day, which it was, but there were no multiple big runs, there was that 18 yard burst but that's it.

2. Anthony Spencer is having a nice season. He's doing a good job of holding up tackles and tight ends at the point of attack on run plays and when he does rush he pushes the pocket. The primary rusher is DeMarcus Ware, as it should be, but we'd like to see him rush with Spencer at the same time more often. Spencer's numbers from Thursday: Eight tackles, three tackles for loss and pass breakup. Very nice.

3. The Cowboys do miss Tony Fiammetta at fullback, but there is nothing wrong with John Phillips in his place. Phillips blocks his guy and prevents him from making tackles. Only once, in the last two weeks has Phillips' man made a tackle on a run play. That's more than 50 snaps at fullback for Phillips. Now Phillips is more of a stationary blocker. He keeps the man in front of him, while Fiammetta moves his man out of the way. It takes Murray longer to make a decision under Phillips because he has to choose which direction to run in comparison to Fiammetta who clears the block out of Murray's vision. Still, Phillips has been very good the last two weeks and isn't a liability there. In fact, the last three runs by Murray to clinch the game occurred with Phillips as fullback.

4. When Felix Jones dodged a defender on a 20-yard kick return in the first quarter, it was something that's been missing in the kick return game. The Cowboys returners whether it's Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris or Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, don't make people miss. They just run to a spot and go down. If Jones continues in the kick return role, his ability to elude defenders is pivotal to the success of this unit.

5. Jay Ratliff is a tough man. The nose tackle gets double and triple-teamed on a regular basis. It was interesting to note how the Miami interior linemen where grabbing him. Instead of getting him near the chest area, they grabbed Ratliff by the outside of his shoulder pads forcing him to waste more energy with his arms to break free because he was getting held. On one pass play, Ratliff was blocked by two defenders, and after the pass was thrown, was knocked to the ground by Richie Incognito.

6.We've talked enough about the running of Murray, but he did a nice job of blitz pickup on a completed pass to Dez Bryant in the third quarter. Sometimes it's not about a hard block on the blitz, it's giving the quarterback some time to complete a pass. Murray did just enough to slow a charging Karlos Dansby to give Tony Romo time to land a 16-yard pass to Bryant.

7. Jerry Jones didn't like the illegal contact call on Abram Elam in the fourth quarter that wiped out a third down sack by Ware. It was a weak call on Elam, who did get his hands on Anthony Fasano briefly. But Frank Walker's penalty, unnecessary roughness, on the same drive, was senseless. Walker has to be mindful of where the sidelines are when he's tackling someone.

8. Should the Cowboys return Mat McBriar as the holder? He's going to take some snaps at it this week. Dan Bailey has done a nice job with Tony Romo there. But Romo and McBriar don't like doing it. That's fine, they're taking one for the team in a sense. The Cowboys should really have backup quarterback Stephen McGee as the holder.

9. Secondary has been inconsistent the last two weeks. Against the Washington Redskins, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the secondary was too loose and he wanted them to be more physical against the Dolphins. We thought they were, but it didn't work on a consistent basis.

10. Keep this in mind about the last five possessions for the Miami offense: Three field goals, one touchdown and a punt. Not a good way to finish a game for the Cowboys defense going into Sunday's clash vs. Arizona.
Calvin Watkins covers the Houston Rockets and the NBA for ESPN.com. He joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers as well as colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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