IRVING, Texas – You see Dez Bryant's punt return for 44 yards to the Tampa Bay 6. You see Dan Bailey make all three field goal tries and have three touchbacks. You see Chris Jones have a 40.8-yard net average on punts.
You think the Cowboys’ special teams had a rebound effort against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
In a way they did, but they also got a little lucky.
Lucky that they did not have a punt blocked for the second straight week. Dekoda Watson should have blocked Jones’ second-quarter punt after breaking through the line without being touched. Instead, Watson was flagged for roughing the punter and the Cowboys ended up kicking a field goal for a 10-7 lead.
On the play, personal protector Phillip Tanner moved wide to the right next to Barry Church. The Cowboys had three blockers on four rushers. Dan Connor blocked the guy in front of him. Church blocked the guy in front of him. Unfortunately, that left Watson alone. Was Tanner supposed to move wide like that? Were Connor and or Church supposed to pick up different rushers? Was Orie Lemon supposed to block to his right?
It will be called a miscommunication one some level, but they can’t keep having these failures to communicate.
“We’ve got to make sure we get that cleaned up,” coach Jason Garrett said after the game.
The Cowboys were a little fortunate on Bryant’s return, too. Tampa Bay should have considered taking a safety with 4:59 to play while trailing 13-7. Punter Michael Koenen had little chance to get the ball deep and high enough, and the coverage team had to stay solid. That meant the Bucs could not get to Bryant as quickly as they would have liked. The result was a big return, but had the Bucs taken a safety the score would still have been within one possession and the defense could have gotten a stop, especially with the way the Dallas offense was playing.
Some might criticize the Cowboys' onside kick attempt in the second quarter, but the play was there. Tampa Bay had two players lined up outside the hash marks and lined up at the 50. Dan Bailey just pushed it too far, giving the Bucs an easy recovery.
“We were looking for the opportunity to do it because of how they were aligned,” Garrett said. “We felt like it was there. It was there maybe even more so (Sunday) than we saw going into the game, so we felt like it was the right time to do it. Our defense was playing well. What you are trying to do in that situation is be aggressive and steal a possession. At the same time, you are injecting some confidence into the defense and saying, ‘Hey, we can do this,’ and if it doesn’t work out you’re going to make a stop, and sure enough they did.”