Friday, November 29, 2013
Upon Further Review: Cowboys Week 13
By Todd Archer
ARLINGTON, Texas -- A review of four hot issues from the Dallas Cowboys' 31-24 win against the Oakland Raiders at AT&T Stadium.
Where's the pressure?: For just the second time this season, the Cowboys did not record a quarterback sack. The only other time it happened came against Denver Broncos signal-caller Peyton Manning. Matt McGloin isn't Manning, but he was getting rid of the ball quickly, and that made it difficult for DeMarcus Ware or Jason Hatcher to get to him. With Jay Cutler (possibly), Aaron Rodgers (possibly), Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles left on the schedule, the Cowboys have to hope this is not the start of a trend.
Missing Dwayne Harris: Things started poorly when Terrance Williams fumbled the opening kickoff and Oakland returned it for a touchdown. The punt return game was only OK with Cole Beasley handling the job. Harris, who did not play because of a hamstring strain, is among the best returners in the NFL and has had a knack for big returns at big times. Beasley has the quickness necessary, but he does not possess Harris' strength to break through tackles. Williams has the speed, but he did not show Harris' vision on kick returns. The Cowboys also missed Harris' coverage skills as a gunner.
Good coaching: DeMarco Murray is the Cowboys' lead runner. That should not be in doubt, but offensive coordinator Bill Callahan should be credited for sticking with Lance Dunbar in the third quarter. The Cowboys found something that was working and kept hitting it. With the field spread with the Cowboys using three wide receivers, Dunbar's quickness kept the Raiders off guard. Dunbar's longest run -- a 45-yarder -- came out of 11 personnel. If Dunbar can stay healthy, he will give the Cowboys a good change-of-pace back down the stretch to complement Murray.
Protect the ball: Dez Bryant could not blame his second-quarter fumble on cold weather like he did his fumble last week against the New York Giants. The Cowboys have had conversations with Bryant about being more willing to go down instead of fighting for extra yards, because he has not always secured the ball. That wasn't the case Thursday, but Bryant has to be careful, and the Cowboys have to be careful it doesn't take some of his aggression away. Facing second-and-15 in the fourth quarter, Bryant fought off three tacklers and gained 14 yards to make a third-down conversion much easier.