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Tuesday, September 21, 2010
NFC East Week 2 decisive moment

By Matt Mosley

NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Lots to choose from this week, but I'm going with a decisive moment that turned Sunday's game around for the Chicago Bears and allowed offensive coordinator Mike Martz to plant seeds of doubt in coach Wade Phillips' mind. Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter, the Bears were finally on the move. On the first three series, quarterback Jay Cutler had been battered behind an offensive line that had already lost left tackle Chris Williams to injury.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips dialed up a blitz with "zero" coverage that did not feature his usual free safety help in the middle of the field. Martz, who had already told Cutler to stop worrying about seven-step drops that took too long to develop, called for an empty backfield with four wide receivers and a tight end. Safety Alan Ball lined up across from tight end Greg Olsen, who would soon end up with a 39-yard touchdown to give the Bears a 10-7 lead.

Cowboys inside linebackers Bradie James and Keith Brooking bunched together and showed blitz up the middle. James would later tell ESPN 103.3 that he called a "check" that not everyone heard. Brooking held up on the blitz at the last second, but it was too late because Olsen came free across the middle. Since Ball was the player chasing Olsen, some of us assumed it was his fault. But Phillips said that Olsen wasn't Ball's responsibility. In his weekly Scout's Eye report for ESPNDallas.com, former Cowboys and Eagles scout Bryan Broaddus points out that James is normally quite vocal with his calls. Why wouldn't he have been more demonstrative in that situation?

It was a decisive moment in Sunday's game because it caused Phillips to back off some of the aggressive blitzes that allowed him to bother Cutler early in the game. The Cowboys did a nice job against the Bears on third downs (1-of-11), but they simply gave up too many big plays on the other downs. Martz made a really nice adjustment and the Cowboys didn't respond.