Initial random notes on Steelers-Cowboys

• Dwayne Harris is clearly the #3 WR now, and he may even be good enough that the Cowboys don’t really have to worry about the WR position this offseason.  Great “yards after catch” ability.  He gets north-south, and gobbles up yards quickly.  The same can be said of his style as a punt returner.  Really nice role player that contributes big plays.  He had one of the biggest plays of the game when he gained 18 yards on a screen pass, mostly on his own.  That came right after a 13 yard sack on first down.  The change from 2nd and 23 to 3rd an 5 was enormous.  The Cowboys would then convert that 3rd down and later score on the drive.  That probably doesn’t happen without Harris’ nice run after the catch.

• Doug Free!!!  That was his first really good game of the season.  I don’t recall hearing his name called at all, which s perfectly fine.  He’s been a penalty machine all season with 15 of them (that leads the NFL), but he didn’t have any on Sunday.  He also neutralized Lamarr Woodley all day.  Bigtime performance by a guy that has had a terrible season.  On the penalty front, Tyron Smith had 2 on Sunday.  He now has 11.

• “HEEEEEAAAAAATH!” Bad job, Cowboys fans.

• Here’s what I wrote about Brandon Carr a few weeks ago:

Before the season began, I’d be a liar if I were to claim I knew a lot about Brandon Carr.  It’s not like I had seen a lot of Chiefs games.  In the preseason, I thought Carr looked great.  But in the games that count, he has not impressed me at all.  Two weeks ago, the Redskins beat him on a back shoulder throw for a TD, although in fairness, it was a perfectly placed ball by RG3.  Last week in Philly the Eagles beat Carr on a fade in the end zone.  Earlier in the season he had an ugly play against the Bears in which Brandon Marshall got so wide open against him for a TD that Jon Gruden thought it was a busted coverage.  It wasn’t.  Carr was just playing so far off Marshall that Marshall was able to run a little slant that was completely uncontested.  It didn’t help that Carr was rubbed off by the Bears’ TE on the play, but even if he hadn’t been, it still would have been a big gain anyway.  Those are just 3 examples that come to mind.

Opposing teams are not afraid of Carr.  He has been targeted 62 times, according to PFF, while rookie Morris Claiborne has been targeted 49 times.  Despite the high number of targets coming his way, Carr has just one INT. That  INT was on a play in which he was beaten on a quick slant, but the ball was thrown way behind the receiver and Carr collected the gift.

The Cowboys desperately needed help in their secondary this past offseason.  They expended their first two draft picks on Morris Claiborne and paid Carr $50.1 million for 5 years.  While the duo is unquestionably better than Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, the Cowboys have not yet gotten good returns on those investments so far.


• Why does Nate Livings keep losing his mouthpiece on big collisions?

• The Steelers’ defense is wildly overrated, as I mentioned in the preview for this game.  They don’t give up a lot of yards, but they are 17th in red zone defense.  They were also without their two starting corners for much of the game, and the Cowboys opted to attack #35, Josh Victorian.  The Cowboys threw at Victorian 9 times, according to PFF, connecting on 7 completions for 88 yards.

• DeMarco Murray had his first fumble of the season as a runner.  He previously had one as a receiver.  That was inside the 5 yard line.  I don’t think it was one of those fumbles where you start to worry about his ball security.  James Harrison really had an opportunity to wind up an punch it out from behind.  Just a really good play by the Steelers.

• The Cowboys are still extremely sloppy at times on offense.  On one series, they had a 3rd and 10.  3 penalties and a timeout later, they were 3rd and 30.  It’s Week 15.  Those kinds of things should not be happening.

• Antonio Brown… Oof, just a nightmare 4th quarter.

• Another week, another AFC North team that had 1st and 10 from their own 20 with less than a minte left, and a chance to maybe make a play and get in field goal range, but instead opted to take a knee.  I’ll never understand that.  The defense is going to give you 15-20 right off the bat on a quick slant or draw play.  Take it, and then see what happens from there.  Or if the defense gets a quick stop, then take the knee.  Last week it was the Ravens against the Redskins that decided that it wasn’t worth the risk.  Both teams wound up losing in OT.

• I’m not sure if any of the Cowboys’ reporters talked to Jason Garrett about the “almost” decision to try a 60+ yard FG, and whether or not Garrett actually had a purpose for showing FG, or if he just temporarily lost his mind.  I’d love to hear that answer.

• Kudos to the Cowboys.  They have injuries out the wazoo, they’ve managed to just kind of “hang around,” and with two games to go they control their own destiny for the division title.

• In comparison to the other 2 NFC teams vying for the division title, the Cowboys have the 2nd most difficult opponent, in my opinion.  The Skins play in Philly (easiest), the Cowboys host the Saints, and the Giants travel to Baltimore.

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  1. jjeaglerooter says:

    Not nice to call Philly “easy”…….we “stupid” dammit.

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  3. ameero2 says:

    After watching Heath abuse Danny Mccray I shudder to think of the numbers Jimmy graham is gonna put up.

    1. DerfDiggy says:

      Well I’m going to assume that Dan Bailey is either a) Juicing or B) has had a bionic leg surgically installed.

      Because that’s absolutely ridiculous….although as a fan I haven’t seen him practice obviously…and every kick has had plenty of distance(the one he missed was wide left)..So maybe JG trusts him from that range.

      Still ridiculous.

  4. DerfDiggy says:

    -My initial thinking on the 61 yard FG was that they were going to try to draw them offsides(think it was 4th and 2). I just can’t imagine a scenario where JG would even think about trying a 61 yarder with that much time on the clock. Apparently Bailey has shown he can hit it deep in practice, but those aren’t live bullets flying around.

    -Doug Free was actually on PFF”s team of the week. Kudos to him, definitely hope it continues.

    -You’ve given Rob Ryan mucho flacko over the years(as a Def. Coord, he’s not HC worthy..we agree there), and I’ve only slightly disagreed with you. I’m going to go on record and say you need to give that man his props. He has done an amazing job with a mash up unit of players. Amazing…You once used stats to prove how mediocre of a DC he was, think the stats showed he was pretty much middle of the pack every year. What stats don’t account for is situations like this year, where an entire side of the ball is decimated by injuries and he’s still continuously put players in positions to win.

    -The same goes for JG in some respects. He’s done a remarkable job over the past few weeks. He’s got an eye(thus far) for talent, and hope he can continue improving as a coach.

  5. Proxy406 says:

    you would really rather play the Saints then Baltimore?

    I think that’s a minority opinion. Saints have been streaky, but they are clearly dangerous.

    Baltimore is all but impotent at this point.

    1. David_Does_Dallas says:

      I think where they play is a factor. Playing at Baltimore is never a hospitable place, Cowboys will be playing at home, not that it really matters for the Cowboys who are pretty average at home and on the road.

      1. Proxy406 says:

        I geuss that’s fair. Bmore does have a pretty tangible homefield advantage; however Drew Brees v. our decimated unit still feels like the larger hurdle.

        1. poolboy87 says:

          I don’t know…Drew Brees is NEVER fun, but the Cowboys are weakest in their interior defense. The only weapon that the Saints have inside that scares me (admittedly, it scares the ever-living piss outta me) is Jimmy Graham. Not having Bruce Carter/Sean Lee is going to hurt like crazy, but at least Gerald Sensabaugh is around…and DeMarcus Ware is DeMarcus Ware…and Anthony Spencer is playing lights out, which will help.

          Also helpful is that Drew Brees is having a very up-and-down year. He’s leading the league in INTs, if I recall correctly. Then again, B-more just got their teeth kicked in by Denver, so I don’t know who’s scarier.

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