Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  By BOB STURM  |  Last updated 10/4/13
I wanted to start off today's mailbag bybasically addressing more about what I have written and discussed this week onthe blog and on the radio about the evolution of Tony Romo and Jason Garrett.If you want a brief recap of what I have been talking about, read the firstsection of this week's Decoding Callahan piece and itwill give you a brief idea of the premise. It basically goes likethis. Once upon a time, Tony Romo was a "gunslinger" and aplaymaker which made him a real strength to the Cowboys. Also, onceupon a time, he had Jason Garrett who seemed intent on figuring out ways topush Romo's ability down the field and to attack the defenses on a regularbasis. But, something changed. Yes, they still accumulatethe yards and the points, but I have felt that in the second act of theirrelationship (since 2010, or so) that the offense has underachieved -especially felt in games that are not played at home. It seems that the gunslinging and aggressiveposture of RomoGarrett has diminished from "attack" to "let'snot do anything detrimental and try to win this game, 17-14." I realizethat is simplistic, but I cannot watch games like Sunday and feel that theCowboys are trying to do anything but survive and satisfy their new-found riskaversion. Is it the broken collarbone? Is it Garrett feelingthe added pressure of the head coach spot? Is it a result of Romobeing blamed nationally for every Cowboys' shortcoming? Is the answera combination of it all? And in the end, does the reason reallymatter? They just appear that they enter the game with a posture of conservatism thatfocuses on avoiding bad plays rather than looking for good ones. Ithink this has held them back badly, and I believe the infographic belowdemonstrates the point. Well done, Skyler on infographic. Look at the stretch from 2007-2009to see the two showing a relatively flat and consistent performance at home andon the road. They had issues as a football team back then, but theyhad the same personality no matter where they played. They attackedthe Bears at Soldier Field and the Packers at Lambeau and the Saints in theSuperdome. They marched into those places and had a swagger and aposture that said they were leaving with a win. Now,look at the homeroad splits since Garrett has been named the head coach andRomo was hurt in 2010. In only 2 more games, they have actuallybettered their home performances, while only almost never playing well on theroad. Of the 26 road games since 2010, the Cowboyshave had 4 games on the road of 400 yards. At the New York Giants inGarrett's debut (with Kitna), the 2011 game at San Francisco, the 2012 openerat the Giants again, and the 2012 trip to Baltimore. 4!During the same stretch with the same team, they have performed thatfeat 16 times at home. Do other teams with topoffenses and 100m QBs have this discrepancy? No. NewOrleans has 15 at home, 16 on the road. Green Bay has 9 at home and 9on the road. New England has 13 at home, 15 on the road.The Giants have 9 at home, 7 on the road. Atlanta has 8 athome and 7 on the road. There are almost no differences among theother "good" offenses during 2010-2013. But the Cowboys are16 to 4. It is tough to identify why they don't seethis and address it, but I can't sit on the feeling anymore. Theysimply call a different game when they feel like the stakes are higher on the road.The game feels different from the opening kickoff and they end upbeing a self-fulfilling prophecy; play for 17, and end up near 17every time. The good news is that this Sunday they areat home and likely have believed all week that they only way to deal withDenver is to score 35 points. I expect the Cowboys offense to throwevery trick in the book out there to manufacture offense because they know 17won't win. They will throw deep passes and play with their aggressivemeter maxed. But, that might only serve to frustrate those whobelieve, as I do, that they have 2 different play books, based on the QB andthe HC deciding when they can play carefully or aggressively. ===== Time for a few emails - this firstone is in reference to the Gates TD play that we studied yesterday in our Xs and Ospost: Bob, I can't understand why the bust is on Churchand why Claiborne could be responsible for a zone with two receivers. Don't youthink the real bust is on Scandrick to leave the slot receiver too soon causingChurch'shelp?Many thanks for yourreplyRoby from MilanoRoby- It boils down to this - that I might not have properlybroken down yesterday. Scandrick (2nd from top) is taking the shallowman and Claiborne (at the top) the deeper threat. So, if you look atthat play again, you can see that Scandrick is switching to the outside man andClaiborne is switching to the slot guy near the end of the play.Check out the video below and see if you can see that here: So, the coachingstaff is asking Church to stay high and in the middle and not to drift to helpa guy who they still feel is covered. Because, if he does go up thereto help, then Rivers and Gates can attack them down the seam which is exactlywhat happened. I agree that it looks like Scandrick released tooeasily, but he actually was following the scheme. ===== Sturm, Please tell me what isgoing on with Bruce Carter and that he is not a bust. This is not theguy that we were told was perfect for this defense. Should I panic? Bill I share your concern for sure, Bill. Carter was never sold asanything short of a solution to the problems on this defense and that while thesafeties and defensive line might have to be worked on, Carter and Lee will bethe strength that we build around. Now, through 4weeks, we have seen that Carter and Lee are fine when the opponent runs, butboth are being attacked in coverage - whether in zone or man coverages - andthat is a real issue when this league has proven that passing is increasing andrunning is decreasing every year. The object hasalways been to find "3 Down LBs" and those are the players you investin (with a high draft pick and a big contract) and linebackers who can onlyplay situational defense must be signed with caution. So, it is not uncommon for a team to have special "nickel LBs" whoreplace the normal starters as it appears Ernie Sims is doing to Bruce Carter.But, that leads us to worrying that if this continues, then it issimple to avoid Bruce Carter if you are the opponent. Just bring on"11 Personnel" and then, Carter is on the sideline. It isthat simple. Nickel used to mean 3rd Downs and maybethe 2-minute drill. But, on Sunday, the Chargers almost ran S11 orS12 the entire game. The Cowboys tried to leave Carter on in the 1sthalf and then had him chased off by Danny Woodhead in exchange for Ernie Simsto try. Now, we can hope that this is a matchup issue that doesn'texist more than a time or two a season, but if not, then we have a majorproblem. Denver will be in that same personnel andCarter might not play much this week. Green Bay, Philadelphia, NewYork, New Orleans, and others will do the exact same thing. Beforelong, you are seeing Carter is not worth a heavy investment if he cannot playagainst 3 WR offenses. I am sure we are jumping the gun here, butthis is a story I am really looking at with a serious amount of concern. ===== Bob, could you explain to me why the Houston Texans had TrindonHolliday and didn't realize what they had? How could a team allowJacoby Jones and Holiday both to walk within a few months of each-other and notbe on top of that? David in CollegeStation I swear, this is one of the greatmysteries, for me. I cannot believe how electric a return man that Holliday(with the fantastic nickname, Short Dog) has been for Denver, but remember thathe had multiple kick returns for TDs in Houston in the 2012 preseason alone.I heard he frustrated the people in Houston with poor judgement onwhen to field a punt and when not to - and they had been burned by Jones havinga similar issue with game decisions. So, they didn't want anotherreturn man who was anything but safe. Of course, as we have said, ifyou play for safe, that is what you get. It sure seems like throwingthe baby out with the bathwater to me. He is anamazing return man and a 6th round pick in Houston out of LSU. Icannot think of a more terrifying return man in the NFL right now and a perfectset up man for all of Peyton Manning's drives. I don't have a good theory hereas to why Houston didn't keep him around, but after seeing him almost win aplayoff game by himself last season, it gives you just another reason to likeDenver to be in the Super Bowl. Here is his fine workfor anyone who doesn't know who the shortest man in the NFL is at5'5": ===== And finally, the skinny on this matchup from a historicaland maniacal perspective, courtesy of Mark Lane - to see 10 times this many, check out his fullcolumn here: -The Dallas Cowboys have not defeated the Denver Broncossince 91095 when Dallas beat Denver 31-21 in Texas Stadium. -Ithas been 18 seasons since the Dallas Cowboys have last defeated the DenverBroncos, which is the current longest drought against an opponent, includingthe Ravens, who the Cowboys have never beaten. -The Denver Broncosvanquished the Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium in 2001 and 2005. The Broncosare tied with the Bears, Lions, and Chargers for second-most unansweredvictories in Dallas. The Saints lead this category with 4. -TheDallas Cowboys are 0-2 against the Broncos in October. However, both of thoseencounters occurred in Denver. -Denver is one of six teams theCowboys have faced in the Super Bowl. They are also one of two teams to have awinning record against the Cowboys in regular season play despite losing tothem in the Super Bowl (6-4). The Miami Dolphins are the other team (7-5). -The Denver Broncos 4-game winning streak against the Dallas Cowboys isthe best in the series. The Cowboys largest winning streak against Denver wasthree games from 1973-77, one game of which was Super Bowl XII. -Starting in October, the NFL adorns team uniforms with pink accessoriesto raise awareness for breast cancer. Since this campaign started in 2009, theDallas Cowboys are 4-11 in the month of October while the Broncos are7-8. -The Dallas Cowboys first game wherein they wore pink forbreast cancer awareness was a 10-17 loss in Denver in 2009. -At homewearing attire to honor breast cancer awareness, the Dallas Cowboys are2-6. -In order for Peyton Manning to reclaim the record for mosttouchdowns in a single season with 51, he must throw a minimum of 3 touchdownsfor every game to the seasons end. -The lowest interception totalPeyton Manning has for a season is 9, set in 2006 when he began the year withan interception. -Peyton Manning leads the league in fewestinterceptions thrown with zero, tied only with Jake Locker who did so through3.5 games. Meanwhile, Eli Manning leads the league in interceptions with9. -The last time the Dallas Cowboys faced the Denver Broncos, KyleOrton, Dallas backup, was Denvers starting quarterback. An instance like thishas never occurred in Cowboys history. -The first time the DallasCowboys faced John Fox was on 101302 and defeated his Carolina Panthers 14-13in Texas Stadium. Enjoythe game and your weekend. We will see you back here on Monday.
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