Re-Focused: Week 3, Cowboys at Texans

| October 1, 2010

It was going to happen eventually. Dallas cut out the mistakes and showed everyone the team it can be, and why it remains one of the favorites for the Super Bowl.

It was going to happen eventually. Houston’s offense wasn’t going to be able to prop up a very leaky defense forever, and that is why it remains a darkhorse for the Super Bowl.

This game was as much about preseason expectations being restored as anything else. One team leaves with confidence, the other needing to quickly address some concerns before they bring down their season.

Cowboys: Three performances of note

It was a mixed day for the Dallas receivers. The normally exceptional Miles Austin (-1.6) had a costly holding penalty that took back a big run play and dropped a pass as he took a backseat to both Roy Williams (+1.7 receiving) and rookie Dez Bryant (+1.4). Williams got most of the media attention after the game after picking up two touchdowns on six balls thrown his way, but Bryant was just as impressive as both men victimized Brice McClain.

That’s more like the Jay Ratliff (+4.3) we’re used to seeing. He collapsed the pocket numerous times with four quarterback pressures and batted a pass down at the line of scrimmage. It was a complete performance with Ratliff at his penetrating best, getting off blockers and finishing the day with three defensive stops as the up until now excellent Chris Myers struggled to cope with him.

One player who had a hard time was RT Marc Colombo (-3.8). While Doug Free (+1.7) giving up just one pressure is a real signal of intent on his talents, it was disappointing to see Colombo give up three quarterback hits and a further two pressures. As the season progresses we’ll look for a healthier Colombo to play better.

Texans: Three performances of note

It was a tough day for Matt Schaub (+1.6). Faced with a pressure on 11 dropbacks, he struggled to get rid of the ball quickly which resulted in four sacks, two of which were more than avoidable. Clearly rattled by the pressure, Schaub only threw one ball more than 20 yards down the field (which was intercepted) and only eight others of more than 10 yards. We’d look at this as more than the exception than the rule, as Schaub followed up bad performances last year with strong showings.

Even though the rest of the defense struggled, it was still a good day for DRE Mario Williams (+2.5) even if he didn’t register a sack. He did most of his good work from the left side in registering three quarterback hits and two quarterback pressures as he took Sunday to get better acquainted with Tony Romo. We were impressed with Williams last year, but he just seems more to be more disruptive in the opening stages of this year.

While Romo stayed away from Glover Quin (four throws in his direction for 8 yards), it was open season on both McClain (-2.6 coverage rating) and rookie Kareem Jackson (-2.5 coverage rating). Clearly the Texans have some issues in the secondary, and it would appear that right now neither man is up to the task of solving them. They combined to give up 172 yards and two touchdowns from 12 balls thrown in their direction, and there’s nothing to suggest more teams won’t continue to exploit this weakness.

Rookie report

For Dallas, as mentioned it was a good day for Bryant, but Chris Gronkowski (-0.7 run blocking) still looks a long way from upgrading the fullback spot. … Rookie nose tackle Josh Brent (+1.5) was stout in run defense and already looks a good addition to the defensive line rotation. … In the secondary, Barry Church came in for a goal-line stand and was joined by Danny McCray in garbage time. McCray picked up a controversial interception (as will be discussed below) and Church made an impressive defensive stop. On special teams Akwasi Owusu-Ansah looked better returning kicks than punts.

We’ve discussed the struggles Jackson had in the Texans’ secondary, while fellow rookie Sherrick McManis came on for two plays in dime duty. … Second-round pick Earl Mitchell (+0.4) is seeing increased playing time at DT and looked better in run defense despite notching a quarterback pressure.

Random note

Check the Texans’ last offensive play and you decide if Keith Brooking got off the field in time. Clearly not. In a meaningless game it doesn’t change the outcome but how much of an impact on the perception of Schaub could an extra interception have?…  Marion Barber was on the field for 51.16 percent of all Dallas plays (including penalties). That’s 18.9 percent more than Felix Jones.

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