ReFo: Cowboys @ Bengals, Week 14
In tough circumstances (both on and off the field), the Dallas Cowboys picked up a big come-from-behind win that keeps them right in the hunt for the NFC East crown. It wasn’t always pretty, and they rode their luck a fair bit, but they made plays when it mattered and did an excellent job of limiting the Cincinnati Bengals to field goals while the Cowboys were on the ropes.
For Cincinnati, this is a game that they’ll look back on and think what could have been. Dropped interceptions and red-zone woes blighted a performance where they should conceivably have had this wrapped up long before Dan Bailey attempted his game-winning kick.
Let’s look at the most notable performances.
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
While DeMarcus Ware plays hurt and Jay Ratliff sits out injured, the Dallas defense needs guys to step up. One of them who is (and has been all year) is Anthony Spencer (+4.3). Intent on proving good value for the franchise tag applied to him, Spencer is having the kind of year that will get a lot of teams looking in his direction. It was fitting that with 4:40 to go in the game he made the crucial play, beating rookie guard Kevin Zeitler on his inside shoulder for a sack that forced a punt from the Bengals.
That said, it was his work in the run game that really stood out. Matched up with Jermaine Gresham on the majority of plays he worked the Bengals’ tight end over and walked away with eight tackles, with six of them coming in the run game for defensive stops. Beating him inside and out, nothing highlighted his dominance like with 13:27 to go in the second as he went around Gresham as if he wasn’t there to make a tackle for a 1-yard gain. Fine day.
Rough Ride For Romo
Ultimately all that matters to fans is that their team wins. However, after a fine performance against Philadelphia it has to be a concern how careless Tony Romo (-3.9) was with the football in the face of some fierce pressure from the Cincinnati defensive line. In total 50% of Romos’ drop-backs were spent facing pressure, and the results were not pretty. He earned a 45% completion percentage for 5 yards per attempt, it’s a wonder he walked away throwing just the one pick.
As it is, that shot to nothing on third down deep down the field was the kind of turnover I can live with. What I can’t live with is how four times he was careless with the football, only to be bailed out by the stone hands of the Bengals’ secondary. There were examples of him forcing throws (Q2, 1:41), trying too hard to make a play (Q4, 7:24) and just not being accurate (Q4, 3:17). That two of these occurred on scoring drives tells you what a charmed existence Romo led. He won’t get many more breaks like this.
Earning his Money
It’s safe to say that 2012 hasn’t quite been the year of Brandon Carr (+3.2). He has failed to live up to the big price tag amid a secondary that has struggled for stability. Well, this was a lot better. All told he allowed just one of four balls into his coverage for 11 yards, and his pick was the kind of playmaking Cowboys fans will want to see more often. With 12:26 to go in the second quarter he was in perfect position to break on an ill-advised throw from Andy Dalton with the Bengals marching. More of the same please.
Cincinnati – Three Performances of Note
What more can you say about Geno Atkins (+8.5)? The world finally seems to be waking up to the idea this guy isn’t just good, but pretty darn special. A legitimate defensive player of the year candidate, Atkins started slowly but was in dominant form by the time the third quarter rolled around.
His work in the run game was highlighted by the two tackles for a losses he picked up with 3:18 to go in the second quarter, and 9:17 to go in the third, where both Ryan Cook and Mackenzy Bernadeau found out how quick he can be off the snap. Yet it was his work rushing the passer that stole the show. The hit he picked up after beating old teammate Nate Livings with 9:17 to go in the third was particularly impressive on a day where he added a sack, two hits and six hurries to his pressure totals for the year.
While Andre Smith did nothing but enhance his prospects of a Pro Bowl (and potential All Pro) selection, Clint Boling (-3.5) can’t say the same. Looking less than 100%, the left guard had a real tough time slowing down Jason Hatcher in particular, giving up a sack to the Cowboy and very nearly a tackle for a loss, but for his running back bailing him out by breaking a tackle. I’ve seen him play much better than this and the way he was moving suggested something wasn’t quite right with him, but it’s something to keep an eye on. That was the first time all year he graded in the red.
So just how would Adam Jones and Terence Newman fare against their old team? Well, when all was said and done both can be relatively happy with their performances though they missed some opportunities. Jones allowed seven of nine balls into his coverage for 63 yards and two first downs, with one of those (13:45 in Q1) coming after he missed a tackle.
As for Newman, he walked away with a positive grade (+1.3) but will be left ruing two dropped interceptions that could have changed the game. After his unhappy final year in Dallas you feel that would have meant a lot to him, but it wasn’t to be and ultimately was crucial in Cincinnati not being able to pull out a victory.
— Andy Dalton completed two of seven balls when under pressure and was responsible for three of the five sacks he took (though two were him running out of bounds).
–– Marvin Jones ran 36 pass routes. He had run just 74 heading into this game.
— Every starting Cowboys’ offensive lineman gave up at least three quarterback disruptions.
If this thing was decided by results I’d go with Anthony Spencer, but I’m giving it to the best player out there. That was, by some distance, Geno Atkins.
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