ReFo: DAL@ KC, Week 2
This game offered an intriguing matchup of two 1-0 teams, both coming off of fairly opposite Week 1 performances. Are the Chiefs as good as they looked in Week 1 against a helpless Jaguars team, and could the Cowboys improve their level of play after a surprisingly close game, despite forcing 6 turnovers?
In the end, we saw a defensive showdown that went down to the wire, with Kansas City ultimately able to get a little more out of its offense to come away with the W. So how did this happen? Let’s take a look at some of the game’s notable individual performances
Dallas – Three Performances of Note
Romo to Dez
After a quiet first week, Dez Bryant (+2.6) got off to a fast start against the Chiefs, turning a 13-yard back-shoulder throw into a 53 yard gain on Dallas’ second offensive snap of the game. The play (7:27, Q1), was a perfect example of what makes him one of the league’s elite talents, as he out muscled Brandon Flowers for the catch, while being interfered with no less, before turning on the jets down the sideline, making some nice moves to turn around Quintin Demps in the process. Not surprisingly, Tony Romo went back to his star WR often, completing his first five passes to Bryant, ending with a 2-yard touchdown, the only time Dallas reached the end-zone on the day. In total, Romo had a QB rating of 141.3 when throwing Bryant’s way, as he completed 9-of-12 such passes for 141 yards.
Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the duo couldn’t sustain that connection into the fourth quarter; the two hooked up on just one of four passes in the period, including a critical drop. At 9:03, Romo threw arguably his best pass of the day, a deep ball down the ride sideline, hitting Bryant perfectly in stride, only to see the ball bounce off his hands. On a day when offense was difficult to come by, that play proved costly and may have ultimately been the difference.
Up and Down Day for Carter
No player was around the ball more often than Bruce Carter, who was one of six Cowboy defenders to play all 71 snaps. The third-year LB showed off his skills in coverage deflecting an Alex Smith pass early in the second quarter, and adding a second later in the fourth. However, as the headline and his -2.6 grade in coverage suggest, Carter certainly took his share of lumps as well. Targeted seven times in primary coverage, he allowed four catches for 44 yards, twice allowing first downs, and also saved by a Smith under-throw. His bigger issues were in support, though, as he missed a pair of tackles, once on a go-route down the middle of the field, and again coming up to make a play on a screen pass. Carter was also responsible for the Dwayne Bowe touchdown reception, as he overran the play and allowed Bowe to take a slant up the middle of the field for the easy TD.
Carter did redeem himself with his play rushing the passer, picking up a sack and two unblocked hurries on his four rushes, but failed to make many positive plays against the run, grading -1.7 for his efforts.
A Pair of Standouts on the Defensive Line
While Carter received the team’s lowest grade in run defense, Dallas was led in that area by George Selvie (+1.7). Though he was only in on three tackles, all three were stops. Lining up at DLE on 24 of his 44 snaps, Selvie had the pleasure of facing off against RT Eric Fisher for much of the day. In fact, his best play of the day came with 38 seconds remaining the in third quarter, when he beat the rookie inside to hit Jamaal Charles for a one-yard loss. He was no slouch rushing the passer either, racking up four hurries on the day.
Like Selvie against the run, it was Jason Hatcher who led the way for Dallas rushing the passer, hurrying Smith twice to go along with his sack. Though other defenders, including Selvie, were in the Kansas City backfield more often, none did so with the speed of Hatcher. Take his hurry on the first play of the fourth quarter, for example, when he beat Jeff Allen inside in less than two seconds to force a quick pass.
Kansas City – Three Performances of Note
Rough Day for Flowers
Dez Bryant can certainly make a lot of defenders look silly, but still, not a good day for one of the league’s better cornerbacks. The highlight for Brandon Flowers (-3.8) came on his first snap of the game, making a tackle for loss on a Demarco Murray run. After that, the lowlights came quickly with Bryant and the Cowboys attacking him repeatedly on go routes, both over the top and on back shoulder throws. In the end, 10 of the 11 passes targeting Flowers were completed, with all but one coming at the hands of Dallas’ star receiver. And it could have been much worse for the cornerback, as the lone incompletion was the fourth quarter drop, a play on which Bryant had Flowers beaten by several yards.
Solid Across the Board
Despite Flowers’ struggles, as a whole the Kansas City defense was stout, holding Dallas to just 16 points. One part of that effort was timely defense, as the group was able to force two fumbles on consecutive drives at the end of the third and early in the fourth quarter. Another part was consistent playmaking by several defenders, including Akeem Jordan (+1.9), who forced the first Dallas turnover, poking the ball away from Lance Dunbar, to go along with a trio of tackles for short gain on the day. Another such playmaker was end Mike Devito (+1.7). While not spectacular, Devito made several plays in his 32 snaps, most of which came at RE, hurrying Romo on three occasions as well as making a stop in run defense.
Another player who stood out, and not just for his size, was Dontari Poe. He didn’t quite replicate what he did against Jacksonville in Week 1, but showed why he could become one of the league’s better interior players, particularly with his sack at 6:25 in the opening quarter. On that play, he exploded past Travis Frederick, showing almost unfair athleticism for a man listed at just less than 350 pounds.
Charles Comes up Clutch
Not the best day for Jamaal Charles (-0.8), but like the rest of the team, he did just enough to help the Chiefs come away with a win. Starting with the less-than-stellar, Charles was just not good in pass protection. His Pass Blocking Efficiency of 64.3 is the lowest Week 2 rating among all backs with at least 5 snaps in pass protection, anchored down by his sack and two hurries allowed. With the way he caught the ball, perhaps Kansas City shouldn’t have left him in pass protection the seven times they did; he caught a team leading eight passes on ten targets, for 48 yards and a TD. While he didn’t have a ton of success when he got the ball on the ground, averaging just 3.4 YPC on his 16 carries, Charles certainly came up big at the end. With Kansas City protecting a one point lead and attempting to kill the clock late in the fourth quarter, Charles was at his best, reeling off several nice runs including his best of the day, a 16 yarder on which he made several of his signature cuts.
– Good day for Kansas City’s Ron Parker (+2.0). He only saw 6 snaps, but made them count, picking up a sack and forcing a fumble on his only pass rush.
– Conversely, it was not the best day for a pair of 1st round rookie offensive lineman. Each of Travis Frederick and Eric Fisher was their team’s lowest rated offensive player, combining to grade -5.1 and allow 3 sacks, 1 hit, and 5 hurries in pass protection.
– Through two games, Tyson Jackson is almost half way to matching his seven total QB pressures of last season.
PFF Game Ball
On a side without a single standout, the game ball goes to Tyson Jackson, whose two hurries, batted pass, and stop in run defense were key plays as part of a stellar overall defensive effort.
Follow John on Twitter: @John_Maney