ReFo: Colts @ Cowboys, Week 16
Steve Palazzolo highlights key player performances in this one-sided Dallas win.
ReFo: Colts @ Cowboys, Week 16
One of the week’s most anticipated games did not live up to the billing as the Dallas Cowboys controlled the action against the Indianapolis Colts from start to finish. Dallas wrapped up the NFC East with the impressive effort and their emergence is one of the league’s biggest stories this season. It was an efficient outing for the Cowboys in all aspects of the game.
For the Colts, they came into the game with the AFC South in hand and a home playoff game already locked up, so the loss means little for them in the long run. However, it was still alarming to see them so easily handled by another playoff team and they need to get things back in order within the next two weeks.
Here’s a look at the key performances from the game.
Indianapolis Colts – Performances of Note
Xavier Nixon, RT: -8.8
Breakdown: Filling in for injured right tackle Gosder Cherilus, it was a rough outing for Nixon in his second career start. He surrendered a sack, three hits, and three hurries on his way to a -4.8 grade in pass protection and he was guilty of three penalties including two pre-snap motion penalties and a holding.
Signature Plays: Q2 0:55: Nixon allows DE George Selvie right into the backfield with little resistance to flush QB Andrew Luck from the pocket. Q3 1:25: Nixon is unable to slow down CB Orlando Scandrick on the blitz to surrender the strip sack on QB Matt Hasselbeck.
Dwayne Allen, TE: -4.0
Breakdown: Everything seemed to be going wrong for the Colts in the early going, including some of Luck’s best passes getting dropped. Allen dropped all three of his targets on the day while also struggling in the running game at -1.4.
Signature Plays: Q2 14.01: Allen’s “cleanest” drop came on a dig route that would have been a first down. Q2 5:58: Allen is running clear up the sideline on a coverage bust and while the pass is underthrown by Luck, it certainly should have been caught, but Allen left the big play on the table.
Greg Toler, CB: -3.1
Breakdown: Toler surrendered catches on all four of his targets for 81 yards and three touchdowns. He was also guilty on a back shoulder touchdown to WR Dez Bryant that was negated by an illegal motion penalty, but WR Terrance Williams got the better of him on the very next play as he lost Toler on a slant for the touchdown.
Signature Plays: Q1 4:30: Bryant fights through Toler’s defensive holding penalty for the touchdown. Q4 10:19: Williams runs away from Toler for the 43-yard touchdown on a well-thrown pass from backup QB Brandon Weeden.
Dallas Cowboys – Performances of Note
Tony Romo, QB: +5.8
Breakdown: It was an extremely efficient effort for Romo whose only two completions came on a batted pass and a miscommunication with WR Cole Beasley. Other than that, he showed accuracy to all levels of the field. He did a nice job of finding Bryant early on and letting him make plays when in single coverage, and the touchdown pass at the 4:30 mark of the first quarter was a great example of good ball location by Romo and Bryant just outmuscling Toler at the catch point.
Romo’s best pass of the day was his 25-yard touchdown to TE Jason Witten as he worked through his progressions and put the ball right on his hands down the seam to put the Cowboys up 35-0 to cap their dominant outing.
Signature Stats: On passes thrown at least 20 yards in the air, Romo went 3-for-3 for 68 yards and two scores.
Tyron Smith, LT: +5.8
Breakdown: While the running game didn’t really take off as it’s done throughout the season, Smith did his part with an impressive +5.0 run blocking grade. In pass protection, he graded at +0.6 as he didn’t allow any pressures on 26 drop-backs, though he did get tossed aside by DE Cory Redding at the 12:30 mark of the second quarter, but the pass was out before Redding could register any pressure.
Signature Plays: Q3 10:58: Smith takes LB D’Qwell Jackson for a ride at the second level, washing him right out of the play as RB DeMarco Murray picks up 9 yards. Q3 6:42: Smith gets the seal on DE Arthur Jones as Murray runs off his hip for 7 yards.
Anthony Hitchens, OLB: +3.1
Breakdown: It was a strong all-around effort by the Dallas defense, and while it’s difficult to point out only one player, Hitchens was all over the field in the early going. He finished the game with a team-high seven tackles and tying for the team-high with four stops while grading at +2.2 against the run and +0.9 in coverage.
Signature Plays: Back-to-back plays in the first quarter, starting at 6:01 mark, Hitchens quickly diagnoses the run and tackles RB Dan Herron for a 1-yard gain then re-directs the draw play on 3rd-and-14 by standing up Allen at the line of scrimmage. In coverage, Hitchens did a nice job fighting over WR Donte Montcrief’s block to make the play on a wide receiver screen with 4:23 to go in the first.
PFF Game Ball
While it was a team effort for the Cowboys, Tony Romo’s near-perfect day earns the game ball.
Follow Steve on Twitter: @PFF_Steve