By Zach Walker
Sunday – September 29 – 3:25 PM
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego
I’ve been picking feathers out of my teeth since Sunday’s win against the Rams. DeMarco Murray served up a healthy serving of crow to me and others who doubted his ability to have a great game on the ground, but I won’t be having seconds because I have some observations about Murray and the Cowboys.
#1: Why the Rams, and why not run like that every game? Do not doubt the Rams’ defense, they have a defense built through the draft and for the most part, the players were drafted in the first two rounds. Chris Long, Robert Quinn, Michael Brockers, Alec Ogletree are all first round picks; and James Laurinaitis and Janoris Jenkins are second rounders, so Murray and the O-line were having success and getting push on a very good defense. More on our offensive line, if you’re trying to poke holes in their performance as a unit here’s this, the Rams were the best in the league at getting to the quarterback a year ago.
#2: So much for no sacks on Bradford. The defense played an absolutely great game, low takeaways but low everything else. Except for sacks and pressure on Bradford. I’m a huge Sam Bradford fan, but he is… let’s say shaky in the pocket, when the cave walls are collapsing. Bradford is a tough guy, he takes a battering, he was hit about 18 times and sacked six times, including DeMarcus Ware absolutely blowing up Jake Long on a bull-rush. It was scary to watch, but I couldn’t look away. Barry Church played well. He was a nightmare, a raging torrent and played a great game.
#3: It was a strange game from Tony Romo. He was strangely emotionless throughout the game. He was judicious with the ball and connected for three scores, a sweet pass to Gavin Escobar, an art-in-motion pitch and catch to Dez Bryant, and a scorcher to Dwayne Harris. Romo’s pocket was clean and room to move and step up was there.
The Chargers played a pretty darn good game, against a scrappy Titans team who won the game with a Jake Locker to Justin Hunter touchdown. After a hook-and-ladder lateral attempt that looked good then went backwards and ended terribly with Phillip Rivers kicking the ball backwards.
The Chargers are a building team; they aren’t the constant playoff threat that they once were when they had Tomlinson and Vincent Jackson and Antonio Gates being consistently healthy. They’ve struggled to pull away from teams in their division for a few years now and with the Manning passing attack with the Broncos and Andy Reid and Alex Smith and a great defense with the Chiefs, the Chargers are the third team in their division.
The argument that I always hated was that Rivers was a better quarterback than Tony Romo. I heard it from stupid fans, Romo-bashers, and people in line at the draft. And in my eyes, in no measureable way is Rivers better than Romo. Romo is better in the pocket, more elusive, has a better throwing motion, and as far as stats, Romo wins. And if you want to look at playoff success, yes, Rivers has more wins, but he also has had an easier division to get to the playoffs, make the argument. The Matt Cassel Chiefs? The Broncos, pre-Manning, that was Tebow and Kyle Orton. And the Raiders, with their “musical chairs” coaching changes every two years and their new starting quarterback every year. Wow.
The Cowboys are, today, a much better team with much better players at every position. Maybe Eric Weddle prevents the “on-paper” shutout. But the Cowboys’ linebackers are better than the Chargers’ running backs, and overall the Cowboys’ defensive backs are better than the Chargers’ receivers. The Chargers’ offensive line is not much different than Dallas’, solid with up and down performances.
Matchups of the Game
#1: LT King Dunlap and Rookie RT D.J. Fluker vs DE DeMarcus Ware: Ware is going to move around during the game and matchup where ever. King Dunlap is a familiar face from Philly, and D.J. Fluker is a rookie. I’ll take Ware.
#2: WR Eddie Royal vs CB Orlando Scandrick: Eddie Royal is dangerous in the redzone, and through three weeks he has five touchdowns, Rivers clearly has a comfort zone with Royal. Scandrick had a really solid game against the Rams and controlling the shallow routes used by the Rams’ offense.
#3: RB Danny Woodhead vs LB Sean Lee on 3rd Down: Woodhead isn’t really a dangerous option in the run game, but he knows what to do in pass protection and is very slippery on third down, finding his way into the picture for his quarterback. It’s going to be Sean Lee on Woodhead on third downs which is going to be crucial for both teams in this game.
#4: OLB Dwight Freeney vs LT Tyron Smith: Tyron Smith has faced great pass rushers before, but Freeney is a freak. He isn’t what he used to be but if you think he isn’t still explosive, he’ll be on your quarterback.
Last week’s MVPs: Offense: DeMarco Murray; Defense: Barry Church; Special Teams: Kyle Bosworth
Prediction: Dallas 34 – San Diego 17