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Scout's Notebook

How 'Boys freed up T.O., Garrard's impact, NFL notes

Posted: Sunday November 18, 2007 8:17PM; Updated: Sunday November 18, 2007 8:47PM
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Terrell Owens crosses the goal line on one of his four touchdowns on Sunday in the Cowboys' win over the Redskins.
Terrell Owens crosses the goal line on one of his four touchdowns on Sunday in the Cowboys' win over the Redskins.
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• The Cowboys exploited the Redskins' inexperience at safety by attacking down the middle of the field. With the Redskins sitting two-deep and some three-deep zones, Tony Romo manipulated the safeties by looking outside before hitting Terrell Owens repeatedly down the seams. Two of Dallas' three second-half scores were the result of Washington's young safeties being out of position and unable to recover before the ball arrived.

• Owens' game-clinching touchdown was the result of a brilliant play design and personnel movement. Facing the Redskins two-deep coverage, Jason Garrett put Owens in the slot to take advantage of a favorable matchup against the Redskins' MIKE linebacker. Owen ran a double move off a dig fake before attacking the middle of the field. Both safeties were occupied by post corners on the outside, which left the middle open.

• After losing Donovan McNabb to injury, the Eagles leaned on Brian Westbrook (32 carries for 148 yards) and the running game with backup quarterback A.J. Feeley in the lineup. The run-first approach catapulted the Eagles to an improbable playoff run a season ago and it may be called into play with McNabb's injury status still in question.

• The return of David Garrard makes Jacksonville's offense more dynamic. His efficient passing and sneaky athleticism is the perfect complement to the Jags' power running game. If Garrard can continue to make defenses pay for sitting in eight-man fronts, the Jags will be one of the tougher teams to deal with as the playoffs approach.

• The Jags were able to rattle San Diego's Philip Rivers by blending their five-man zone dogs with their conventional two-deep coverage. The combination of bluff and pressure kept Rivers off balance. His disappointing play has been one of the reasons behind the Chargers' sub-par start. And teams will continue to use pressure to disrupt Rivers' rhythm until he regains the Pro Bowl form he displayed a season ago.

Ryan Grant's emergence as a workhorse is giving the Packers a more balanced offense. But Green Bay's new balance involves more than incorporating extra runs into the offense. The Packers are seamlessly switching from a quick, rhythm passing game to a vertical passing attack complemented by a power running game. Such versatility will serve them well during their playoff run because it allows them to compete in and win any style of game.

• The Panthers' decision to punt out of their field-goal formation failed miserably. The premise of the pooch kick is to catch the defense off guard and place the ball inside the 10, but the ill-fated strategy backfired when Green Bay anticipated the pooch and kept a safety/returner deep. By setting up a return against Carolina's field goal unit, the Packers were able to take advantage of the lack of skilled athletes on the field.

Joey Galloway's touchdown against the Falcons was the result of the Bucs taking advantage of DeAngelo Hall's tendency to key three-step drops. By using a slant-and-go with a pump fake from Jeff Garcia, Galloway got past Hall on the 44-yard score.

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