- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Gloom is something that isn't allowed in Dallas. It isn't in the computer. It isn't in the game plan. Yet it hung heavy after the 49ers' last-minute drive in the NFC championship game stopped the favored Cowboys short of the Super Bowl—the third straight year Dallas had suffered such an indignity.
The next day one of Cowboy General Manager Tex Schramm's friends walked into Schramm's office and noticed him smoking a cigarette for the first time in 12 years.
"As bad as that, huh?" the guy said.
"Yeah, as bad as that," Schramm said, "and if you've got anything stronger I'll take it."
On the flight home from San Francisco Tom Landry was asked about his defensive alignment when the 49ers had scored their winning touchdown, a six-yard, third-down pass play. Why had the Cowboys been in their regular defense instead of the nickel, the pass defense? "I don't know why Ernie had that defense in there," Landry said, reminding people that it was Defensive Coordinator Ernie Stautner who called the defenses.
But the truth remains that the 49ers traveled 89 yards to claw their way into the Super Bowl; that when the Cowboys had their run defense on the field, San Francisco passed on it; that when the nickel appeared, the 49ers ran against it—and this was a defense that contained six people who had played in the Pro Bowl at one time or another.
Something was basically wrong. The last two years, the Cowboy defense has finished in the bottom half of the NFL ratings; the last three, it has been carried by the offense. In the off-season one of Landry's veterans had some suggestions. He told the coach that perhaps the Cowboys' flex was outmoded; that it was a waste of God-given talent to put a Randy White in a frog stance half the time and have him play the run; that Landry ought to think about turning White and Ed Jones loose for a while; and that maybe he ought to think about getting out of the 4-3 while he was at it.
"All of a sudden I got a look at Tom's face and I stopped cold," the guy said. "He just froze me where I sat."
But Landry did some thinking in the off-season. He saw what his all-out pass rush did to Tampa Bay in the divisional playoff game, turning the Bucs upside down 38-0. He knows that stopping the run is no longer the name of the game in the NFL, and perhaps if he makes his flex more flexible and lets his magnificent front four go full bore some of the time it might offset some of the deficiencies in the back seven.