Anyway you look at it, the Cowboys snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last week. How do you lose a game where you run 30 more plays than the opposition? Where you out gain the opposition by 165 yards and rush for over 200 yards. How do you lose? Well for one, you keep taking pre-snap penalties at inopportune times, like when your team is in the end zone. Your defense is unable to get any turnovers. Your top receiver drops the tying two-point reception. Your head coach once again can’t manage the clock late in the game, costing your team at least one play, and your field goal kicker misses a 52-yard shot at the buzzer. This was a game the Cowboys couldn’t afford to lose, not with their upcoming schedule (3 of 4 on the road). If Dallas were to lose to Carolina on Sunday they will have a long road to travel to make the playoffs.
Dez Bryant is starting to look like the player Dallas thought he would be when trading up to draft him in the first-round of the 2010 draft. Bryant has caught 21 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns over the past two games. He is forcing defenses to pay attention to him and possibly even game plan to stop him. Problem is Dez still has problems as the aforementioned dropped two-point pass attain to. That completion would’ve tied the game. Dez also had quite a few dropped passes in the Chicago game and ran an incorrect route which led to an interception. It didn’t help Dez’s perception any when late in last week’s game he caught a short pass and rather than get back to the line of scrimmage to get the next play off, he argued with the official over the placement of the ball. This is not something a third year player should be doing, you’re not a rookie anymore. Time to use your head as well as your gifted physical talents. Bryant did come down with a groin injury late this week but is not expected to miss the game.
Still trying to figure out how people can still criticize Tony Romo over last week’s performance. They seem to dwell on the interception he threw. An interception that had little or nothing to do with the outcome of the game. First, that pick came in the second quarter. It also came after two plays after a holding penalty put the team in 2nd and long. On the play Tony had a defender draped over him which led to the inaccurate pass, but more importantly, it came on 3rd and 10 with the Cowboys at the Baltimore 35-yard line. Baltimore caught the ball at their 22, a difference of 13 yards. You might say that the pick cost the Cowboys a chance at a field goal. I would beg to differ. Jason Garrett did not allow Dan Bailey to try a FG from the same distance from the same end of the field a little later in the game, and we all know what happened when Bailey tried to hit a 52-yarder to win it at the end of the game. All in all, Romo more than likely only cost the Cowboys about 10 yards in field position, 20 at most, two at best, depending upon where the punt would’ve landed. The face that Baltimore scored a touchdown after that turnover is on the defense, not Romo. Ravens had to go 78 yards to score.
As for the game this week at Carolina. It’s only Week 7 (game six for Dallas) so it’s really hard to call this a must win, but with the schedule they have, you can’t afford any slip ups. After this game, Dallas plays home against the Giants, then travel to Atlanta and Philadelphia. A loss here could see the Cowboys season spiral out of control. However, if they can somehow come out of this stretch with a 5-4 record, their schedule in the second half is much easier, but they have to get by the Panthers first. Carolina hasn’t played well this season. Quarterback Cam Newton has regressed after his fantastic rookie season. Teams are doing their best to take WR Steve Smith out of the game, forcing Newton to find other targets to beat them. Newton’s completion percentage hasn’t been great, about 59%, but his YPA is 8.5, which lets you know that he is not afraid to chuck the rock deep into the secondary. The Panthers may have DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert, but their running game hasn’t done anything to take the pressure off of Newton. The defense has been a disappointment all around. Dallas should be able to score points. Carolina is a team they have handled quite easily over the years. This is a game you just can’t lose. Sure RB DeMarco Murray is out for the game with a sprained foot, but Felix Jones looked rejuvenated last week and Phillip Tanner looks pretty good in a secondary role. All in all I just can’t see the Cowboys stumbling here, at least I hope now. Dallas 27 Carolina 20.
Feel free to follow me on twitter, @georgeKurtz