October 25, 2014

Behind the Star: The Latest on the Dallas Cowboys

Sunday’s victory over Carolina may not have been pretty, but it got the job done, and what’s the old saying, ugly wins are better than pretty losses.  The Cowboys needed this victory as their next three games are versus three of the better teams in the NFC, Giants at home, at Atlanta, and at Philadelphia.  Losing all three would probably end their season, two of three and they’re behind the eight-ball, winning two of three puts them in good shape for the stretch run (five of last eight games are at home), and winning all three would put them in the driver’s seat.

 

The Cowboys seemed to play down to their level of competition.  Once again struggling on offense.  Head coach Jason Garrett has made a more conscious effort to run the ball, but with a  below average offensive line, and without your number one back (DeMarco Murray), there just wasn’t much to gain on the ground.  We all know you have to run the ball to keep the defense honest, but running on what seems like every first down play just so that you can have 2nd and 8 over and over again just isn’t going to get the job done.  Time to stop being so predictable.

 

Garrett also took a huge risk late in the game.  With the Cowboys trailing 14-13 but driving inside the 20-yard line, he called for a run on 3rd and nine.  There were still over two minutes remaining.  Plenty of time for Carolina to get the ball back and march down for a game winning field goal.  Dallas gained five yards on third, kicked the field goal, and did end up holding off Carolina to win the game.  Guess the end justifies the means there.  Problem is, if Garrett were to play this conservative against better teams, the Cowboys will lose late in those games.

 

Why is Garrett playing so conservative?  Seems he just doesn’t trust the offense at this point.  I’m not pointing the finger at QB Tony Romo here either.  Romo threw a perfect pass to WR Dez Bryant in the end zone during the drive that Bryant dropped.  Perhaps Garrett was worried about a turner, but more than likely, he was worried about an offensive penalty that would move that ball back, making an easy field goal attempt much more difficult.  If only he thought about the difficulties of long field goal tries late in the game versus Baltimore.  Garrett is 30 games into his head coaching career, these problems late in games should be a thing of the past, but they seem to keep cropping up time and time again.

 

Chris Mitchell who hosts the Leatherheads Fantasy Football Show (Wednesday’s 9pm EST) asked me on the show yesterday my feeling on Romo.  Chris seemed to insinuate that usually I’m a pretty harsh critic but in Romo’s case I’m not.  My feelings on Romo are this, he is a good quarterback, not elite, but good.  Probably top 10 in the NFL.  Does he make bonehead mistakes?  Absolutely, without him this team is going nowhere.  The offensive line is terrible.  Tom Brady and Drew Brees would not succeed with this OL because they aren’t mobile quarterbacks.  That’s not to say Romo is better than either, he’s not, but put him on a better team with a better line, and his numbers would skyrocket.  Does he need to stop turning the ball over, definitely, but this isn’t the best coached team on the planet and they are certainly undisciplined.  Romo is constantly being put in bad situations.  In the end, Romo doesn’t have much upside at this point in his career, he is what he is, but he is not the problem for Dallas and will more than likely sign a new contract with the team sometime before next season.

 

As for this week’s game versus the Giants.  Dallas would seem to be catching them at a bad time.  Giants are hot.  Their offense is clicking.  Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks looks to be the healthiest he has been all year and although RB Ahmad Bradshaw hasn’t practiced this week, he should play Sunday.  Dallas suffered a huge loss when ILB Sean Lee was lost for the season with a toe injury.  You could easily make an argument that Lee is more important to the defense than LB DeMarcus Ware.  He is their only true playmaker and led the teams with two turnovers.  The Giants could see success running the ball against the Cowboys due to his absence.  Defensively you know the Giants are going to look to pressure Romo with their front four.  Have a feeling they aren’t going to respect the Cowboys running game whatsoever.  Just don’t think they are worried about either Felix Jones or Phillip Tanner hitting a big play on the ground versus them.  One thing to keep in mind for Dallas however is that in the first meeting, tight end Jason Witten was a non-factor as he was coming off that spleen injury.  He is 100% now and will have to be accounted for by the Giants defense.  Special teams would seem to play in the Giants favor as well as KR David Wilson could be licking his chops against a Dallas coverage team that has been less than spectacular so far this year.  The Giants certainly aren’t afraid of playing in Cowboy’s Stadium, never having lost there.  Don’t see a banged up Dallas team ending that streak this week.  Giants 24  Dallas 20.

 

Feel free to follow me on twitter, @georgeKurtz

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