Well the Cowboys managed to win Sunday night, thus keeping their slim playoff hopes alive, it was far from an impressive win. Once again the Cowboys started the game slow. They were playing a team that doesn’t have their starting quarterback, starting running back, top wide receiver, top pass rusher, and with a coach that is a dead man walking yet still fell behind 14-3 before they realized the Eagles weren’t going to roll over and play dead for them.
It’s getting a little tiresome to watch Dallas shoot out of the gates so slowly, might be nice for this team to play with some urgency. They certainly did that in the second half, at least on offense. Quarterback Tony Romo played about as good a game as you’re going to see. Constantly avoiding the rush to find the open receiver, and make big play after big play. Wide receiver Dez Bryant is playing like an All-Pro and may finally be realizing that you need to give this game all of your attention at this level. Running back DeMarco Murray came back from injury and finally gave the Cowboys the threat in the backfield that they had been missing. With Murray back teams can no longer just tee off on Romo and not worry about a running attack. This offense finally looks like it is ready to take off. Oh, the offensive line is still a problem, but there is nothing that can be done about that this season. Would be a major upset if right tackle Doug Free is back with the team next season (unless he takes a reduction in pay). He is nothing more than a traffic cone out there.
What isn’t working? Head coach Jason Garrett still has problems with time management. Late in the first half with Dallas having a 1st and goal at the one-yard line and a little under a minute to play, Garrett called a time out. This was needless as they had plenty of time to call whatever play they wanted. They could run the ball on 1st down, then call a time out if they didn’t score. Well Dallas did score on the first play, and Garrett’s time out left plenty of time on the clock for Philadelphia to march down the field and kick a field goal. You would really think Garrett would stop making these mistakes, but apparently not.
The other problem is the defense. They are getting gorged on a regular basis now. Sure they are pretty beat up with injuries, but as stated above, this was a Philadelphia team that is a shell of its former self, yet they seemed to have no problems going up and down the field. No problems protecting a rookie QB and opening holes for a second string RB even though their offensive line is supposedly in shambles. Not sure what this says about the Cowboys defensive game plan. They rarely rush more than four against the opposing team, they are afraid of giving up the big play. Problem is, by only rushing three or four players, the opposing QB has more than enough time to find an open receiver. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan may be fighting for his job over the next four games.
As for the playoff possibilities. The wildcard took a big hit Sunday with Seattle managing to beat the Bears on the road. Seattle sits in the 6th spot with seven wins, one ahead of the Cowboys (along with Washington, Tampa Bay, Minnesota). Problem is Seattle already beat Dallas meaning they win every tiebreaker so that is really a two game lead. Green Bay may not be the only team with a huge gripe against the replacement referees should Seattle make the playoffs by a game over any of these teams or by tiebreaker. As for the NFC East, this would seem to be the Cowboys best chance at making the playoffs. Dallas and Washington are only a game behind the Giants with the tiebreakers still to be settled. Dallas does play at Washington in Week 17 which could go a long way towards deciding who moves on, and who goes home. Problem for the Cowboys is that they also play at Cincinnati, and have Pittsburgh and New Orleans at home. Not an easy game in the bunch and seeing as though Dallas is 6-6 right now, it seems highly probable that they would split the remaining two games as well, problem is Dallas more than likely has to win at least three of their final four games to even have a shot at the playoffs, and more than likely all four. Just don’t see this happening.
As for this week. Dallas is going to Cincinnati to play a Bengals team that also needs to win. A Bengals team that has won four straight games and is sitting outside the playoff hunt due to a tiebreaker. This game has some interesting subplots. Mike Zimmer is the defensive coordinator for the Bengals, he held a similar role with Dallas. The Bengals also employ two former Cowboys in their secondary, Adam “Pacman” Jones and Terrance Newman. Could be a game of cat and mouse. Newman knows the Cowboys offense and their playmakers, but they know him as well. Game more than likely comes down to whether or not Dallas can pressure QB Andy Dalton on a regular basis. Weather could be a factor as well as Cincinnati in December is not a fun place to be. Cincinnati 28 Dallas 24