Monday, October 29, 2012

The perception about Cowboys Stadium

Cowboys Stadium a paradise for opponents
There are many perceptions about the polarizing Dallas Cowboys.  They don't get it done when it countsThey are an accident waiting to happenThey always collapse down the stretch.  These perceptions may be true, but all perceptions about this franchise aren't true.  The one I want to bring to light is this perception that the Dallas Cowboys don't have a home field advantage.  As if it's the fault of the fans.  As if it's because Dallas is filled with so many fairweather and entitled fans that they don't have a home field advantage.

I couldn't disagree with that more.  If you are a diehard Cowboy fan like I am, you love this team and you cheer them on no matter what.  Even at the lowest of lows.  I mean, if you've been a fan in just the last 15 years like I have, you know this franchise is at its lowest.  Which makes it harder to cheer for them, yet we do so anyway.  The problem I have with it all is this false misconception about home field advantage and the fans are somehow at fault.  Troy Aikman had some interested comments about this:
Comparing the old stadium with road games in the NFC East, he said, “When we would play in Philadelphia, New York, and walk out of the tunnel, I would have to be yelling at the top of my lungs for the guys to hear me. …
“There was no way you could go down there near the goal line and use a hard count in an opposing stadium. And yet in Texas Stadium, teams did it all the time.”
Now I love Troy Aikman, and completely respect anything he says, but I completely disagree with the point he's trying to make.  He does bring up some intriguing points and a strong argument.  He certainly knows more about the home fans than I do and he was actually on the field and should know what it was like.  Here's my problem with those comments:  The fans cheered loudly when the Cowboys needed it in those days.  In regular season games and mostly in playoff games, they could get crazy.  I went to multiple Cowboy games as a kid in the 90s when they were successful, and I left with hurt eardrums.  Remember the reception the Eagles got the next time they played in Texas Stadium after Philly's notorious cheering of Michael Irvin's injury?  The Cowboys won that game convincingly 20-10.  They could get crazy when needed.

I don't simply buy that Cowboy fans were that bad when I've witnessed some great showings myself back in the good ole days when they were a winning franchise.  From what I've seen over the years, when the Cowboys give the fans a reason to cheer loudly, they cheer.  Since the unveiling of Cowboys Stadium, how many good memories have they been left with?  Okay, one playoff win, and other than that, nothing but bad memories.  Hell, there are still lasting awful memories from the twilight years of Texas Stadium let alone Cowboys Stadium.  How could Aikman have the audacity to defend the Cowboys when they embarrassed him, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin when they were all inducted to the Dallas Cowboys Ring of Honor on Monday Night Football?  Remember that game?  Dallas led practically all game and then choked a double digit lead in dramatic fashion late in the 4th quarter.  Aikman is defending this team?  He of all people should understand why the fans don't provide them with a fearful home field advantage.  How about the way they lost so hilariously to the Baltimore Ravens to close Texas Stadium when they gave up two long rushing TDs on back-to-back possessions when they were trying to make a comeback?  No, this wasn't freaking Ray Rice bursting away for two 75+ yard TD runs, this was slow and burly, La'Ron McClain, and Willis McGahee doing it.  Fans are supposed to be giddy about that?  Very hard to cheer for a team when you know they are an accident waiting to happen.  Hard to cheer for a team when you see them give the opposing team interceptions for TDs or make other key mistakes that have a negative effect on them.

Chicago Bears players say it felt like a home game to them.  Let me see, Romo threw five interceptions largely aided by wide receiver mistakes, and two of those were returned for touchdowns.  Also, Bears fans have been known to travel well.  So when you add all that up, gee no wonder it felt like a home game to them.  The Cowboys essentially handed them the game on a silver platter and the only fans in the stadium who had a reason to cheer were Bear fans.

Like that Bears game, Cowboy fans just haven't had a reason to cheer for much.  The fans may not have been always all that and a bag of chips in Aikman's day even when they were dominating the league, but it's a different time now.  Who knows how great the home field advantage could have been in this millennium if the Cowboys were putting out a winning product year in and year out like the Pats, the Steelers, the Ravens, and so forth.  The fact of the matter is the Cowboys have put out an atrocious product for the last 16 years.  One playoff win in that span says it all.  Since that playpen paradise was opened, the Cowboys are 14-13 in that billion dollar garbage.

I'm guessing that this new stadium can hold something like 90K people.  If the Cowboys would simply play better at home, you would see a better home field advantage.  Maybe it's just me, but it's hard to get excited and cheer raucously for a team that constantly gets down early in ball games.  I've endured this entire one playoff win in 16 years as a fan and in those years, I've felt like Dallas gets down early in almost every home game.  Maybe an exaggeration to a degree, but what I'm saying does hold some sort of weight.  Just this season in three games, they've gotten down early in all of them.  Against Tampa Bay, down 7-0 right off the bat after an interception on the first possession by Romo.  Down 3-0 to Chicago, and then 10-0 after a pick six just before half.  Yesterday, starts off the game and gives up a 56-yard play to set up a FG.  Down 3-0 right after the first possession of the game.  We know what would later happen as they would dig a 23-0 hole.

So again I say, this team gives the fans nothing to cheer for.  The Cowboys have all these stupid false start penalties that have absolutely no business happening in home games. The worst of all is these back-breaking turnovers that put them in deep holes or in last year's game against the Detroit Lions, brings the opponent all the way back into the game.  When you are at home, you are supposed to feel comfortable.  Everything is supposed to go right because you know you have the crowd behind you.  You should be a lot more relaxed and feel as if nothing can go wrong in your residence.

With these Cowboys, it's completely different.  They don't play relaxed, they have stupid penalties, they don't relish in the fact that they are playing at home.  They play way too tense as if they are on the road.  They make key mistakes that you just shouldn't make at home.  You are supposed to let the other team make mistakes in your building, not you.  That's what has been wrong with the Cowboys in Cowboys Stadium and in Texas Stadium the past 16 years.  The poor home field advantage has been the fault of the team, not the fans.  You can't blame these fans for not being intimidating when they are just waiting for an accident to happen almost every single time they take the field.

Be honest, when they came all the way back to take the lead yesterday, did you expect them to win the game?  I sure as hell didn't.  Especially when the Giants took the lead back.  I knew when they took the lead back, no way would Dallas find a way to win that game.  And when it looked like they just might complete the dramatic comeback, Dez's TD catch was overturned and that was it.  A couple of more plays of not doing anything, and it was a wrap.  No doubt were the Cowboys losing that game.  Absolutely none.  What you see is what you get with these Cowboys.  Nothing has changed.

Just ask yourself, do you expect fans to give a home field advantage to a team that doesn't deserve it?  Sure, you want the fans cheering for them every week, and they do that before kickoff.  But seriously, what is there to cheer for these days when shortly after kickoff they get down early in seemingly every game, have game-changing turnovers in spectacular and laughable fashion, and lose almost every big game?  I wouldn't.  Before you criticize the fan base for the lack of noise, criticize the team for the way they come out flat and play like a mid-major college football team.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Reaction to the James Harden trade

James Harden
Good lord was I shocked to find out that the Oklahoma City Thunder had traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets.  Completely unexpected and caught me off guard.  What a way to get the juices flowing before the NBA season kicks off Tuesday down there in South Beach.  What a heck of a way to end a wild day where I saw my Hogs lose yet again, the Florida Gators lose to their rivals the Georgia Bulldogs, Marcus Lattimore suffers one of the most eyebrow-raising injuries(Not Safe For Eyes) I've ever seen, and Notre Dame goes into Boomer Sooner land and defeats them without leaving any doubt whatsoever of who was the better team. 

This day would end in a bang with news of this blockbuster trade.  I'm still trying to wrap my head around this trade.  I'm not sure who even wins the trade in the long run.  So the Rockets get James Harden and fillers for Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb, two first-round picks, and a second-round pick?  That seems like a lot for a bench player.  I'm fully aware that Harden is a starting caliber player in the NBA, but he was a bench player for the Thunder.  I think the Lakers gave up less for Dwight Howard, the best center in basketball.

Conversely, the Thunder lose James Harden, a dynamic player off the bench who helped them get to the Finals.  A deal like this basically ends any chance for a return trip to the Finals.  Why you say?  Because Kevin Martin is not James Harden.  James Harden is a good defender, a great playmaker, and an efficient scorer who can get to the rim and draw fouls.  On the other hand, Kevin Martin is an atrocious defender, horrible passer, and has some of the worst shot selection.  Kevin Martin can put the ball in the hoop make no mistake about it, but his all-around game is much more limited than Harden's.  There is a reason why KMart is always on losing teams.  He's part of the problem.  At least the Thunder did receive valuable picks in return and Lamb also, so they can be still a title contender in the future, but not in the short-term.  Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kevin Martin just won't cut it in the West.

I've come to the conclusion that both sides lose this trade.  The Thunder lose it because they are no longer a threat in the West.  I was already leaning toward the Los Angeles Lakers coming out of the West before the trade, and after it, it's basically a done deal.  They can't beat this Laker team by replacing Harden with Kevin Martin.  They just can't.  For the Rockets, they do get the best player in the deal, but at what cost?  They paid a big price.  They lose valuable first-round picks, a player with huge potential in Jeremy Lamb, and Kevin Martin.  They are also about to give James Harden a ridiculous contract that he doesn't deserve.  It seems like a splash trade to me for both sides.  Nobody wins.

Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants II

A Giant victory could be on the horizon.
I just have to say, it flat out made me sick to my stomach when Sean Lee was placed on the IR.  I couldn't believe it.  I still can't believe it.  I'm pretty darn pissed off about it.  Too add insult to injury(pun intended), DeMarco Murray won't play this week either.  I'm on the verge of a breakdown.  Somebody needs to hug me before I do something crazy.

No but seriously, this sucks.  How can I get excited about the game this week against the defending Super Bowl champs in a stadium they have never beat said team in and will have to do it without arguably their best defensive player and their top running back?  That's a tall order.  The Cowboys winning this week just might be too much to ask, but it would certainly make me feel better.  If recent history has told me anything, the Giants will come into Cowboys Stadium and leave it with a W.  And of course you know Tony Romo will get all the blame.  Although a loss couldn't possibly anger me any more than I was after hearing about Sean Lee's injury.  The season almost feels like a lost cause already. 

Deep down I can't help but feel like the Giants seem to catch the most breaks against the Cowboys.  Last season, DeMarco Murray essentially missed both games against them after fracturing his ankle in the first quarter of the first meeting between the two teams in Cowboys Stadium.  In the winner-take-all finale they were facing Tony Romo with a swollen-hand while the offensive line was depleted, Felix Jones was playing with one shoulder, and the secondary still had guys like Terence Newman healthy and functioning horribly.  I can't help but laugh at the Romo injury because it was a fluke injury that happened in a game that ended up being meaningless anyway.  I do realize that the Cowboys won in Giants stadium earlier this season and caught some breaks, but let's be real here, that was the first game of the season.  You can't really consider that a "big game" so early in the season.  This Sunday is a "big game" and their season is almost on life support with a loss. These are the type of games that the Cowboys lose, especially when they are facing the Giants.

The Giants just frankly have the Cowboys' number these days, and I expect Sunday to be no different.  I see no reason to pinpoint the key players, keys to the game for each team, and all that other baloney.  This is a game that I just simply don't feel like fooling with all that nonsense because I'm too depressed and the end result will just be a Giant victory.

Literally everything is set up for this Sunday to be a massacre and I'm hoping like hell for the contrary, but I know the massacre is coming.  Losing Sean Lee will be evident right away as Eli Manning picks apart the middle of the field against this defense.  The Cowboys make some plays through the air offensively, but they will make too many mistakes on offense and have breakdowns in coverage defensively that Eli and Victor Cruz will exploit.  The Giants win this one in a Texas shootout 41-27.

I will feel really sorry for Tony Romo and the onslaught that will ensue regardless if he plays well or horribly in the loss(assuming they lose).  It's really not this guy's fault(Yeah I'm already making excuses for him).  You win as a team and you lose as a team, but the Cowboys faithful won't be pleased and many will call for his head.  I have a gut feeling that Romo's time in Valley Ranch is coming near an end.  I have to reiterate--from a previous article-- how much I agree with Skip Bayless' article on Romo.  He will never win a Super Bowl with this team.  This Sean Lee injury just goes to show how he has some of the worst luck and something bad always seems to happen no matter what.  Just when it looks like Romo will have an elite defense behind him for the first time in his career, they lose the heart-and-soul of the defense and its leader.  It's been the epitome of the Romo-era Cowboys.  Death smiles at us all, and all a man can do is smile back.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dallas Cowboys: The formula for winning

In the first six games of the season, I've came away with some interesting but simple numbers.  17, 10, and 14.  Those numbers represent the points the Cowboys gave up in their three wins.  27, 34, and 31.  Obviously, those numbers represent the amount of points the Cowboys gave up in their losses.

In those losses, they had eight turnovers, with five of them coming against Chicago.  They gave up a kick return for a TD against Baltimore.  They gave up a blocked punt for a TD against Seattle while also fumbling the opening kickoff.  The defense forced one turnover.

In those three wins, they had five turnovers with three of them coming against Tampa Bay.  On the other hand, they forced five turnovers as well.

Obviously the strength in teams is noteworthy in those wins and losses, but the fact remains that if the Cowboys have a reasonable turnover differential while not giving up more than two TDs or having backbreaking Special Teams miscues, they'll most likely win the ballgame.

Who knows how different the Seattle game is had the Cowboys not spotted them 10 points to open the game.  Had they just not fumbled the opening kickoff.  Had they just not have a punt blocked for a TD.  The game could be much different and maybe the defense doesn't wear down in the 2nd half.

Who knows how the Bears game plays out had Romo and Dez not badly misread each other on Chris Tillman's pick six when the score was only 3-0.  Or if Romo didn't throw four more interceptions after that including another pick six.  The Bears are certainly a better team than the Cowboys, but if not for those five turnovers, the Cowboys are in better position to win that game.

The Baltimore game is probably the worst loss of the three.  It's a game that they would have won if not for the interception deep in Baltimore's territory, the 108-yard kickoff return for a TD, or a Bailey's 51-yard miss as time expired that was certainly capable of being made.

I could sit here and make excuses through the entire article, but fortunately for you, I won't.  The Cowboys' problems are easily correctable.  It's not open-heart surgery.  They have a great QB who can make big throws when they need it.  They have an improving offensive line.  They have a good defense.  They have good receivers who plays well to their strengths if used properly.  Garrett knows this as well, and I loved the game he called yesterday.  It was one of his best called games.  I loved the fact that despite rushing for only 2.7 yards per carry, they still ran it 28 times and Romo threw it 34 times.  This was despite not having their best running back, DeMarco Murray.  That's balance I would take every single week.  There's nothing wrong with going conservative when you know you have a good defense, and you know your offense can make plays whenever time calls for them to be aggressive.

If you look at the blueprint of the Harbaugh-led 49ers, it's quite simple.  Play physical defense, and don't make mistakes on offense and special teams.  That sounds really simple when I say it, but the Cowboys make it seem really hard.  The 49ers seem to know how to play this way, and that would explain an 18-5 record since the beginning of last season.  If the Cowboys ever adopted that blueprint and executed it, they could possibly be better than the 49ers because they do have a QB who can win them games unlike the aforementioned.

Formula for winning:

  • Stay committed to the running game- Don't be afraid to run the football to protect Romo and make things easier for him.  You have a lead back in Murray who is dangerous.  You have a homerun threat in Felix Jones as a change of pace back.  You have a bruiser in Phillip Tanner.  Use that to your advantage.
  • Limit turnovers-  Missing open receivers is tolerable.  Dropping TDs is a little tolerable.  They just happen sometimes, but turnovers are unacceptable.  This should be the number one thing the Cowboys should try not to do.  Even if they come off too conservatively in doing so.  Do whatever it takes not to turn it over.  The 49ers weren't just 13-3 because they forced 38 turnovers.  No, they were 13-3 because they only had 10 turnovers all season.  When you don't make mistakes, you give yourself a chance to win almost every ball game.
  • No Special Teams mistakes- You may give up some good field position from time to time, but at least try to avoid giving up punts or kick returns for TD.  Try not to get your punts blocked too.  These little things have cost the Cowboys two games already this season.
  • Getting takeaways-  You need to limit turnovers, but you also need to force them.  When you play six of your first nine games on the road, if you want to be over .500 in that stretch, you better force turnovers.  A simple turnover probably is enough to beat Baltimore and they are 4-2 instead of 3-3.
  • Limit the other team to no more than two TDs- You see the Cowboys are 3-0 when they don't give up more than two TDs in a game.  Hmmm.....I could be onto something here.  But I could say this for just about any team besides the Kansas City Chiefs.
This formula seems pretty simple and really isn't that innovative, but these ideas would win the Cowboys a lot of games.  Especially when you are in the NFC East where just about every team is prone to turnovers.  Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys simply aren't as talented as many make them out to be.  They aren't more talented than the Giants, and they aren't more talented than the Eagles.  They aren't more talented than many teams in the NFC, but the 49ers aren't either.  That is why playing mistake-free football with sound defense and Special Teams is pivotal for these Cowboys.  That is how the 49ers win ballgames.  The Cowboys can't simply make a lot of mistakes and win ballgames like the Giants or Eagles can.  Eli can throw three picks in one half and still lead his team to a win, because he's that good, and so is the talent around him.  Vick may not be as great as Eli but the Eagles can get by with his mistakes too.  Not as often as Eli, but Vick does have the talent around him to make up for mistakes.  The Cowboys aren't that talented, so they need to be playing mistake-free football at all times.  They beat the Giants largely because they didn't make any backbreaking mistakes, and the one mistake they made, was covered by a great goal-line-stand by the defense.

Critical mistakes in Special Teams and turnovers offensively contributed largely to all three losses.  Simply adopting a more conservative approach with more emphasis on protecting the football would do them some good.  What I've seen the past two weeks gives me a little hope.  Despite the loss to Baltimore, I felt like the offense was doing all it could to protect the football.  Romo's interception was a little phantom considering Ogletree was interfered with and it was not called.  Without the Special Teams TD, they probably win that game.  For the past two weeks they've run the football a lot and have kept Romo grounded.  That's a recipe for success.

It won't hurt if they can get a little healthier too with DeMarco Murray next week.  Their running game is simply better when he's in the line up.  If there is anything we learned from Anthony Spencer's absence is that that side of the ball is tons better when he's in the line up.  As long as he stays healthy, the Cowboys defense should continue to sport one of the top defenses.  If they force more turnovers, the offense doesn't make mistakes, and the Special Teams plays sound, they will win more games than they lose.  But we all know the Cowboys never make it this easy.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers

Romo will look to snap a two-game losing streak in Carolina.
I'm personally still recovering from last week's defeat at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens.  It's a game I feel like they should have won.  Eerily similar to last year's loss to the Pats coming off the bye week.  The Cowboys certainly didn't deserve to beat the Ravens because at the end of day it's about putting more points on the board than the other team, not racking up more yards than them.  The Ravens scored a lot of points with little time of possession and they deserve credit for it.  It says a lot to me that the Ravens can play mediocre for three straight games and come out on top.  Not only that, but the Cowboys couldn't have possibly played better than they played in Baltimore last week.

A win in Baltimore could have possibly made me think differently about this team's chances of competing for a playoff spot and maybe making a deep playoff run.  It's one of those measuring-stick type of games where you see how a playoff-hopeful team stacks up against a Super Bowl-contender that they normally don't play.  Yet I'm left feeling the exact same way as I did after the loss in Foxboro last season.  Makes me feel that this season will be just more of the same:  Good, but not good enough.  But let He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named tell it, the Cowboys can be a Super Bowl team despite this loss.  I'm not so certain.

I echo Skip Bayless' sentiments regarding Tony Romo and these Romo-era Cowboys.  I don't think I could have said it any better than Skip said it.  Something will always go wrong no matter how much good they do.  They may beat the Tampa Bays of the world, and maybe even the Carolinas, but what does it matter if they can't win the big ones like last week?


And speaking of Carolina, they are coming fresh off of a bye week after a disappointing 1-4 start to the season.  Yet, they are not last place in the NFC South division like these 2-3 Dallas Cowboys thanks to their lone win being against the 1-4 New Orleans Saints.

On the surface, it looks like one of those games the Cowboys should win yet they could lose.  The Cowboys know they can't afford to lose this game or their season is pretty much on life support.  The Panthers already know their season is pretty much over with the Falcons being so far ahead of the pack in the division as they are 6-0 heading into their bye week.  So every game from this point forward is playing for pride.  They'll look to put the Cowboys in the same boat as them at 2-4.  Cam Newton has a tendency to make such god-awful atrocious throws, but the Cowboys have a tendency of not forcing turnover-prone QBs into mistakes or "takeovers."  Hell, they don't force turnovers period.  Nearly dead last in the NFL in takeaways with only four in five games.  Something's got to give this week.

Keys to a Cowboy victory:

  • Get "takeovers."
  • The offense needs to show up like it did last week.  
  • Kill the Panthers will and the crowd early by scoring TDs and making stops defensively.
  • Don't make any stupid mistakes.
  • Get Romo going early.
  • Keep Cam Newton in the pocket.

Keys to a Panther victory:

  • Establish running game early.
  • Force multiple turnovers.
  • Cam must be a dual-threat to keep the Cowboys defense off balance.
  • Steve Smith must have a big game.
  • Win the Special Teams battle.

Key players for the Cowboys:

  • Anthony Spencer- Not sure if he's playing, but if he is, that's great news for the Cowboys' defense.  They will need his ability to stop the run and spy Newton in this one.
  • Sean Lee- He must keep an eye on Greg Olsen at all times.
  • Bruce Carter- He must make sure Cam Newton doesn't kill them with his feet.
  • Miles Austin- I feel like this is a week where Austin could have a field day against this secondary.

Key players for the Panthers:

  • Cam Newton- Pretty obvious, but Newton must play nearly flawless for the Panthers to win this game.  
  • Luke Kuechly- I'm curious to see how Luke does against a hot Cowboys rushing attack.  If he has a big game, he can help make the Cowboys one-dimensional.
  • Jordan Gross- How he plays against Ware will be critical in protecting Newton.  If he can keep Ware in check, Newton will have plenty of time to survey the field and possibly take off running for big yardage.  The Cowboys don't get much pressure from anyone outside of Ware.
  • DeAngelo Williams- The Panthers need the old DeAngelo to show up tomorrow.  The one who could take it to the house at any moment.  If they get DeAngelo going, the Cowboys could have a tough time stopping this offense.


This will be the first time the Cowboys face Cam Newton, so it won't be easy.  At this point, I wouldn't be surprised either way.  The Cowboys could blow the Panthers out or they could lose in a close one.  The day in the life of a Dallas Cowboys fan.   I say this game is nail-biting close with the Cowboys edging the Panthers 23-20.  I'm sticking to it.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys talks Super Bowl, laughable

He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is never at a loss for words.  After falling to the depleted Baltimore Ravens 31-29 last Sunday, he has the guts, the nerve, the audacity to suggest that this Dallas Cowboy team can win the Super Bowl.  The dark lord's recent comments about the Cowboys chances in hoisting that Lombardi trophy is the talk of Valley Ranch once again.  This is absolutely ridiculous.  This is absurd, ludicrous, and unbelievable.  There aren't enough words to describe this.  Is he serious?  Is he really serious?  Really?  I mean really?
"We've got to have some wins to make sure we're in the hunt. But we are fresh off, I keep pointing it out, a world champion that won nine of 16 ballgames last year.  We know that you want your team as healthy and as in sync as it can be as we get on in to the end of the season. We know that we've played one division game and won it. We've got those guys, the Giants, coming back in here. We know that's going to be a big game for us.  All of those things give us a chance to take a team that is evolving into -- if you look at the pluses against the Ravens -- evolving into a team that can be a team that can compete for the championship. Not next year, this year.  I'm not into everybody getting better, learning for years to come," Jones said. "It's this year."
What does it matter how many games the Giants won in the regular season last year?  They were a good football team who had a brutal schedule.  That contributed somewhat to their 9-win season.  The Giants have in place everything that it takes to win a SB, so regardless of record, they were a dangerous team if they could get in.  They had a QB who already won one SB and is absolutely unconscious in the clutch.  One of the best front 7s in all of football.  Arguably having the deepest defensive line in the game.  A head coach who's won a SB before.  Not as some back-up QB, but as a head coach.  A franchise that's won multiple playoff games in the last decade and a half.  A GM who is actually great at what he does.  They don't have some owner who masquerades as a GM.  The Giants back up their talk.  Those were the New York Football Giants, not the Detroit Lions.  The Giants know how to win.  That wasn't just some ordinary 9-win team.

Frankly, the Cowboys just don't know how to win.  It's not just because the quarterback can't win big games or makes bad decisions at the worst times.  It's not just that the head coach can't coach because he's trying to do too many things at once.  It's not just because the defense gives up big plays and rarely makes any in big moments.  It's because of the owner.  It starts at the top.  You wanna know why this team walks around with this sense of entitlement?  It's because of the owner.  The arrogance to make such comments is baffling to me.  The complete disregard for the fact that the other teams are professional too. 

There is nothing wrong with him being confident in his team, but you have to crawl before you walk.  He talks about winning the Super Bowl when his team has one playoff win since the beginning of Bill Clinton's second term as POTUS.  Try to make the NFC Championship game first.  Let a young, brilliant, savvy businessman take over GM duties.  Stop meddling with the players and the coaches.  Let the head coach give injury updates, not you.  I want to hear from the players and coaches more than I want to hear from the owner.

He thinks this team can win a Super Bowl when they can't properly execute at the end of ball games.  The Cowboys need to learn how to win football games first before they start talking about Super Bowl.  And not just any games, playoff games.  A team that is 2-3 with two blowout losses is not ready to win a Super Bowl.  Super Bowl teams usually don't have quarterbacks who throw 5 interceptions in a nationally televised game.  They typically don't have the third worst turnover differential in the L.  They probably don't give up 108-yard kick returns for TDs, fumble opening kickoffs, or have punts blocked in pivotal road games.  They are better at clock management in late-game situations.  They have receivers who make big plays in key moments, not dropping 2-point conversions with the game on the line.  So I have to ask, how is this a Super Bowl team?

That win in New York to open the season is a distant memory; as if that win really mattered anyway in the grand scheme of things.  Winning divisional games isn't everything.  I remember a certain Oakland Raiders team going 6-0 in the division yet missing the playoffs because they finished 2-8 against opponents outside of the division.  Rare indeed, but the dark lord shouldn't be hanging his hat on that division win in New York well over a month ago.  The bottom line is the Cowboys aren't as good as the Giants.  Heck, the Cowboys aren't even good, they are mediocre.  Contrary to popular belief, the Cowboys are not all that talented.  They definitely aren't as talented as the Giants.  They aren't as mentally tough as the Giants.  Their franchise isn't run as well as the Giants.

If the Cowboys want to be anything like the Giants of last season and 2007, they can start by running ship like the Giants.  Hire a real offensive coordinator so the head coach can be a full-time head coach.  Hire a real GM so they can consistently draft well as those New York Giants do.  Build an elite front 7 that can make life hell for the opposing quarterback.  Control the quarterback's school-yard play mentality.  Most importantly, the dark lord needs to take a backseat and stop setting unrealistic expectations for such a mediocre team.  Sign paychecks and stay hidden..  The braggadocio act only works if your team is actually good and winning playoff games.  It doesn't work when all of America is laughing at you, your team's ineptitude, your team's tendency to lose games in embarrassing fashion, your self-aggrandizing, your laughable home record in your billion dollar stadium, and this sense of entitlement.  Instead of worrying about being like the Giants, you need to be like the Texans first.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rob Ryan's defense hasn't been all that creative

Rob Ryan has been all bark and no bite.
Coming into this season, all the talk was about how these mercurial Dallas Cowboys needed to address the secondary to give Rob Ryan the tools necessary to improve a laughable defense into something possibly great.  For the most part, the pass defense has been drastically improved.  However, there is one problem, Rob Ryan's defense still hasn't been as creative as we all thought it would be.

You look at the Cowboys stats so far this season, and they are sitting pretty at 4th in the league in total defense, and 2nd in pass defense.  Only there are a few problems with these misleading stats; they are giving up nearly 24 points per game and they have exactly four turnovers in five games.  That is putrid.  In a way, it completely negates the fact that they have a top 5 overall defense.  Sure, you can blame it on Carr seeing as he has zero interceptions.  Claiborne has zero interceptions.  As a matter of fact, nobody in the secondary has a single interception.  Only Sean Lee has an interception for this defense in five games, and that was only because of a dropped pass by D.J. Ware that popped up in the air right into Lee.  So in other words, this defense hasn't legitimately gotten one interception all season.

If you are going to point fingers, why not start at the head of the snake?  Let's talk about the great Rob Ryan, son of Buddy Ryan, and brother of headstrong Rex Ryan.  All Cowboy fans have heard about Rob since his hiring was that he was a creative defensive mastermind that has never had as much talent anywhere as he does in Dallas.  He made his presence felt immediately by taking a jab at the "dream team."  Exemplifying what Rob Ryan's D has been all about.  All talk and not much to show for it.

The Cowboys would proceed to get absolutely destroyed by the Eagles in Philadelphia, and then the Eagles would complete the sweep in Dallas just before the Week 17 showdown in MetLife Stadium for the divisional crown against the eventual SB champion New York Giants.  A lot of talking and a lot of doing nothing.

Many wouldn't hold him accountable for contributing to last season's five 4th-quarter-collapses because he didn't have the right players.  Maybe that's true to a degree, but we are at the point now where there is no more excuses.  Here we are in 2012 and Dallas has forced all of just four turnovers in five games.  In-game adjustments by Ryan have been questionable in almost every game.  Not blitzing Russell Wilson or adjusting to what Seattle was doing in the 2nd half.  The blown assignments in the 2nd half against the Bears.  Letting Baltimore get whatever they wanted when they needed it. Where is this defensive mastermind that I've heard so much about?  He's got the guys that he needs.  They spent 50 million dollars to bring in Carr.  They traded up to the 6th pick in the draft to get an elite cornerback prospect in Morris Claiborne.  They cut aging Terence Newman, Bradie James, and Keith Brooking while Bruce Carter is paired with Sean Lee.   Yet here we are and the defense has yet to force any type of big plays.

As much flack as Jason Garrett has received for not being creative with his playcalling, getting too cute, and being highly predictable, Rob Ryan has gotten a pass for the same thing.  Nobody is being fooled by his defensive looks.  Eli Manning wasn't fooled.  Russell Wilson wasn't fooled, Freeman wasn't fooled, Jay Cutler wasn't fooled, Flacco wasn't fooled.  One of those guys is a 2x Super Bowl champion and one of them is a rookie, but the other three are very turnover prone quarterbacks.  Yet Ryan's looks forced one single interception against them.

Yards per game for and against are meaningless in this league if you hardly do anything with it.  That was evident today in the loss at Baltimore.  The Cowboys gained nearly 500 yards of total offense and 40 minutes of time possession while Baltimore barely eclipsed 300 total yards and just under 20 minutes of time possession.  Oh by the way, no team rushed for more yards against the Ravens in their franchise history than the Cowboys did today.  To Garrett's credit, the offense did its job but you can't say the same for Ryan.  All it took was one big defensive play and Dallas likely would have won that game.

Today's game was a microcosm of Rob Ryan's defense playing it safe, getting too cute, and not making big plays.  Think back to the 3rd and long just before the half a few plays after Romo's interception.  Joe Flacco converts a 3rd and 14 to Boldin simply because Rob Ryan dropped 8 men back in coverage and Flacco had ample time to sit back in the pocket and pick them apart.  Somehow, Bruce Carter got stuck on Anquan Boldin.  Showing how Ryan just likes to get too cute.  It's 3rd and long.  How about a blitz to force the ball out of Flacco's hands quickly?  How about making sure that a great WR like Boldin doesn't end up on a linebacker?  3rd and 14 is not that insurmountable in today's pass-happy league so playing it safe can do more harm than good.  The Ravens would eventually go on to score a TD just before half, which was the worst possible thing that could have happened.

Ryan likes to get too cute in confusing the opposing quarterback.  He loves to rotate as many guys as he can.  He loves to show all types of pretty-looking formations, but it's translating into nothing.  Say what you want about Romo, Garrett, the receivers, and all the other problems they have offensively, but Rob's unit is not getting it done.  The yards are nice and I'm certain many will point to where the Cowboys are ranked defensively, but it's meaningless if they aren't forcing turnovers and making big plays to give Romo and this offense a little push.  Where is this creative pressure I'm supposed to be seeing?  I'm not seeing anything special.  I'm seeing a bunch of presnap movement, but only satisfactory results.  I'm not seeing any type of special blitzes.  I'm not seeing disguised coverages that fool QBs.  I'm not seeing anybody outside of Ware getting to the quarterback.  I thought improved secondary play was supposed to improve the pass rush because this defensive guru would dial up his mastermind blitzes because he finally had the cover corners necessary to do so?

All I'm seeing is a team who can get some stops on 3rd down, but can't make any game-changing plays and are giving up too many points at the worst times.  The Ravens had the ball for all of 19 minutes yet carved out 24 points from it.  Partly because of a collapse at the end of the first half where the Ravens marched 80 yards down the field in under two minutes to go up 17-10, and another drive that resulted in a touchdown in the 4th quarter where they marched the ball 73 yards down the field in under four minutes when the score was 23-24.  Characteristics of the same things we saw a year ago in those comical 4th quarter collapses.

And who knows just what the Cowboys record could be had Victor Cruz not dropped critical passes, had the replacement refs noticed Scandrick holding Cruz in the endzone, or if Romo and Ogletree hadn't connected on the 3rd and long to seal the game.  Was there any indication that the defense would have stopped the Giants had Romo and Ogletree not converted the 3rd down?  The Cowboys led 24-10 and the Giants marched right down the field to make it 24-17.  Had they gotten the ball back, there is a good chance that the game is sent into OT, and all the good that Dallas had did within the game would be erased. 

Why the Giants marched right down the field was because Rob Ryan played it safe instead of bringing pressure.  Why he was doing that in the first place was questionable with over five minutes left in the ballgame.  Nobody could forget that debacle against these same Giants in Cowboys Stadium in the previous season where they squandered a 12 point lead with just over five minutes remaining. 

Who knows if they escape against Tampa Bay if not for Tampa's own suspect playcalling or a missed call that wiped away a Tampa Bay defensive TD.  And right on cue, when Tampa was desperate for points late in the game, they drove right down the field on Ryan's D and kicked a FG to make it a six point game.  By then it was a little too late, but it's yet another example of how Rob Ryan's D can look good for stretches of the game yet seemingly give up huge chunks of yardage to allow the opponent a fighting chance in the end of games or in last year's case, win the games.

Yards clearly don't tell the whole story with Ryan's D.  The Cowboys haven't been an elite defensive team this season, even though stats may suggest it.  The turnovers are few and far in between.  They give up too many points whenever the other team needs it most.  How can Carr or Claiborne make plays on the ball when Ryan's blitzes aren't hitting home?  Or how about the lack of blitzes?  It's clear that nobody is being fooled by these different looks that Ryan shows.  Maybe it's time to get back to the basics.  Maybe it's time to blitz more and more to allow this secondary to prove their worth.  Maybe it's time to take some chances and stop worrying about not giving up the big plays.  You should only play this super-conservatively when you are up by 3 TDs, not when you are in a dogfight.  They may give up big plays if they take more chances, but they will also make big plays.

Just maybe if this defense starts making some big plays and helping out this offense, you'll see the Cowboys win more games.  Maybe Cowboy fans will have a reason to get noisy in Cowboy Stadium if the defense can start making some plays.  Jason Garrett is taking all the heat and Ryan is getting off easy.  His defenses haven't been all that was advertised.  Ryan hasn't shown that he is capable of confusing the opposing quarterback on a game-to-game basis.  He has proven to not be all that creative with his scheme.  He hasn't really been any better than Wade Phillips.  His posturing fits perfectly with a franchise owned by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.  He's just one problem of a long list of problems in Valley Ranch.  Ryan's D has done a lot of barking but no biting.  Not even a little nibbling.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Any doubts about CC Sabathia's ability in the clutch should have been squashed last night

Has CC silenced his detractors?
It was not too long ago that Carsten Charles Sabathia was perceived as a choker.  Some maybe still believe it.  After his laughable performance against the Boston Red Sox in the 2007 ALCS, it was hard to argue with this perception.  It didn't help CC's case when he was traded to the Brewers, posted ridiculous numbers, yet in his lone playoff game, he was shelled.  In the regular season for the Brew Crew, he posted a sparkling 1.65 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, a 128:25 K:BB ratio, and an 11-2 record in 17 starts.  He also tallied seven complete games, three complete game shutouts, and averaged nearly eight innings a start.

In the 2008 NLDS against the Phillies, he was shelled for 5 ERs in 3.2 innings.  That performance would ramp up the "CC is a choker bandwagon" to level orange.  What many continued to overlook was just how much the Brewers overworked Sabathia.  His last three starts were on three days rest.  Nope, not just one, but three!  Averaging 111 pitches per start.  So just maybe, just maybe, CC's collapse in the playoffs wasn't entirely his fault.  But that's just not a good enough excuse for his detractors.

And oh boy would those naysayers come out in droves when he signed on to play with the boys in pinstripes.  Just no way could this have been a good signing for the Yankees.  They were signing a choker they said.  CC would be a failure they said.  CC proceeded to have the best postseason run of his career in 2009.  Tag-teaming along with A-Rod to lead the Yankees to a 27th World Series title.  Briefly shutting up those critics.  It wasn't just that he was dominant, but he was doing it in one of the most gargantuan markets in sports.  But was it really surprising?  Is it that shocking that a perennial Cy Young contender put forth together a great postseason run?  At some point you knew it would happen.  The "choker" label is one of the biggest myths in sports.  A pitcher of Sab's caliber will simply get it done when it counts eventually.  It's part of the ups and downs of being a major league pitcher.  Sometimes they will dominate, and sometimes they will get shelled.  It happens to even the best of them.  Bad games just unfortunately happened too many times in the early part of CC's career.

But that wouldn't stop defamers for getting right back on CC's case in 2010.  He had a pretty average playoff run, and the Yanks would fall to the Texas Rangers in the 2010 ALCS, and people would begin to question the legitimacy his 2009 postseason run.  Maybe some of that criticism was fair.  Looking at his career up to this point, he only had one great playoff run, two horrible playoff runs, an okay start in his rookie year, and an average playoff run.  I guess you can add 2011 as another average playoff run(or horrible depending on how you define it).  Which brings us to this postseason.

If you had your doubts about CC's ability in crucial situations, you should no longer bet against him.  The man has the ability to make big pitches when it matters most.  He showed in the past that he could be hittable in playoff games, but that doesn't mean he was a "choker."  He has shown in these playoffs against a pesky Os team, that he can make big pitches and get big outs.  Just how big was he in Game 1?  The Os were 22-8 at home in August and September combined.  Winning there is no easy feat.

After giving up two runs in the bottom of the 3rd, CarCharles would settle down and pitch well.  When the bottom of the sixth came, CC got in a little trouble due to a Jeter error.  This got the crowd in it, and CC needed to get an out to put a stop to a possible rally and he would do so.  The biggest obstacle CC would face would be in the bottom of the 8th inning after a leadoff double from J.J. Hardy with the Os best hitters coming up to the plate.  Game is tied 2-2, and at this point, giving up a run is absolutely critical.  CC gets a big punchout of Adam Jones.  Gets Wieters to foul out.  Then gets Mark Reynolds to groundout.  Hardy never being moved from second base.  The Yanks would go on to break the tie while scoring 5 runs in the top of the 9th to give CC and the Yanks the win.

His biggest performance would come in last night's Game 5 elimination game.  Where he would prove to be absolutely dominant.  The Os provided little resistance for much of the night, that was until the top of the 8th inning.  Sabathia's biggest haters just knew he would squander that game away.  There was no way the Os would be denied.  A storybook season like this just couldn't possibly end on this night.  After the Os would single, walk, then single again to bring Wieters across home plate, CC would get himself in some trouble.  He would strikeout the stalwart Mark Reynolds, and Andino would follow with an infield hit to load the bases.  Score 3-1, bases loaded, one out.  This is when CC would make some of the biggest pitches of his career.  There is no room for error.  A wild pitch, flyball out, or hard groundout makes it a one run game.  A single ties the game.  Anything more could be disastrous.  CC would strikeout the nettlesome Nate McLouth, and then would face J.J. Hardy for the final out.  The same J.J. Hardy who nearly sparked a rally in CC's first start in Baltimore with the leadoff double in the bottom of the 8th.  The same J.J. Hardy that would knock in the game-winning run the night before in a 13-inning marathon.  He would weakly ground out to Derek Jeter and CC got out of the jam with a nearly flawless pitching display.  If that wasn't enough, CC would come right back out and finish the game with a clean 9th inning securing an ALCS berth for the Yankees.

Sorry boys but "chokers" simply don't perform at the level that CC displayed last night.  Getting big outs when he had to have them.  Making big pitches when they needed to be made.  He was simply flawless when the bases were loaded with only one out.  You can't say anymore that CC doesn't have the ability to be clutch.  You can't tell me he's a "choker."  There will be good times and bad times for any starting pitcher in the playoffs, but quality starters like CC will be good in playoff games far more often than they will be bad.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dallas Cowboys vs. Baltimore Ravens

The Ravens and Cowboys will square off this Sunday at 1 PM ET.  The venue being the MT&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland.  The Cowboys look to keep pace with the Giants and Eagles in the NFC East whereas the Ravens look to keep their comfortable lead in the AFC North and move to 5-1.


The Cowboys look to get that two-week old bad taste out of their mouths after losing to the Chicago Bears 34-18 on Monday Night Football in embarrassing fashion.  Although losing in such a way is typical of these Romo-led Cowboys.

The Ravens look to keep momentum going before a huge showdown next week in Houston.  These aren't your little brother's Ravens defensively, but they still force turnovers(4th in the league in takeaways) and keep the other team from scoring(17.8 ppg) after 5 games. The Ravens will try like hell not to overlook these Cowboys seeing as they face the 5-0 Houston Texans next week.  But it's hardly something you would expect out of a John Harbaugh team.  Oh, and it just so happens that these Ravens rarely lose at home.  So to expect a letdown here would be unwise despite what lies ahead of them in Houston.

Keys to a Cowboy victory:

  • They must force multiple turnovers.  A big key to winning road games against great teams in this league requires forcing them out of their comfort zone and into multiple mistakes.
  • Conversely, they also must protect the football themselves.  The Cowboys cannot afford Tony Turnover to show up this week. 
  • The running game must get back on its feet.  It has disappeared since the win in MetLife Stadium against the defending champs.
  • No circus music plays.  I don't think anybody can describe this Romo-led Cowboy team in one sentence better than Stephen A. Smith can.  "The Cowboys are an accident waiting to happen."  That's essentially what I'm saying here.  I call them circus music plays.  Eliminate those plays, and they'll stand a fighting chance.

Keys to a Raven victory:

  • Feed Ray Rice to set up playaction.
  • Feed off the crowd's energy.
  • Keep the Cowboys' running game in check.  They keep the Cowboys one-dimensional, their offense becomes highly predictable.
  • Let the Cowboys beat themselves.  That shouldn't be too hard to do.  Minimize their own mistakes, and let the Cowboys implode.  It's what the Cowboys always do.

Key players for the Cowboys:

  • Jay Ratliff- It's hard to believe the Cowboys have the #4 ranked defense in the NFL when Ratliff has yet to play a game this season.  He obviously makes their defense better.  He provides them with a rare versatility from the nose tackle position.  The ability to pressure the QB from up the middle as well as stopping the run.  The Cowboys desperately need Ratliff because although the defense has been stout, they haven't been able to generate much pressure up the middle to collapse the pocket.  Josh Brent filled in admirably in his absence, but he's simply not Jay Ratliff.
  • Miles Austin- If Miles Austin has a big game, the Ravens are gonna have problems.  He is the best weapon the Cowboys have.  Witten hasn't been Witten so far this season and Dez cannot be trusted to properly run routes.  If Miles Austin has a big day, the Cowboys have a great chance of pulling off the upset.
  • Brandon Carr- Carr was paid handsomely to improve the secondary.  To his credit, he has done that.  But after a spotty game against Brandon Marshall, he needs to bounce back and show why the Cowboys gave him that contract.  It also wouldn't hurt to get an interception.  If he got an interception, it would be the first for anyone in this secondary.  They may have the #1 pass defense in football so far, but you wouldn't think it given a player in the secondary has yet to catch an interception.  This Sunday would be a good time to start making plays on the ball for Carr and the rest of that secondary.

Key players for the Ravens:

  • Ed Reed-  With an average secondary, Reed will need to be his typical self.  Romo and his receivers aren't always on the same page, but there is no denying the Cowboys' receivers are talented.  Ed Reed will need to help keep the big plays to a minimum for a pass defense that is ranked 23rd in the NFL.
  • Haloti Ngata- To say the Cowboys have a suspect offensive line would be an understatement.  The fact of the matter is, the Ravens haven't generated much of a pass rush with the absence of Terrell Suggs so far this season.  They have to get creative to generate pressure.  So it is key that Ngata has a big game.  He doesn't need to get sacks, but collapsing the interior of the Cowboys offensive line and forcing Romo out of the pocket to allow blitzers to get to him will be big. As well as helping keep the Cowboys' running game in check.
  • Lardarius Webb- The Ravens love to play Webb all over the field.  That will be key to stopping a guy like Miles Austin.  Austin is the Cowboys' best route runner and he can take his routes all over the field.  If Webb can keep him in check, the Cowboys' offense will have trouble moving the football.  Webb is also a great run defender for a cornerback.  He isn't afraid to make the tackle, so he will be key in helping stop the run as well.


I love my Cowboys, but it's hard to trust them to pull this one out.  My gut is telling me this game will be close, and the Cowboys will have a chance to win in the end.  But the Cowboys will probably make key mistakes and the Ravens will capitalize off of them.  The Ravens are also at home so it's tough to bet against them in this one.  Being good but not good enough is a microcosm of these new age Cowboys, and that will show Sunday.  I say the Ravens win 23-17 even though I'm cringing as I type this.