Monday, November 26, 2012

Be thankful that the Dallas Cowboys are showing heart

I've enjoyed a long Thanksgiving break although on the day we give thanks, the Dallas Cowboys nearly ruined my vacation with a gut-wrenching loss to a bitter rival.  The soar of boos could be heard from miles away as the Cowboys went into halftime down 28-3 after just giving up 28 points in the 2nd quarter.

As a diehard fan, I have to be honest, I never had high hopes going into this game against RG3 especially when Jay Ratliff was ruled out.  Add the fact that they needed OT just to beat the Browns just four days prior.  The Redskins were practically coasting past the Eagles while the Cowboys were in a dogfight just four days before the two teams would meet.  Frankly, the Cowboys just had too many injuries on the defensive front to generate the type of pressure needed to force RG3 into mistakes and didn't have the proper safety play or ILB play to cover the middle of the field.  And I was right once that second quarter hit.  Big play after big play, and the offense didn't do the defense any favors by failing to score TDs earlier in the ball game when they could have ceased control of the game or Romo's interception that contributed to the 2nd quarter surge.

Those injuries were just too tough to overcome.  Injuries are certainly not a good enough excuse because every team has them this time of year.  It's all about surviving and persevering at this point in the season and many teams have done that.  Teams like the Falcons, Giants, Pats, Bears, Texans, and Packers have had their share of injuries but they took care of business when they needed to.  A slow start against the Giants in Cowboys Stadium and a failure to come away with a win in Baltimore despite completely dominating that game is coming back to haunt the Cowboys at this point.  Win those two games, and they are 7-4 at this point instead of 5-6 meanwhile the Giants are a game back for the division lead while already losing twice to Dallas; so essentially a two-game lead.  Yes, the Cowboys spotted the Giants a 23-0 lead and it's hard to say the Cowboys deserved that win, but the fact of the matter is, they ceased control of the game and came all the way back.  And by all means should have won the game.  Dez Bryant just has to make sure his hand isn't out of bounds.  Inexcusable.

But it's the same ole same ole with these Cowboys.  Always good, but not good enough.  If there is a silver lining you can take from that Giants' game, it's the fact that they didn't give up.  That's been a common trend in every game since the Chicago nightmare on Monday Night Football.  You probably wouldn't believe me, but the Cowboys are among the top 5 in the NFL in points scored in the 4th quarter.  They average 9.0 points per game in the 4th quarter which is 4th in the league behind only the Pats, Broncos, and Lions.  It's evident these Cowboys just don't quit

The fact that they dug a 28-3 hole and actually came back to make it 35-28 was a feat within itself.  And there was plenty of time to make a stop and actually tie it, but they just couldn't do it, and came up short.  But don't let that get you down.  Yes these Cowboys are 5-6, yes the Giants made a mockery of one of the NFC's best last night, and yes the Cowboys would need an improbable run to make the playoffs this season, but I'm saying don't give up just yet, because they certainly haven't.

Think back all the way until the Baltimore game after the bye week.  They gave Baltimore all they could handle and came up short.  But remember the two 4th down conversions late in the game by Romo and Witten.  Remember how they refused to give up.  Remember the onside kick being successful and the Cowboys surprisingly almost having a chance to win that game only needing a 51-yard field goal from Dan Bailey.

Remember the very next week as it seemed the Carolina Panthers, coming off a bye, had the Cowboys on the ropes yet the Cowboys fought back to steal the game.  As I mentioned, remember how they battled all the way back from a 23-0 deficit against the Giants.  How about in Atlanta when they refused to give up even though it was clear Atlanta was superior?  And the next week at Philly when it seemed as if  Foles would lead the Eagles to a win after putting them up 14-10.  Romo had an amazing drive that tied the game at 17-17, and then they would proceed to score 21 points in the 4th quarter from defensive and Special Teams TDs.  How about against Cleveland, when they were completely outplayed trailing 13-0 at half and rattled off 17 points in the 4th quarter, and continued to battle back even when it looked as if Cleveland grasped full control of the game?  And of course, we can't forget the way they battled back against the Redskins on Thanksgiving.  For good measure, the Cowboys scored 18 points in the 4th quarter of that one.  So in the last three games combined, the Cowboys have scored 56 points.  For you math wizards, that's almost 19 points a game in just the 4th quarter.

You can say what you want about the Cowboys and their perceived "chokes," but the fact of the matter is, this team hasn't choked this year.  At least not compared to last season where they blew five 4th quarter leads.  If anything, they've risen to the occasion more than they've fallen flat on their faces in the 4th quarter this season.  The problem with the Cowboys this year has been starting games, not finishing them.  Maybe if the Cowboys weren't almost dead last in 1st half scoring on the season, they'd be in position to win the NFC East instead of two games back.  The Cowboys need to figure out a way to start games from here on out if they want to make a miraculous run to the playoffs.

But at the end of the day, I say the Cowboys have dug too deep of a hole to make the playoffs, ironically like they've been doing in football games.  But if there is one good thing that can come out of all this, it's the fact that the Cowboys haven't given up and are showing heart.  In past seasons, the Cowboys certainly would have lost on Thanksgiving by at least four TDs instead of making it respectable.  They certainly would have laid down and quit against the New York Football Giants after falling down 23-0.  Also don't forget they are seemingly losing a starter every single week.  This squad is as depleted as it gets and now Bruce Carter is done for the year.  They've showed a lot of heart in moments when they could have laid down and tapped out.  Even when they lost Sean Lee in Carolina they fought back and still held on to win.  This team isn't quitting any time soon despite what is up against them.  It makes you believe that maybe this team sometime in the near future can become a Super Bowl contender if cornerstone players like Murray, Lee, and Carter can stay healthy.  Heart is something all Super Bowl contenders possess.  The Cowboys have that and now all they need is the talent and depth to go with it.  That is something we as Cowboy fans can be thankful for.

Monday, November 12, 2012

What to make of the Dallas Cowboys win over the Eagles

I'm not quite sure if that was the Chicago Bears or the Dallas Cowboys.  Are you kidding me?  Not one, but two defensive touchdowns?  A Special Teams touchdown?  You mean to tell me that a side of the ball other than the offense managed to put up three touchdowns in the final quarter of a game?  I'd be willing to bet that that has rarely, RARELY happened in Dallas Cowboys history.

Boy does it feel good for the balls to bounce in the Cowboys favor every once in the while.  It only took nine freaking games for the Cowboys to manage a defensive touchdown, and they did it twice in the same game.  I've always felt like my Cowboys just weren't good enough to beat the best teams in the NFL in the last decade or so, but at the same time I felt like they rarely got the breaks as well. 

Yesterday was shaping up as yet another game where they would lose.  A breakdown in coverage saw them trail 14-10 with momentum being heavily in Philly's favor.  They were seemingly making mistakes at the worst times with numerous penalties on 3rd down resulting in 1st downs as Nick Foles was gaining more and more confidence with each drawback.  This had the makings of another one of those close ball games that the Cowboys would lose.

Knowing the season was on the line, Romo did what he always does and doesn't get enough credit for, he kept the Cowboys close and tied the ball game 17-17 with arguably his three best plays of the season.  Dodging a convoy of would be tacklers to convert a pivotal 3rd down was just the beginning.  Then he would cap off the drive with a beautiful throw to Dez Bryant to tie the game.  Whether or not you think it was a catch is up to you.  This is nothing new for Romo.  I criticize Romo a lot, but I do believe he comes through more often than the pundits say he does.  The problem has always been he doesn't get the help necessary needed to finish the game.

That wouldn't be the case yesterday.  After tying the game, Romo wouldn't get the ball back until they were up two scores.  You can count on your finger the number of times Romo had a 14 point lead in the 4th quarter of a game when the last time he had possession, the game was tied.  What transpired in the 4th quarter of yesterday's game was just odd indeed.  I'm sure Cowboy fans were in shock with the way things played out.  We haven't seen anything like that in a long time

But what should we all make of this performance?  Was it just a mirage?  Was it more illustration of a sign of things to come for the Cowboys or does it highlight the serious problems in Philadelphia?  I didn't have the Cowboys winning yesterday and I'm glad to say I was wrong, but what should we really take away from this win?  The Cowboys far exceeded themselves in that 4th quarter.  In a game that looked like it was coming down to the wire, the defense and Special Teams made some big plays to help mask another anemic offensive performance.

The Cowboys D frankly has just been too good to be so unlucky for this long.  They were due for a game like that.  You have to also keep in mind Anthony Spencer had an interception negated by a penalty by Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick dropped two interceptions in which one of them could have went to the house. 

Imagine that, the Cowboys D played aggressive and forced some turnovers and could have easily forced even more than the two they did if not for penalties and drops.  You could see that Rob Ryan's D became a lot more aggressive when Nick Foles entered the game.  It makes you wonder why they haven't always been this aggressive throughout the season.  You see, the Cowboys just haven't been a Jason Garrett problem, it's been a Rob Ryan problem too. This hasn't just been about Romo, Dez, or Garrett.  This is an organizational problem. 

Do I think the Cowboys will pull it off and make a big push towards the playoffs this year and maybe even win the division?  Absolutely not.  Do I think they are capable?  Of course, but things have to go their way.  They need a lot of what happened in the 4th quarter yesterday to beat the likes of Pittsburgh, New Orleans, and even Cincinnati.  Shoot, Washington(2x), Cleveland, and Philly(again) at home won't be a picnic by any means.

Let's face it, this offense is still putrid.  They are horrible at converting 3rd downs, horrible in the redzone, and they don't make enough big plays down the field.  Maybe DeMarco Murray can come back and assuage the situation, but this team still has a lot of issues.  Safety play is still a concern, turnovers are just too hard to come by, MoClaibo will have his bumps in the road, and they still don't have Sean Lee.  Asking the Cowboys to win 10 games is a tall tall order.  Especially for a team that isn't that deep in the first place. 

Enough of this talented crap I keep hearing from the media.  Yes, they may have a talented starting 22, but this sport is all about all three phases and all 53 men.  When someone says to me that the Cowboys underachieve, I honestly don't believe that individual has any clue about this sport.  The best 53-man rosters win Super Bowls.  22 people have never won a SB in this sport.  The Cowboys don't have one of the best 53-man roster in the L and that's why they aren't a Super Bowl contender.

Despite yesterday's win, my opinion hasn't changed of the Cowboys.  Just for once they got some breaks and capitalized, but doesn't mean their season has been turned around.  Yesterday wasn't the team I've come to know for many many years.  That was a different football team that made plays in all phases and didn't beat themselves with stupid turnovers.  I suspect the real Cowboys will show up sooner rather than later.  I still believe they lack the necessary talent and depth to make a playoff push.  I still believe the in-game adjustments from the coaching staff are a huge problem.  I still believe they are far too penalty-prone as they showed even in the win yesterday.  I still believe Romo will make critical mistakes and won't do enough to overcome this team's flaws.  I still believe this pass rush is slightly above-average and the defense as a whole is soft.  I believe the inevitable was only delayed a few weeks.  This is the New York Giants' division to lose.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

If you read my last article, you would know how livid I am about the Dallas Cowboys and their organization and have basically conceded that they are just an average franchise until proven otherwise.  I'm still holding firm to that opinion, but they do have a chance to keep their season alive with a win tomorrow.

They will be heading into a hostile Philadelphia and will face themselves, literally.  They seem to have their own sitcom down there in Philly as well.  Both of these teams are so eerily similar that it's scary.  Both find ways to lose ball games they should win.  Both turn the ball over at just an astonishing rate.  Both offenses have just been laughable and have trouble scoring touchdowns, settling for field goals.  Both find ways to lose in such a hilarious way.

I give the Cowboys a pass for their woes because I know what they are.  The Eagles have been one of the best ran organizations under the Andy Reid Administration or ARA like I like to call it.  I have been highly critical of the ARA in the past, but it's been highly successful when you look at the resume.  No, they haven't won any Super Bowls, but they've won a lot of playoff games, divisional titles, one Super Bowl appearance, and five NFC Championship Game appearances.

Which brings me to the point that the fact that the Eagles are standing 3-5 right now and almost last place in the division with the ARA still intact, is stunning.  The offensive line has been decimated this year but that is no excuse for the Eagles being 3-5.  They are too deep and talented to have such a poor record.  I expect  this with the Cowboys.  When they lose a key player, they don't have the proper depth to be as successful without that key player.  The Eagles on the other hand are usually pretty deep and have great drafts year in and year out.

Philly heads into gameday knowing they are in the same boat as the Cowboys:  You lose, your season is on life support and if you win, there's still an outside chance you can make the playoffs.  And who knows, maybe the Giants don't pull away and 9-7 wins the division again. 

I don't have a great feeling about the Cowboys chances especially given what happened last week.  I really love the way the Cowboys match up with the New York Giants as they showed in both games against them.  Winning one of them and nearly winning another after trailing 23-0 and had two outstanding defensive efforts in the process.  I'm not so sure they have the same advantage against the Eagles.  Not that the Eagles have better weapons than the Giants, but the way they attack you is in a way that Dallas might have trouble with.

As evidenced last week against the 8-0 Atlanta Falcons, the Cowboys had a tough time covering the middle of the field.  I commend He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named for signing Brandon Carr and trading up for Morris Claiborne, but not bringing in an impact safety is hurting this team.  Regardless of how great Carr and Claibo have been, the secondary still has poor safety play and Scandrick is not a good corner.  Then you add not having Sean Lee for the rest of the season and the middle of the field is ripe for the picking.  Oh, and they have a guy named LeSean McCoy by the way.  He'll be a load to handle.

Last season the Eagles shredded the Cowboys defense in the middle of the field in Lincoln Financial last season as they blew out the Cowboys 34-7.  McCoy also did his thing rushing for nearly 200 yards.  I highly doubt the outcome of this one will be similar, but I think the Eagles will have some success in the middle of the field the way the Falcons did.  Especially if the they can't pressure Vick and keep him from beating them with his feet.  They could also wear down as they did in ATL if the offense doesn't do anything.  That could lead to some huge runs for McCoy late.

I expect a great effort from the Cowboys but it just won't be enough.  I like the Eagles in this one because they are at home and just as desperate as the Cowboys.  If you can recall, the Eagles defeated Baltimore and the defending champion New York Giants at home.  So it is a little surprising that the Cowboys are a one-point favorite in this game.  This is a game that if the Cowboys don't get off to a fast start, it could get ugly really fast.  I think Andy and Vick's jobs will be safe for another week as they win 20-10.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Dallas Cowboys are who they are: An average organization

You are who you are.  That is something that I have always believed in.  Everyone at some point in their lives aspires to be something they are not.  That is not the way you want to go about life.  If you aspire to be something, at least be good at it.  What you hope to be in life should be something that is within your range and not beyond your ken.  You know, they tell you when you are younger that you can be anything you want to be when you grow up.  I've grown up and have learned that that is a bunch of baloney.  You can't be anything you want to be.  You can try, but you will likely fail at most things.  When I was a kid, I wanted to be one of the best professional basketball players the game has ever seen, but by the time I graduated from high school, I stood at 5'11 with no athleticism to speak of.  Yeah, so much for that.  No, I'm not saying that children shouldn't be told when they are young that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up; I'm saying that it's a big crock and when you get older, you'll realize just how full of crap that castle-in-the-sky thinking was.  They tell you a lot of things when you are younger that you find out are full of it when you get older.  That's the facts of life for ya.

Whatever it is you decide to be, it's usually something that you are talented in or good maybe even great at.  At the end of the day, you are who you are.  If you have the talent, athleticism, and size to be an NBA, MLB, or NFL player, then that's what you shoot for.  If you have the skills to be a doctor, then that is what you should be.  If your soul is on the market and you'll do whatever to sell it, maybe you should become a lawyer.  If you are great at being a drug dealer, then that's probably what you should do.  You know, a lot of people in this world are good at being bad; just the way it is.  You are who you are but it just sometimes takes you a while before you figure it out.  Which oddly brings me to these Dallas Cowboys.  They haven't figured it out yet.

There are many criticisms or perceptions about the Dallas Cowboys.  They can't finish games.  They are an accident waiting to happen.  The head coach can't coach.  The QB is a choker.  Those perceptions may be true, but I say it's time for people to accept the Cowboys for who they are:  An average NFL organization who gets press only because they have an owner who is a marketing guru.  We are many years removed from the glory days.  The days of living up to the America's Team pseudonym.  The days of making the playoffs seemingly every year.  The days of winning Super Bowls and building dynasties.  Those days are long over.

This organization began a rapid decline after Troy Aikman was forced into retirement.  A decline that originally began to come into fruition after a bitter feud between He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named and Jimmy Johnson.  A short-lived marriage ended and would be the beginning of the end for a once-great organization.  After years and years of success and jubilation, the Cowboy faithful is now subjected to a laughable, abominable product on the field.  One playoff win in the last 16 seasons says all.  No need to delve into the poor regular season record since 1996, the December woes in the last decade, or the constant shortcomings in big games.  Winning big games was a problem before Tony Romo came into the fray.  The Cowboys just frankly don't know how to win anymore.  It's almost hard to comprehend when they made it look so easy in the 90s.  Times have definitely changed and have taken a turn for the worse.

Yet it's almost as if the Cowboys are still a great organization when you consider they are the subject of much gossip in the media year after year.  But that can be largely attributed to a delusional, braggadocio owner.  An owner who believes this current team is capable of winning a Super Bowl.  A team that doesn't have a single player on it that has won a Super Bowl.  Heck, this team doesn't have a player that has won more than one playoff game on the roster.

That's a lot of talk for an owner who has seen his product produce just one playoff win in the last decade and a half.  One measly playoff win, yet you think the team you have now is capable of coming out of nowhere and winning the three or four playoff wins required to win a Super Bowl?  And here I thought my aspirations of being a professional basketball player was delusional.

The Cowboys will be this way for the foreseeable future as long as this owner is running ship.  Drafts will continue to be porous year after year.  They will never be able to get anything right no matter how hard they try.  Even when they hit on guys like Sean Lee or DeMarco Murray, it's guys who can't stay on the field or had proved to be injury-prone in the past.  The Dez Bryant pick is looking worse by the day.  The negatives greatly outweigh the positive.  They have yet to recover from the forgettable 2009 draft that saw 12 valuable picks go to absolute waste.  Not a single player from that draft is on the current 53-man roster.  I'll never let go of the 2008 draft where they took Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins in the first round when there were better backs such as Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, and Ray Rice who would go later.  I could go a step further with guys like Jordy Nelson, Brandon Flowers, DeSean Jackson, and Jamaal Charles in that same draft.  In a draft that was loaded with talent, the Cowboys could only manage Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick, and Martellus Bennett out of it.  Hindsight is always 20/20, but missing way more often than they hit has been a common trend for the Cowboys for a decade running.  But this is what I've come to expect from this organization these days.

This will be a team that always comes up short when it matters most.  They will usually collapse late in the season or will find it hard to overcome significant injuries because of the lack of depth due to poor drafts.  They'll tease you and make you think they have what it takes, just as they did in Week 1 against the Giants, but when it's all said and done, they'll show you that they have no guts, no honor, or no heart.  They'll fold like a lawn chair at the first sign of adversity.  This is a mediocre organization who could be on the verge of becoming the new Detroit Lions.  The only thing that the Cowboys do have at this point is entitlement and that's not a good thing.

This may be a little harsh but I believe in my heart of hearts that it's the truth even as a diehard Dallas Cowboys fan for over 20 years.  Cowboy fans will just have to accept the mediocrity.  No matter how much the media shoves them down our throat.  No matter how delusional their owner perceives them to be.  Enough Super Bowl talk.  We should only hope for a playoff berth and playoff advancement.  We can talk Super Bowl when or if we ever become a Super Bowl contender again.  But for now, the fact of the matter is the Cowboys are yesterday's news, not relevant, and will soon become obsolete as long as this owner is running this organization.  Maybe at some point this owner will realize what he isn't, but he is who he ain't so till death do us part.  We as Cowboy fans just need to accept it.  I don't see the culture in Valley Ranch changing any time soon.  This is a country club, not a football organization.  This team has become a laughingstock.  The Cowboys are who they are.