The Dallas Cowboys: Maddeningly Frustrating

Oh man, what could have been.

This morning, our Dallas Cowboys could be 2-0, sitting atop of the NFC East, and we'd be feeling pretty dang good about our chances this year. It would've been ideal; opening the new stadium with a win against a hated NFC rival. It could've been. But that means diddly-squat in the NFL. It's all about W's and L's, and the Cowboys ended with a big, fat, stinkin' L.

Now, don't drag the razor blades out just yet. Come on back off that ledge and leave the pigeons alone. Without going all cliché on you, it's only two weeks in the books. There is a lot of football yet to be played. And...I know this might sound crazy...but as mad as I am about the loss, and believe me, I'm plenty mad, I am not that down about this team, yet. Allow me to continue...

The Cowboys just lost on a last-second FG against one of the favored teams in the NFL to be contenders, and we played far from our best game. In fact, being a minus four in the turnover column should have doomed us to a severe beating. Yet we were right there and could have won that thing. I wonder how many teams have won games being on the wrong side of four turnovers (including one that was a pick-six)?

Now this is the part where I say, I'm not crazy. I can see this team needs a lot of work. Start with #9 and work from there. All summer, I had three things in mind that needed to happen for Dallas to contend for the title. One of them happened, two of them didn't. They were: Romo needs to be more careful with the ball, the defense needs to start getting turnovers (just being the sack leaders last year wasn't enough), and the offensive line needs to be dominant again after a shaky 2008. Well, I got the last one.

There's no sugar-coating this, Romo was the #1 culprit in the loss last night. He still hasn't learned that the most precious commodity on the football field is the ball. I'm not going to go into all the specifics of his play last night, but I will generalize this: Romo is the QB for this year, so you might as well get used to that fact. I still have faith he can lead us to the big-time, but nights like last night are tests to that faith, and I don't know how many more tests I can take. Shape up, Romo.

Our defense has taken a step backwards instead of forwards from last year. Not only are we still failing to get turnovers, and just imagine how just one turnover by our defense could've turned last night's game, but they are no longer getting to the QB. DeMarcus Ware and company have gone silent in that department. And our secondary can't cover, can't tackle, can't...let's just leave it at they can't. We are not going to be winners this year unless that gets corrected fast. Now, I will give credit where credit is due, in the redzone the defense is stout. We've made the opposing O's kick a lot of FGs. But between the 20's, that's a different story. Like last night, when all the Giants needed was a FG, and our defense handed it right to them. Shape up, Wade and defensive players.

So given that, how could anyone in their right mind not be totally losing it with this bunch? Because we basically outplayed the Giants most of the night. Turn the turnover argument on its head and you get - The Cowboys were right there to win a game even though they were minus four in turnover margin giving away somewhere between 13 and 20 points, depending on how you score it. In the first half, we were killing the Giants everywhere except where it counts, on the scoreboard. The Giants vaunted defensive line wasn't even touching Romo, and we were blowing open massive holes for our running game. Our defense totally shut down their run game in the first half. A game is 60 minutes long, not 30, so there are no excuses, in the second half the defense started to give way in a big way, so that's a problem.

But it shouldn't even have come down to that. If Romo and Felix Jones weren't busy keeping the Giants in the game, we would've walked into halftime with a healthy lead (based on how the teams were playing without the miscues) and then we could've hammered them with the running game in the second half. Instead, we saw what happen.

Resting objective analysis on such a soft foundation like - If only Romo would take care of the ball, Dallas would be a force this year - is risky business. We've been saying that about Romo for years. Still, if you still hold any faith in #9, and believe that he can control his turnover demons, this team is formidable. We just put up 31 points on the Giants defense, supposedly one of the better in the league, and we did that while turning the ball over four times. Seriously, that's quite an accomplishment. Our running game has been really good, the offensive line looks great (except for Flo losing his mind a couple of times), and this offense will score points. The defense has got to get better, I know, and I think they will, I mean, they have to start getting sacks at some point, and hopefully start getting some turnovers. The redzone D is great, so that's a big plus in the NFL. Even with our defense playing like it did, the Cowboys were that close to winning.

This isn't Pollyanna propaganda, I recognize this team has a couple of huge problems it's got to fix. And there's no guarantee that they will be able to do that. That's why they play the games, to find out. Still, given the bitter taste left after last night's debacle, I'm surprisingly optimistic that this club can get it together. It's only week two, we're 1-1 and our schedule is soft by NFL standards over the next month or so. This team could get itself well in a hurry and by week seven or eight, we could be looking at this thing in a much better light.

The Cowboys season is far from over, as long as #9 gets a grip.

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