Yesterday, I was driving around listening to fans call in to ESPN1250: The Zone, listening to their complaints about Alex Barron, Jason Garrett, yadda, yadda, yadda. It's given that fans vent after a loss. That's what we've all been doing here the past few days. Surely, it will happen again down the road this season. But not this week!
One caller told Cowboys fans not to be "surprised" if they lose to the Bears. Not to be surprised? The entire sports world would be surprised if the Dallas Cowboys lost their home opener to the Chicago Bears! Vegas isn't known to lose more money than it makes, and it still has the Cowboys as 8.5 point favorites--just tempting folks to throw down on the Bears!
Okay, enough with the exclamations. Time to get declarative. The Cowboys will beat the Bears. Too cautious? Fine. The Cowboys will not only win the game, but they will even cover the spread.
No, the old version of Biff did not pay me a visit. Call it blind faith or whatever you want, but the fact remains: the Cowboys should beat the Bears. There is no reason why they shouldn't. Any commentary that suggests Dallas lacks heart or does not work as hard as other teams is complete speculation. As OCC pointed out, talent drives teams to success. And I think even the harshest critics of America's Team would agree that the Cowboys are a much more talented team than the Bears.
Even if Dallas beats Chicago 72-0, that doesn't mean it is primed to win the Super Bowl. It's just one game, just one step in a long process of trying to improve every week. Even in blowout games mistakes are made. Last Sunday night, we witnessed just about every mistake a team could make when the
Redskins Cowboys defeated the Cowboys. We here at BTB have analyzed, theorized, and scrutinized the loss down to the most minute details, as any passionate fans would. We've grieved and offered numerous suggestions at how the team can improve. With all our heart, we hate to see the Cowboys lose. Imagine how the coaches and players feel.
The team realizes its mistakes and Wade Phillips told the media what they want to hear about working on preventing penalties, improving technique, and the shoulda-woulda-couldas from Week 1. That 0-1 record doesn't look good to anybody, but you have to figure that the team has moved on past last weekend. While all the world has been discussing Alex Barron and DeAngelo Hall, the team has been preparing for Week 2's home opener at Cowboys Stadium. Much like a cornerback getting burned on a deep pass, it has to forget in order to recover. As the great Troy Aikman said:
"Losing doesn't eat at me the way it used to. I just get ready for the next play, the next game, the next season."
Over the next few days leading up to Sunday's game, expect the fear of 0-2 to be pumped into your ears. And it won't stop there. The words "must-win game" will echo around every media outlet as they peak ahead at the Cowboys' Week 3 matchup at Houston. Sitting where they are, the Cowboys can not afford to worry about the Arian Fosters and Matt Schaubs and Andre Johnsons. Now, and until probably next Tuesday, it's the Jay Cutlers, Mike Martz's, Tommie Harris', and Julius Peppers'.
As with most teams, the focal point of the Bears often concerns the team's quarterback Jay Cutler. As any quarterback who fancies himself a team leader would say, the Bears can be their own worst enemy.
"The only people [team] that can stop us, is ourselves," said Cutler.
Well, the Lions almost stopped them. To be fair, Cutler had himself a productive game completing 23 of 35 for 372 yards and two scores. He did, however, throw a pick and lose a fumble. Perhaps he blames himself more for those turnovers rather than crediting the Lions defense, which sacked him four times and recovered two other fumbles. And the biggest highlight reel from that game not featuring Calvin Johnson was Cutler's dumpoff pass to Forte, which somehow caught every Lion out of position en route to an 89-yard touchdown just a minute before halftime. Prior to that point, on their own home turf, the Bears were down by 11. To the Lions. Just as I made use of the strikethrough above when discussing the Cowboys' loss, Cutler must consider his team superior to that of the Lions.
And Cutler is probably right. If that be the case then the Cowboys can only lose to the Cowboys this weekend, right? Are they not considered the more talented team? The Bears committed four turnovers to the Lions and went on to win thanks to NFL Rule 8, Section 1, Article 4. After all, Pro-Football Focus did come away impressed with Cutler's performance.
This was a real improvement for Jay Cutler (+4.5), as he overcame a strong defense, poor pass protection and multiple fumbles to win the game. He looked much more in control, and if he can just cut out the poor deep throws over the middle, he will be well worth the cost of the picks to the Bears. He threw three times into the deep middle (more than 20 yards) and was 0 for 3, including an interception. If you took just those throws into that area away, his passer rating would have increased from 109 to 131, and our pass grade from +4.5 to +6.5. He actually performed better when pressured and his actual rating when hit or hurried was 132.9.
Jeff Hughes at Chicago Now's Da' Bears Blog suggests that Cutler could very well have another strong outing against a "not very good" Dallas secondary.
While their pass rush is intimidating, it's also creates massive holes for a mobile quarterback to step into and deliver the ball down the field. They don't have a very good secondary and if Donovan McNabb weren't wretched at throwing the football, the Skins could have struck for twenty-yard gains at two or three big moments in the game.
Mark my words: the Bears will have an opportunity to hit something big down the sideline.
Kudos to the Bears for putting up 19 on the Lions. But every game is different. And this one is a road game for them against a much tougher opponent. I know they have Peppers and Brian Urlacher and the Cowboys have an aging offensive line. But who would you rather have at left tackle: Doug Free or Chris Williams? If there is any position on the O-line the Cowboys could use youth, it is there with Free protecting the quarterback's blind side.
Consider Tony Romo. Other than being a little tentative in the pocket and getting away with a would-be late pick last week, he had a solid game. He gave his team a chance to win, which is what you want, what you need from your quarterback--no matter what the score is.
There is still talk about the lingering effects of an unproductive preseason and an inability to score in the red zone, but that has to come to an end soon doesn't it? The coaches have had enough time to work these kinks out; we just need to see the results.
I don't fully doubt this Dallas team yet. It's way too soon. The ship is ready to sail. Romo is ready to connect with Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. Roy Williams is ready to be an end zone target. Tashard Choice is ready to show he doesn't fumble. DeMarcus Ware is ready to notch at least a sack a game. Jay Ratliff is ready to beat double teams. And David Buehler is ready to get back to booming kickoffs and making 34-yarders.
I will one-up that aforementioned caller. Bears fans, don't be surprised if the Cowboys beat the spread. Come Sunday, I will be looking for them to double it.