When something happens to a football team once, it can be considered an aberration. When the same thing happens repeatedly, it must be considered whether it is inherent. It may be a part of the way the team is composed. It might be a result of the way certain key parts of that team perform.
The Dallas Cowboys went into the game against a team that had a recent history of success. In the first half, the Cowboys came out and outplayed them, building a lead and looking like they could win easily. Both established stars and inexperienced/lesser-known players handled their jobs excellently. Then in the second half there were inexcusable errors that let the momentum shift and Dallas suffered an epic meltdown, eventually giving the other team too many opportunities and seeing the game slip away.
In between those two games, the Cowboys were engaged in ugly, sloppy dogfights where they managed to pull out wins while overcoming serious injury problems. They seem to handle those situations with aplomb.
It's just when they are off to a strong, even dominating start that they cannot handle the situation.
More after the jump. Unfortunately.
This is one post I totally hate to write. But after the debacle against the Lions, I have to ask some difficult questions.
First, is this a part of Tony Romo we will always have to deal with? After such an excellent start, he started making throws that were marginal to downright foolish. The first interception seemed to be a failure to see Bobby Carpenter, who then makes the best play of his career to get his revenge on the Cowboys. The second was not horrid, just off enough for Chris Houston to make a great play on and streak down the sidelines. The third was just a boneheaded gunslinger throw off his back foot in a situation where he should have been taking care of the ball, not putting his team into a situation where a loss was almost inevitable given the offensive weapons the Lions have. Tony can do such amazing things. Both good and bad. Are we forced to live with the bad as well as the good?
Tony is going to take the blame for this one. Deservedly. But he doesn't get 100% of it, at least in my book.
That leads to my second question. Does Jason Garrett have a limited ability to grasp the game situation?
Go back to that second interception. The score is 27-10. Dallas has a 3rd and 2 at the Detroit 48 with about 6 minutes left in the third quarter.. The running game has been working fairly well, with, as I recall, about 100 yards on the ground. Why did they not run the ball? Best case scenario, they convert and continue the drive. If they fail, they have Mat McBriar to punt the ball away and Rob Ryan's defense, which has been handling the Lions offense pretty well to that point, to try and hold a three score lead. Instead, Garrett has to call a pass, which instantly puts a touchdown on the board for Detroit. I know it is a passing oriented team, but this seems like a time that screams for a little situational play calling.
Now go to the last, fatal interception. There is 4:22 left in the game. Dallas is 1st and 10 at their own 20 and nursing a 3 point lead. It is the perfect time for the four minute offense, moving the ball, eating up the clock, and if you can't convert, punting deep. Runs and short ball control passes are the normal call. Instead, they dial up a play designed to go for the big strike. It almost worked. But it was a high risk/high return kind of call, more what you would call if you were down by 3, not leading. And the risk prevailed.
There is not just one gunslinger on the Cowboys. There are two, and one is calling the offense from the sidelines. Not a good combination.
This leads to a third question: Although the team has failed to handle the success in the two losses this year, can it still have a successful season?
It can. Dallas is one game off the division lead, and has a win over Washington. The team (outside of Tony) played very well, with several players like Laurent Robinson, Martellus Bennett, and Sean Lissemore showing up in surprising ways. Even Kevin Ogletree and Tashard Choice made contributions. The bye is here, and the team should go into the New England game healthier than it has been all season.
But I think the person who has to sit down and really rethink what he is doing is Jason Garrett. I believe if he had dialed his aggression back a notch, the Cowboys would have won this game. It is time to rethink what he does. Don't try to prove what a brilliant offensive mind you are, Jason. Just figure out the best way to win the game.
It's going to be a long two weeks. But the Cowboys will come out of them healthier. Hopefully, they will come out angry, and with a good attitude about each other. And this will not happen again.