My Take On This Sundays Game: What Needs To Happen, Who Needs To Step Up
GREAT SCOTT! Thinking about this game gives me so many different emotions. The Cowboys should be thankful that they are fortunate enough to still have a shot at the playoffs. It comes down to one game, you win and your in. If you lose, your season is over and the Cowboys could be picking as high as 13 next April's NFL Draft. But our Cowboys must hone in on the task at stake, win and your in.
Every player on this team needs to have their best game of the season this Sunday night. We cannot come out sluggish and get off to a slow start. If that happens, you might as well book yourself a nice vacation for the next couple of months. What I want to see from this team Sunday is raw emotion and alertness. No more mistakes guys, we have seen far too many mistakes and errors over the course of a season to drive one insane. Maybe I am already insane because of this team. Is that so far fetched? I don't think so, this season has been a roller coaster of emotions.
In order to win, we need a healthy Tony Romo. Even if he is only 70 percent, he still gives us our best option. If Romo gets knocked out of this game and we witness the quarterback they call Stephen McGee again, it's over. The offensive line needs to keep Romo upright and limit the hits on him. If the line can do that, I expect a 300 yard performance and a big game from Romo. Romo has been great since the first Eagles game and has limited his mistakes to almost zero, but in the back of my mind is a poor performance from Romo. We haven't seen one for some time from him and I hope we don't get one this Sunday night. If we do, we are done. If Romo plays at the high level we know he can play, he gives us a great edge to win the game.
The running game needs to bounce back and come to life. Running the football will be key to this football game especially if Romo is unable to throw the ball down the field like he normally does. I am not expecting a 200 yard performance or anything like that, but we need to make the most of our opportunities against the Giants defense. Teams have run up and down on the Giants throughout the season and they face problems in that area of the game. Also having the ability to control the clock will be key on a cold winter night in New Jersey. Felix Jones, we need you buddy. Your big play ability sealed this game last year. Hold onto that football and run with a purpose like we saw you did in our first game against the Giants. The run game needs to step up and give Romo a hand this week, literally.
Jason Witten has been irrelevant for a few weeks now and we need a classic Witten performance from him on Sunday. If Witten steps up and has one of his best games of the season now when we need it most, he will be another key edge the Cowboys will have over the Giants defense. I want to see Witten have a big game, a game where he catches 8-10 passes and picks up a bunch of key plays, especially on third down. We all know Witten is the security blanket for Romo and one of his most trusted targets. Having the ability to go to Witten on third down and be successful will be another key element. Witten has been quiet recently, so I expect a big performance from him.
Our wide receivers have been one of the leagues best overall units in 2011. Miles Austin generally torches the Giants and shows up big in these type of games. Newcomer Laurent Robinson has become one of Romo's most trusted targets early on in his Cowboys career. Both players are key in spreading the field and going down field. Both of their speed allows us to test the Giants depleted and suspect secondary. Dez Bryant will have to be the X factor like he was last time we stepped into East Rutherford, New Jersey. Last year with backup Jon Kitna, Dez had one of his biggest games of his brief NFL career. All night long he terrorized the Giants secondary with amazing catches and his uncanny ability to make a play after making the catch. If the Giants double cover Dez again, like they did in the previous game, then we need to still keep him involved and still manage to look his way. Don't force him the ball obviously, but we still have to take shots down the field with him. Dez is our biggest play maker, use him Jason Garrett.
This could be a high scoring game like it was in the previous match up. Romo is hopefully healthy and will be able to throw the ball down the field. If he can do that, we should be just fine scoring points. If Romo is not able to fully throw the ball with ease, then the run game needs to step up.
The defense, it's now or never for you guys. This is not Rob Ryan's fault at all in my opinion. He wasn't given any new talent that he could use on the defense and was also effected by the lockout. Regardless of those facts, Ryan and the defense need to step up and have their finest game of the season Sunday night if we want to win. That means our non existent pass rush must show up and actually get to Eli Manning. If not, he will torch this suspect secondary all night long and make this a back and forth game. I don't want to see that. I want to see guys step up and show that they deserve to be on the Dallas Cowboys. Play with pride and passion, don't quit on plays. At least leave everything you have on that football field.
Anthony Spencer must show up and have his best game of the year. You are playing for a new contract, most likely not from us though. The Cowboys have not reached out to you and are willing to let you test free agency. I hope you understand what that means Anthony. It means the Cowboys really don't want you back next year because you are not a consistent player who brings pressure. Basically you never developed into the player we thought you would be, or developed into anything at all. Five years later and the best you can give us is 6 sacks opposite DeMarcus Ware? Yeah, unless you have a earth shattering game, then you will be gone and I will be happy. Tell me how Chicago, Miami or Cincinnati works out for you. If you could actually show up and help this team on Sunday, we would totally appreciate it, but we aren't expecting much from you honestly.
We need that pass rush. DeMarcus Ware is hopefully healthy enough to bring his A game. We need Jay Ratliff to continue his fine play. We need our rotational guys like Victor Butler and Sean Lissemore to have great games. Jason Hatcher needs to continue his positive play as well. All of these men are capable of bringing the heat, let's see as a unified front this Sunday night.
The two players who really need to step up their game is Keith Brooking and Bradie James. You two are targeted because you are slow and washed up players who honestly shouldn't even be on an NFL roster anymore. Play this game like it's your last, because it may be the last game you ever play in the NFL again. If you can contribute to the defensive performance, we may have a chance. We all know Sean Lee is a beast, we need you again, we need your Chuck Norris ability out there.
Besides the pass rush, perhaps the area that needs to step up the most is the secondary. Besides Mike Jenkins, every single one of you got exposed in the previous Giants game. I sure hope Rob Ryan cursed you out in the locker room after that game because that was one of the most embarrassing performances I have ever seen from a Cowboys secondary in my life. If you guys have any pride what so ever, you will recognize that you guys are the problem here and need to step it up big time. This is a big game, this is where the men get separated from the boys. Are you a man? or are you a boy?
I am talking to you Terence Newman, Mr. I am worth 15 million dollars a year. You have been hot garbage after a nice start to your season. Heck, hot garbage might be a compliment for you right now. That is how bad you have played the past few weeks. Newman, this may be your last game in a Cowboys uniform. Step up and give everything you have left in your tank, this is for the playoffs.
Mike Jenkins, I cannot ask from anything more from you. You have been a class act and acted like a grown man after so many injuries. I used to think you were soft, but you have shed that label. Time after time, you come back into the game banged up. You are not quitting on plays and are going hard this year. Keep playing the way you are playing and you will be fine.
Orlando Scandrick, boy do you talk a good one in the interviews. You know what the problems are, so let's see if you have figured them out. You are better than what you are right now. Your game has been solid, but has had too many mental lapses in coverage for me to stand here and say you are good right now. The thing is, you have all the talent and the hunger to strive to be good. Keep your head in the game, don't get caught looking back for directions on what to do. You can play at a high level, this I know. Bring your A game kid and you will be just fine.
Alan Ball, you most likely will be playing your last game as a Cowboy. Unless they retain you as a depth player, you will be moving on and you may have trouble finding a job in the NFL. You have size, speed and talent. What you lack is awareness and intelligence on the football field. I have seen you play so much better in coverage, only to see you go back to your old ways right after your good play. I don't know what to say to you Ball, just step it up and play hard.
Frank Walker, thanks for your good play early on, but since then you have sucked. Yeah, there is no nice way to say it, you have simply been awful most of the season. Your done in Dallas too, good luck to you on your future ventures. Also, could you please cut your hair and shave that beard? I will send you the 20 bucks if you need it.
Gerald Sensabaugh, your another one who I can't wrap my mind around. I see great play from you, but then in the same games I see awful play from you. How you didn't intercept that pass to Riley Cooper is mind boggling to me. You are not my favorite Cowboy, you are far from it. But you stepped up your play early in the season and looked actually decent. Recently you have been back to your old ways of being a JAG. For some ungodly reason, you received a contract extension from us and you will be here next season. So play hard and have a good game, you can do that, I have witnessed it this year. We need you to step up and make some plays on the football.
I got no beef with Abram Elam. Up until recently, Elam had been a solid player for us in the secondary. But the Giants game exposed your liabilities in coverage. You play hard every game and I hope you have a good game because we need you. You are playing for a new contract, keep that in mind.
Everyone needs to step up, every single player on this roster who steps foot on that football field Sunday night will have to have their best game of the season. I see the team with the defense that makes the most plays, winning this game. If we can force some turnovers and interceptions, we will rattle Eli and the scoring opportunities from the turnovers gives us the edge to put up a lead over the Giants. That is what is going to win this game, it's the team defense. If the Cowboys defense shows up and plays good football, we should win this game.
Scenario One: The Cowboys Win And Here We Come Playoffs
Hopefully when the game ends this Sunday night, I will be seeing this facial expression from Eli Manning. This is the scenario
all most of us want to see shake out right on Sunday night in the Met Life Stadium. After so many ups and downs during this roller coaster of a ride season, I would be so thankful for the accomplishment of making the playoffs and winning the NFC East. I usually don't do moral victories, but these are two moral victories I would be more than glad to accept.
Coming from a disastrous 2010 season, 2011 was supposed to be the relaunch of the new Dallas Cowboys. I predicted a 9-7 finish and I thought we could make the playoffs. Making the playoffs after that forgettable season will be a great accomplishment. Having Garrett make the playoffs and win the division in his first full season as a rookie head coach would be a great start for his career. It would breathe life back into the Cowboys franchise, much needed life.
Beating the Giants this Sunday will also tell me a lot about this football team. Sometimes I struggle within when I ask myself who exactly are we? Are we a physical team? Are we a running team? Are we a throwing team? Are we a defensive team? Are we mentally tough? Can we go on the road and win? Can we win big games?
A win on Sunday answers my biggest questions, are we mentally tough? can we win big games? A win on the road in January will give me a yes to those questions.
A win on Sunday would also end the Giants season, and I know that would make me extremely happy. To finally have some bragging rights over the Giants again would be a welcomed sight.
Perhaps the biggest outcome of winning this game is making the playoffs. We would have a home playoff game for the first time since 2009, which feels like ages ago. The playoffs are a tournament, where everyone starts off 0-0 again and anyone can take it all. Maybe the Cowboys get hot at the right time and make a nice run deep into the playoffs. It's highly unlikely, but hey you never know and this team is talented. If the Cowboys defense came together, we could be a dangerous team in the playoffs.
Of the two options listed, this is the one that offers us a chance to do more this season and possibly make a playoff run. But it also takes you down a better road, a road that is easier to travel on. Everything will be all good in Cowboys land again and everyone would be extremely happy that the Cowboys won a big game on the road and are going to the playoffs. It is such an easier road to travel.
Option two is the harder road to travel and I don't know if some are truly ready for the perils ahead.
Scenario Two: The Cowboys Lose And It's Back To The Future
This option will be the one that will make or break some of the Cowboys within the organization and their fan base. Losing this Giants game means we have another measly 8-8 season and didn't make the playoffs. All it will due at first is make fans question the team and the talent on the team. You will see Jason Garrett's name mentioned around NFL Network and ESPN about possibly being fired. Fans of this team will begin a long and hard journey after this loss, if it happens.
The worst part about possibly losing this game is the reality that the 2011 season is over. It will be remembered as a season of what if's, what could have happened. The Cowboys lost games against the Jets, Lions, Patriots, Cardinals and Giants that they should have won. It will make us go back and haunt ourselves with the possibility of what if? What if we won this game or that game? I hate that type of thinking, but I do it all the time, especially after a season like this.
Then we start to look around at our key players and how old they are. We all know the window is closing soon, we really only have another few years with this key group in place. It's very frustrating because every year I think we are so close to making a run for a Super Bowl. That is what frustrates me the most, knowing we are so close, but are still so far away from our overall goal.
A loss also means we clean house and have a fire sale. Under performing and over paid players will be shipped out and new players will be brought in. Sometimes cleaning out the house is one of the positives due to an under performing season. That means bye bye Spencer, bye bye Newman. Bye bye whoever else that the Cowboys feel need to go.
Losing this game isn't all doom and gloom. A few weeks later after you have burned off some of that steam, you push ahead and look to the future. I call it Back To The Future for a reason. Every losing season or season that ends on a low note, I begin to look forward to the future. Basically I am back to the future from an outlook perspective on the team.
It gives me hope because I know we have talent already and just truly need defensive talent. I believe this team is so close to making a run to the Super Bowl and all we really need is help on the defensive side of the ball. Our offense is set, we have so much talent on that side of the ball. We can find a better center or Costa will improve because he can't be that bad again right? We need some guards, but you can find them in free agency or later in the draft.
Say we actually go out and spend some money in free agency and acquire some pieces we need on the offensive line and defense, this team will be upgraded instantly. Then that takes away some needs entering the draft, where we could be holding a top 15 pick. Then in the draft we answer our needs and come out with at least two starters and role/developmental players. This can be turned around folks, all is not doom and gloom if we lose.
You just have to look for the future. Spend some money in free agency, draft some defensive players and have a full training camp this time around. With Rob Ryan getting a full offseason and his type of players, this defense could finally be what he initially intended it to be.
So if we upgrade the personnel we need to and add talent to the defense, we should be in a great spot to make a Super Bowl run in 2012. The offense is a high octane group with a bunch of talent. The defense will have added the talent it desperately needed and had a full offseason to work the whole system in. Those are all solid reasons and contributions to why I believe the future looks bright.
Whatever happens this Sunday, I just want you to keep your faith. The future looks bright for us because we will be able to solve our issues at hand. I truly believe this team is so close to making a run to the Super Bowl, we just need to focus on the defensive side of the football and make some moves in free agency and the draft to bulk up the defensive talent on the Cowboys.
We are not too far away, I am serious when I say this. If I thought this team was in serious trouble I would come out and say it, but I don't think we are that bad off right now. I have seen previous teams and they needed a lot of help, but this team doesn't need too much. It needs talent on defense and a guard, possibly a center. That can be done in one off season, I truly believe that. Then when we finally answer our defensive needs, this team will be ready to make a real run in 2012, trust me.