Slow Starts By Cowboys Offense Are Dooming 2012 Season To Mediocrity

Tom Pennington

The inability of the Cowboys offense to play well in the first half of games is one of the most perplexing aspects of this disjointed 2012 season. Thursday's game against the Redskins was just the latest example.

28-3. That was the score of the Cowboys game at halftime, with Dallas getting the short end of the stick. The Cowboys offense has been an utter failure in the first half of games - all season long. If the Cowboys offense could play 60 minutes of football that resembled their second-halves this year, this team would be a juggernaut. Unfortunately, because of the first-halves, the 2012 season is going all for naught.

Our own OCC laid this out for us in an article earlier this week that turned out to be right on the money for the Thanksgiving Day game. A look at that stats from that piece illustrate it beautifully.

In the first half of the 10 games played so far this season, the Dallas Cowboys have scored a grand total of 70 points, or seven points per game in the first two quarters. That's the third lowest total in the NFL.

You can add another three points to that abysmal total.

But here's the kicker: In the second half, the Cowboys have scored 141 points so far this season, the sixth best value in the NFL.

Throw another 28 on that, even though it couldn't save Dallas from slipping to 5-6 on the year.

So the question becomes, why is this happening? Initially, the impulse for me is to blame the coaching staff, and ultimately Jason Garrett. It's easy to say, but harder to prove. Are the game-plans coming into the games just that bad? If so, then Garrett's halftime adjustments are phenomenal. But how can a coach misread things so badly during the week of preparation, only to turn around at a short halftime break and read them well? It just seems logically incongruous.

Or, could it be simpler that? Could it be this offense only seems to function well when they're getting desperate? But if that's true, how do you simulate that desperation to start the game? You can't. It does bring up the corollary argument - just do on offense whatever you're doing in the second half of games. That's a theory worth investigating, the idea that Garrett should release some control over the offense, and give Tony Romo more freedom to call plays from the line and run a hurry-up, a la Peyton Manning or Ton Brady.

Then there is the second avenue of thought: This isn't on Jason Garrett, but it's on the players. Just when you want to go blame Garrett for the game-planning and execution in the first half of games, you're smacked in the head with another reality. Like the one from the Redskins game.

The Cowboys had 5 drives in the first half of the Redskins game, one resulted in a field goal, and three of them were killed by the players. The death of those three drives had nothing to do with strategy, game-plans or anything like that. To wit:

-- On Dallas' second drive of the game, they faced a 2nd and 4 at their own 38. A very manageable down and distance. Two consecutive pre-snap penalties on offense made it 2nd and 14 which eventually led to a punt.

-- The next offensive drive offered a 3rd and 2 at the Cowboys 46. They converted the first down, only to watch Dez Bryant fumble the ball and kill the drive.

-- On their last real drive of the first half, on 2nd and 10 from their own 46, Tony Romo threw an interception.

You'd have to take a long, roundabout route to blame that on Jason Garrett. That falls squarely on the players on the field.

Frankly, I don't have an answer. And that's probably because there are many things playing a role in this mixture of first-half failure on offense. The odd thing about these types of problems - problems where the players are the same, the coaches are the same, but the execution on the field is wildly different within the confines of a game - is that they are hard to fix, but can go away at any time without warning or reason. At some point, and I bet it happens this year, the Cowboys offense will explode in the first half for big points. We'll all dissect that half of football and determine with exactitude that the Cowboys should have been doing (insert reason here) all year in the first half.

The problem: It's doubtful that analysis will be totally accurate. No, the feeling from this corner is that Dallas is just a flawed team and it won't change until at least 2013. It's a perplexing, and season-killing, problem, with no discernible logic behind it.

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