I'm glad that the Cowboys reversed the heart breaking ending to last week's story, and came from behind to beat a 1-7 Vikings team with an improbable 90-yard scoring drive. Of course, it was only improbable if you were considering the team's offensive ineptitude in the game up to that point. For that last minute, game (and perhaps season) saving drive, the Cowboys suddenly morphed into the offensive juggernaut that we saw flying up and down the field throughout the Denver game, something that has been conspicuous by its absence until now, which begs the question, "Where has that wide open offense been?" In its place, either by accident or design, we've been seeing a dink and dunk, "take what the defense gives you," short passing game offense, which despite all the rhetoric of the coaches to the contrary, has apparently abandoned all pretense of trying to establish the running game, even when it seems to be effective.
It worked this time, which is fine as far as it goes, but when looking at it from a team perspective, it's exactly the opposite approach to what the Cowboys SHOULD be doing. Given the decimation caused by injuries at every level on the other side of the ball, but especially in the defensive line, the Cowboys can't afford to play a conservative game and depend on this bunch of overachievers on defense to keep it close, especially against quality quarterbacks. Despite the heroic efforts of Sean Lee, Jason Hatcher, and a no-name cast of thousands, and the fact that they have even scored in several games so far this season, they are still among the lowest ranked defenses in the league in any number of crucial categories, like scoring, and passing yardage allowed. The Dallas offense HAS to carry the load by maintaining possession of the ball and outscoring the opponents early and often, which would allow the defense to play with a lead, and for them to occasionally catch their breath on the sidelines. That means more downfield throws early to get the lead, and more running late to seal the victory.
I realize that offensive numbers like time of possession are skewed whenever there is a defensive or special teams score, or when a turnover gives the Cowboys a short field, but that's no excuse for barely even attempting to run the ball in the second half of a close game as the Cowboys did against Minnesota, or for running so inefficiently when they're trying to kill time off the clock like they did in the Detroit loss the week before. The goal of the running game is twofold – to take some of the offensive burden off the shoulders of Tony Romo, and to keep the opponents offense (and the Cowboys defense) on the sidelines. Demarco Murray is the Cowboys' best runner, and eight carries TOTAL is not nearly enough, no matter the circumstances of the game.
After a Cowboy's victory early in Tony Dorsett's rookie (of the year) season, I remember my father shaking his head and saying to me, "Who in the hell is going to beat the Cowboys?" It was said in pure admiration for the awesome and undeniable talent that Tom Landry and Tex Schramm had assembled with names like Staubach, Dorsett, Pearson, Newhouse, Too-Tall, Randy White, Harvey Martin, Cliff and Charlie, and Hollywood Henderson, and the unquestioning confidence that they had the right man as their coach. What that team, and my father had in those days, and what the current version and I lack, is the Anticipation of Success. That 1977 team EXPECTED to win, and went on to win the Superbowl, establishing the Cowboys as "America's Team." Back in those days, among the fans and within the team itself, there was a strong sense of belief that somehow, someway, even when things looked hopeless, the team, led by Roger "Captain Comeback" Staubach, would find a way to pull it out in the end, and more often than not, they did just that!
Today, as opposed to a feeling of inevitable victory, there is only a sense of relief when the Cowboys win, even when they're as overwhelmingly favored as they were against the Vikings. There is also a certain sense of resignation when they find yet another creative way to lose, as if we've been trained to expect and accept the mind-numbing mediocrity of a team that has gone 133-132 since 1997.
There is a cure for this malaise. It's called "winning," and the first step to winning is the belief that you CAN win. All the Cowboys lack right now is confidence, and as that great football philosopher, Bill Parcells once said, "Confidence is born of demonstrated ability." Right now the Cowboys' biggest problems are all in their heads. They HAVE to get their swagger back, their "Mojo" if you will, and that will only happen if they can prove to themselves that they are as talented as they think they are. To do that, they need to take the handcuffs off of this offense, and open things up. Then, as the victories pile up, and the team starts to believe in itself, we'll see just how far this year's Dallas Cowboys can go.