The Season Ahead After Cowboys Lose To Chargers

Donald Miralle

Another failure to string wins together leaves Dallas facing a long but not hopeless season.

We all were hoping the roller coaster would at least pause for a while and let us catch out breath. But the hope was in vain, as the Dallas Cowboys became inexplicably impotent on both offense and defense to squander an 11-point lead and fall 30 - 21 to the San Diego Chargers.

After watching how badly things fell apart in all aspects of the game, including coaching, it is amazing to realize that the Cowboys will come out of next week's contest against the Denver Broncos with no worse than a share of the lead (if you can call it that) for the NFC East.

As bad as Dallas has been the rest of the division has been worse. Only the Washington Redskins have shown any kind of life. However, any team that gets a spark at this point will be dangerous, even the 0-4 New York Giants.

It is going to be hard for the team to respond because the next game looks to be brutal after the way Peyton Manning and company manhandled the Philadelphia Eagles. I would like to offer some optimism about that but first off I don't really know how to blow sunshine, and I'm sure you really don't want me messing around with the corresponding part of your anatomy. Frankly, the best that I think can be hoped for is that the team comes out and plays hard and makes a game of it. The defensive issues will make that difficult given that the magic Rod Marinelli has been working finally seems to be giving out. DeMarcus Ware was obviously at less than 100% and George Selvie went out with an injury. What is left is not enough to put any reliable pressure on Manning and he is the last quarterback you want to get after with a bunch of blitzing. He will pick the secondary apart the way Philip Rivers did, only worse.

Going off on a tangent for a bit, I want to make a preemptive strike at the almost certain criticisms that are likely to come up about the Cowboys not taking a defensive lineman in the draft. I don't see how much help a rookie pass rusher would have made when the team has lost Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass, and still does not know when or if Jay Ratliff will return, or how effective he will be. With Ware having back problems this is going to be bad but the draft is not the issue. Injuries are the primary problem and they are just piling up.

What the Cowboys will need to do is come up with more offensive answers. This is not going to be easy, either, but the offense was just flat taken out of the game against the Chargers and they cannot allow that to happen again. Given that it is going to be very difficult to slow the Broncos down the team has to find a way to move down the field.

The early drops that slowed Dallas down have to be eliminated. Tony Romo needs better protection as he clearly looked uncomfortable in the pocket. The running game was working but after the Chargers controlled the ball so effectively from the second Dez Bryant touchdown on, marred only by the tip-drill interception and touchdown return by Sean Lee, the Cowboys abandoned the running game. The Cowboys averaged 5.8 yards per carry and if they could only have maintained possession the first time they had the ball in the second half, they could have used that to control the game. But the Chargers had a remarkable stretch where they had the ball for 36 plays to only 9 for Dallas (including penalties). The combination of an inability to stop Rivers, who was working exclusively from the shotgun during that stretch, and not answering in the one chance the offense had was just devastating.

Even if the Cowboys get their posteriors handed to them by the Broncos, which is certainly not something that can be ruled out, the team still has a real opportunity to turn the season around. They will be facing back to back games with the Redskins and the Eagles and can once again take control of the division race.

It will take a lot of resiliency, however, That is one commodity that the team still has to prove it has. It showed a little in bouncing back from the defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs but it is going to take a lot after a brutal loss like this one and a potential lop-sided game in the next. Right now, I don't know if this team has it but that is the only thing that can lead to making this a successful season after all. No one is exactly poised to run away with the division right now. For the next twelve weeks the Cowboys have to make sure they can stay in the mix and not let losses start piling up. If they can, and that is a huge if, the weakness of the division may work to their advantage.

But they have to prove they are at least less weak than their division rivals. That question is a long way from being answered.

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