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Cowboys vs. Bucs: Almost a must-win for Dallas

Sunday is a big, big game. The Cowboys sit at 4-3 and will not have Tony Romo back until after the bye week. That means we play the Tampa Bay Bucs and New York Giants with a backup QB. The Giants game is on the road and is going to be a very tough win. I'm not saying the Cowboys can't win in New York, but I wouldn't be laying down any large bets that it will happen. The Bucs game on Sunday is at home. While the Bucs are playing well at 5-2, my gut tells me that is a much more manageable win than the Giants. The Cowboys can't afford to drop to 4-5 and then expect Romo (and others) to come in and save the day. Most estimates would say you have to at least go 10-6 to have a legitimate shot at the playoffs. Sure you can concoct all kinds of other scenarios, but I'm sticking with a minimum 10-6 record to get in. So if the Cowboys go into the Washington game after the bye at 4-5, they need to go 6-1 down the stretch. I don't care how much optimism you have or how much of a homer you are, that is a low-percentage option. It leaves you with very little room for error. Especially with games on the road against the Redskins, the Steelers and the Eagles and with a home game against the Giants. Look at that stretch of games and you're saying you can only lose one and that's if you accept automatic victories over teams like the 49ers, Seahawks and Ravens. If it comes to a 6-1 run down the stretch for the playoffs, that may be too tall of an order for the Cowboys to fulfill.

Dallas absolutely needs to win on Sunday or they are going to be in a huge hole. I hope that the coaching staff is emphasizing this point. Nothing else seems to have gotten the players attention this year so maybe pointing out that they are already in a playoff run just might. I'm usually not one to jump on hysteria this early in a season, we aren't even half-way through yet, but looking at the upcoming schedule it's clear they are fighting for their playoff lives come Sunday. My hope is that they decide to throw caution to the wind and turn the players loose. As I've written many times already this year and again earlier this week, this defense needs to attack and attack, and then attack some more. Tuna Helper wrote eloquently on the same subject yesterday. Cautious zones and dropping DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis into coverage is a losing proposition. We are playing soft football and it's carrying over to our mindset as a team. The fire and intensity is being drained from the players as they spend their time trying to figure out who is supposed to be where and doing things their abilities don't allow them to do well. Forget all the science of football Wade. Go back to a mano-a-mano attitude and give them the mantra "Hulk smash." Let's physically beat the crap out of our opponents, punish them in a way where they'll be the ones with their heads hanging and losing morale as the game progresses.

Brandon admonished Wade Phillips in this article and begged him to live up to his self-proclaimed tag of Mr. Fix-It. Yesterday, while not going with the full-admission, Wade did say he is going to be more involved in the play-calling on defense. That's fine, Brian Stewart needs more help, but it won't matter at all if we keep calling for the same defenses that we've been playing. We need an overhaul of philosophy on defense, not just specific alignments.

Nick Eatman phrases the Wade Phillips take-over on defense this way.

While he hasn't been specific, only to say nothing will be too drastic, it does appear the head coach will be much more involved this week in the defensive calls, helping out defensive coordinator Brian Stewart.

Phillips wouldn't fully admit that he is taking over the calls, nor did he admit that Stewart has been making all of the in-game calls this season or last.

But he did admit to having an increased role this week.

Calvin Watkins says sources present it as a little more drastic. 

Coach Wade Phillips will take over the bulk of the defensive play-calling from defensive coordinator Brian Stewart in Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, according to multiple sources.

Meanwhile, these stats details our failings on the defensive side of the football.

The secondary has just two interceptions, tied for 29th in the league, and none from the cornerbacks. The defense is tied for 28th in turnover ratio at minus-6.

Dallas ranks 16th against the pass and 13th against the run. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 62.6 percent of their passes this year compared to 58 percent through seven games last season.

Almost 63% of passes are completed on us. It's no wonder when our secondary is confused and 8-10 yards off the ball on most plays. Play more aggressive Wade, I beg of you.

At least the Cowboys made some changes in how they're practicing. Even minor changes in the regular routine can give an organization a new spark instead of running through the same thing over and over.

During the portion that was open to the media, running backs emphasized ball security as teammates tried to knock the ball loose. Receivers caught passes in the middle of the field and then got smacked by receivers coach Ray Sherman, who had a large blocking pad.

"In different periods, we did different things," Phillips said. "Overall the attitude was good, and that was the important thing."

Every organization, whether it's in sports or other industries can get complacent and lackadaisical when routine becomes the norm. Sometimes change is needed just for change sake. Hopefully, the Cowboys will respond on Sunday.

They have to, or the season could really start spiraling out of control.

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