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No Excuses: Cowboys Throw Away Opportunities

It was a Tale of Two Romos, who was 8-8 on a 73-yard touchdown drive, but consistently threw the ball behind his receivers for the remainder of that disappointing loss to the Bears.
It was a Tale of Two Romos, who was 8-8 on a 73-yard touchdown drive, but consistently threw the ball behind his receivers for the remainder of that disappointing loss to the Bears.

The Bears had plenty of excuses at their disposal.  They were playing on the road.  They lost a starting offensive tackle on their first series.  Their quarterback faced early relentless pressure from Cowboy outside linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.  They would up 1-11 in third down conversions.  They had only 49 offensive snaps in the game. 

The Bears had every excuse.  And they didn't resort to any of them. They simply played through every obstacle. 

The Cowboys had every advantage.  And they utilized none of them.   No sense pretending nothing's wrong.  Plenty's wrong.  Dallas is 0-2, and it's legitimate, it's real.  Quoting, or at least paraphrasing Bill Parcells, "In this league you are what your record says you are."

0-2.  With a pretty decent chance to start 0-3.

Plenty of whipping boys in this one.  But not "The People's Choice" this time.  Get off Jason Garrett today.  This one's not on him.  Garrett did a nice job.  In fact, he designed and called the play that should have given the Cowboys control of the game.

Fourth quarter, Cowboys down 20-17.  Dallas on a nice drive after double-digit  yardage completions to Miles Austin and Jason Witten.  Third and five from the Chicago 26.  Sweet call, beautiful concept by Garrett.  Romo gets man coverage from the Bears.  Tashard Choice sneaks out of the backfield down the right sideline.  It's a walk-in TD.

And Romo throws it behind him.  Incomplete.  Opportunity lost.  It was THE play of the game, lost in the box score though it will inevitably be. 

This one's not on Garrett.  It's on a quarterback who nevertheless posted eye-popping numbers, throwing for 374 yards.

It was a Tale of Two Romos.  There was Good Romo, who was 8-8 on a marvelous 13 play, 73-yard TD drive, culminating in a play action toss to rookie fullback Chris Gronkowski that put the 'Boys up 14-10 midway through the second quarter.

And there was Romo The Terrible, who inexplicably threw the ball behind his receivers for pretty much the rest of the afternoon.  Romo turned Bears DB D.J. Moore into the odds-on favorite to win NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

No play in this game was bigger than Romo's miss of an easy throw to Choice that would have been a certain go-ahead touchdown.  Not that there wasn't legitimate competition for Pivotal Play of the Game.  There was the 39-yard quick release seam route from Jay Cutler to tight end Greg Olsen that put Chicago up 10-7 late in the first quarter and sent Cowboy secondary coach Dave Campo into sideline apoplexy.  Dallas was in man coverage, but "man-off," with defenders playing six yards off their assigned receivers instead of up in their grills.  Why?  Cowboy DBs like playing "on" and getting their hands on receivers.

The play was a nice adjustment by Bears' offensive coordinator Mike Martz, who went with the quick three-step passing game to negate what had been an overwhelming Cowboy pass rush.  Once that was established, Martz later went back to deeper drops off play-action and a more vertical passing scheme.  Excellent sequencing by one of the NFL's most aggressive play callers.

It was a rough day for Cowboy cornerback Mike Jenkins, whose health status is uncertain as I post  because of an apparent leg injury suffered on a 38-yard completion from Cutler to Devin Hester that set up the Bears' clinching fourth quarter touchdown.  Jenkins had earlier been a frequent victim, including getting beat on Hester's end zone catch that put Chicago up 17-14 late in the second period.

Other whipping boys?  David Buehler, who got a clear case of the yips and yanked a 43-yard field goal attempt that could have tied the game at 20.  That late, meaningless 48-yarder in no way atones.

Running game?  What running game?  The entire Dallas rushing attack consisted of consecutive gains of seven, seven and eight yards by Marion Barber midway through the first quarter.  That was it.  On the day, Dallas averaged 1.8 yards per rush.

While offensive linemen Marc Colombo and Kyle Kosier got back on the field, each had some shaky moments involving both assignments and penalties.

The Cowboys squandered a sparkling a 10 catch, 142 yard performance by Miles Austin, and Roy Williams had turned in a solid, and very physical, effort prior to his fourth quarter fumble.

But no play was bigger than Romo's misfire to Choice on what would have been a gimme, go-ahead fourth quarter score.

Don't frame it, spin it, or rationalize it.  The Cowboys are a richly deserved 0-2.  And it could get worse before and unless it gets better.

Chicago had every excuse, and played through them all.  Cutler had every reason to turn it over.  And didn't.

 Dallas had no excuse, but got out-toughed anyway.

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