It's been since January 9, 2010 since we've witnessed the Dallas Cowboys win a game that mattered. After a humbling playoff loss in Minnesota to end the 2009 season, we here at BTB have been looking forward to seeing how the Cowboys can build upon last season. Frankly, we've been disappointed at how the team has responded coming out of the gates to begin this decade. Their record, so far, says it all.
Entering Week 3, Dallas travels across Texas to Houston to take on the state's hottest NFL team, the Texans, who after their two wins, lead the NFL in total offense averaging 440.5 yards and 32 points per game. We all know about the Texans' passing offense, led by quarterback Matt Schaub and receiver Andre Johnson. But this version of the Houston offense also boasts the league's leading ground game (157.5 ypg), led by running back Arian Foster.
The Cowboys must prevail if they want to prevent going into their Week 4 bye week with a winless record. Backed in a corner...a wounded animal...in the face of adversity...must-win. Expect to hear a collection of such colloquialisms during every pregame show this Sunday because the odds seem quite stacked against Dallas.
Only three 0-3 teams have rebounded to make playoffs. That fact makes next Sunday's in-state showdown at the Houston Texans a must-win. One of those teams to dig out of the 0-3 hole was Wade Phillips' 1998 . But he admits this team is at a turning point.
"I think we are at a crossroads," Phillips said. "I don't think it's too early. It's right now. It's time to step up."
More VRR after the jump.
Dallas certainly is taking this game very seriously, as Coach Phillips has been shutting the proverbial doors on the team's gameplan for Houston.
Everything else the Cowboys have been doing differently in preparation for Houston has been kept secret. The coach certainly wasn't divulging any secrets during Thursday's press conference.
"To sit here and tell you everything I told the players, every specific thing we changed, all those things, I don't know," Phillips said. "Get out the waterboard and let's go, if this is an interrogation let's do it. But if it's just talking about football, I don't think everybody out there wants to know what we do on this technique and that technique."
Roy Johnson goes out on a bit of a limb here in suggesting that the Texans are taking over the state as pro football's favored Texas team.
And while the Boys have a trio of serviceable running backs (Felix Jones, Marion Barber and Tashard Choice), Jerry Jones would trade them all for Arian Foster, the best back you've never heard of. Undrafted (yes, undrafted), the second-year runner from Tennessee burst out of the gate with 231 yards against the Colts and now leads the league in rushing at this nascent stage with 300 yards.
Who would you take in an arm-wrestling match for Texas: Jerry Jones or Bob McNair?
"The Cowboys have never been about checkered tablecloths and boots and hats," Jones said. "They've been about glitz and glitter. Leave the other stuff to the Houston Texans."
Texans owner Bob McNair responded by taking the high road.
I'm not offended by what Jerry said," McNair told the Houston Chronicle at the time. "I'm glad he knows we're the Texans. I'm proud to be a Texan and a Houstonian. . . . Houston's a hardworking city, and the Texans are a hardworking team. I don't see anything wrong with checkered tablecloths, hats and boots.
The Texans are also bringing some healthy competition to the Cowboys in another manner. Be honest. Who's Hotter: the Texans or Cowboys Cheerleaders?
While the Cowboys' offense has only allowed one sack during the first two games, they could certainly use more production in that department on the other side of the scrimmage line. DeMarcus Ware said that he wants more sacks to add to the pressure they have been producing so far on defense.
The Cowboys have only two sacks this season. Anthony Spencer took down Bears quarterback Jay Cutler once last week for the team’s other sack. Dallas does have 10 quarterback pressures, including six by Ware.
"I think the main thing is to get the quarterback and create some type of pressure back there," Ware said. "I think I did that effectively but still you have to get the guy down."
Somehow, they have to figure this out without adding to their two roughing the passer calls they've already been flagged for this season.
``You want them to be aggressive, but certainly you don't want penalties,'' Phillips said. ``It's a difficult situation, because sometimes you don't know if they've thrown the ball. but that's our responsibility as a defense. But you have to be aggressive.''
In the secondary, Mike Jenkins (bruised right knee) will be listed as probable for the game.
Jenkins said he does not have any ligament injuries and he is dealing mostly with soreness. He does not expect the Texans to test him often with Andre Johnson.
"I think they're going to come in with the same game plan," Jenkins said. "I don't think it's going to be one of those things where they try and pick at me. If it is, we're just going to have a good day."
While the Dallas running game ranks 28th in the league, its passing offense (2nd in the NFL with 325.5 ypg) has the team sitting 4th overall in total offense with 395 yards per game.
Is that old adage that a running game is a quarterback's best friend still appropriate in today's NFL? It sounds as if Tony Romo wouldn't mind using the run to set up the pass.
"It's difficult because we need to get more out of what we're trying to do," Romo said Wednesday in Irving. "I'm not sure exactly the statistics, but ... when you run the ball and run successfully, it makes everything a lot easier. Everything. Whether it's your red zone offense or whether it's staying on the field or minimizing mistakes or minimizing what the defense can do defensively."
Jason Witten spoke more on why he was held out of the remainder of last week's game because of having suffered a concussion.
"Obviously, it’s very important and the awareness we have with it, right now, I think that we’ve seen it with some of the former players and what’s happened," he said.
"So, I think it’s good to be cautious; having said that, when it’s you and you’re in the heat of battle there, sometimes you probably wished it be looked at differently. But, you understand, those guys are making decisions with your best interests at heart."
Obviously, the big question on special teams is in regards to the placekicking situation with David Buehler. After having a rough week of practice to which the media witnessed, controversy has swirled as to whether the team would be bringing in a veteran kicker to take over for field goals and extra point attempts. Such a change would conceivably be easier to do during the team's by week if Buehler's struggles continue in Houston.
Jerry Jones, however, shot down any chance that a roster move would occur anytime soon during his conversation today on 105.3 The FAN.
We're not debating this. You think I want to trash our kicker when he's lining up against the Texans?
"For people to go out there and see a couple of kicks, five kicks, and say the guy can't kick or isn't kicking good, I don't think you have enough information and I'm not sure you have the expertise anyway to evaluate that,'' Phillips said, per the Dallas Morning News.
"He worked on his craft just like all of the rest of the players did. We really don't announce how every guy does every single day or how they practiced and what they did.''
Also today, Jerry Jones briefly addressed whether a coaching change was on his mind.
When asked if Wade Phillips job was in jeopardy or if Jones had lost his confidence in Wade, Jones simply said, "No."