Cowboys Nation is still recovering from the loss, and what it means. There seems to be no end of blame to go around. Let's start with the big uglies, shall we...?
Eatman takes one of Jason Garrett's top offseason mantras and applies it to the team he coaches:
Since the start of training camp, if not a little before, head coach Jason Garrett has done his very best to put last year in the books. He didn’t want the players talking about last year’s success or using the term "building" from anything 2014-related.
Well if that’s the case, let’s make sure that applies to all areas.
Because right now, the Cowboys’ don’t have a dominant offensive line. In fact, it’s not really a good offensive line through the first quarter of this season.
As the headline promises, Sabin doles out grades, and the O-line does not fare well. Here's what he has to say:
What went right: Not much. Against a Saints defense that was stacking eight players in the box and regularly positioning five defenders on the line of scrimmage, the Cowboys' offensive line didn't consistently generate push.
What went wrong: Ron Leary got whipped by rookie defensive end Bobby Richardson, leading to a four-yard loss in the first quarter. Doug Free couldn't hold a backside block as Richardson dropped Randle behind the line of scrimmage. Two plays before that, Free missed linebacker Hau'oli Kikaha and actually ran into tight end James Hanna as Randle was stopped for no gain. Later, Weeden was sacked twice when Kikaha beat Tyron Smith and Leary was bull rushed and defeated by Tyeler Davison.
As might be imagined, when the offensive line struggles, the running game struggles.
The Sturminator with his weekly post-mortem. There's no end of good stuff in this one, so after much deliberation, I opted to share these thoughts about the running game:
Right now, for the last two games, the Cowboys have run for almost nothing in the 2nd half of two winnable games with a backup QB. In fact, here are the plain numbers: In the last two games after halftime, the Cowboys offense has run 17 run plays of which they have gained 21 yards. Total. That is 1.2 yards per carry, or about what you could expect if you just ran 17 QB sneaks like you were trying to win the Ice Bowl. We would call that the opposite of dominating.
Now, let's be clear. This was rather predictable (in fact, we did predict this) that the running game would vanish if Dez Bryant and Tony Romo left because the respect for the passing attack of a backup QB and a stable of non-threatening vertical players would mean that every running play would be a major chore against a defense loaded up to take away your obvious only hope. Even mediocre defenses can stop an offense that is trying to survive on telegraphed intentions. It is too easy at this level to take away things like this.
The Babe with his usual post-game Q&A. Here, he answers a question about Brandon Weeden, pointing out that he's not getting much help from the running game:
And the lack of an effective running game is effectively killing this team. They can't convert on third down because the distance is prohibitive. They were just 3 for 12 on third down against New Orleans, and 0 for 5 in the second half. Third-and-6 or under? 3 of 4. And they got stuffed on third-and-1. They are now just 1 of 5 converting third-and-1. That is alarming. Third-and-7-plus, they were 0 for 7. By not being able to run the ball effectively, they are putting themselves in way too many third-and-long situations. Tough to convert, tough to sustain drives, so can't score points. They are now 4 for 18 on third down in Weeden's two starts.
Toddzilla with evidence of a Joseph Randle benching:
Randle did not have another carry in the first half and only four the rest of the game. Dunbar was lost for the game -- and likely the season -- on the opening kickoff of the second half, which could have kept Randle in the rotation. It's not like having him on the field was going to make a positive impact. Randle had four carries in the third quarter for 1 yard, echoing the four carries for minus-5 yards he had in the second half against Atlanta.
It's a pretty simple equation: do what the coaches expressly have asked you not to do, or take a vacation on the pine. As Archer points out in this follow-up piece, Randle earned his brief vacation:
The lack of playing time Joseph Randle received following his 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter against the New Orleans Saints was in part because of the Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett's displeasure with him leaping over the pile.
After Randle nearly had the football poked free on a similar dive on a score against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 3, he was told not to expose the ball like that again but did so in his first goal-line chance against the Saints.
Personally, I blame this guy:
Click on the video, taken from the end of regulation on Sunday night.
A few guys got some well-deserved love from the press on Monday for their play on Sunday.
Archer with a little info on the Cowboys' heroic tying touchdown:
In the third quarter Weeden missed Williams on similar throws to the end zone after a 67-yard catch by Brice Butler to the New Orleans 9. He and Williams got together and said if they faced that situation again, he would throw it deeper to allow Williams to run under it.
"We knew coming in they’re a physical group," Weeden said. "They’re going to hold you, grab, pull, tug. That’s the way they play. I just put a little more air on that one down there. I was trying to throw a perfect ball on those other ones. I should've just thrown it to the back pylon and let the guys run through it. I told them my plan and finally hit one."
Apparently, Williams told Weeden in the huddle to put some more air under the throw because he needed another second to shake loose of Delvin Breaux's tight, physical coverage. A couple of plays later, Weeden did so, and the result was Williams's clutch diving touchdown catch.
The Broad One with his weekly post-game dozen. Given the defensive malaise, I found this to be a bit of a relief:
9) Looked like the defense got a little something from DeMarcus Lawrence in this game. It was a good matchup for him against Saints tackle Zach Strief. Lawrence has been close in some previous games, but just not able to finish. There were several snaps where he was a factor by playing with some nice power and quickness.
Clarence Hill with ten reasonably astute thoughts on Sunday's loss in the Big Easy. Here's one of them:
8. Cornerback Mo Claiborne is playing the best football of his career and right now is the team’s best defensive back. The Cowboys had him cover Saints’ big play receiver Brandin Cooks all over the field and he shut him down. Cooks had four catches for 25 yards on eight targets. He had 12 catches the previous two games combined on 15 targets. Claiborne is in the final year of his contract and is playing well at the right time. He might earn a new deal with the Cowboys, though don’t expect it to be lifestyle-changing at this point. He will need more than one good season to undo the tape and memories of the past three seasons to get a big deal in Dallas.
The fine folks over at ESPN Stats and Info propose that Brees followed the old "start short, look long" mantra on Sunday night. To wit:
Brees, who has been dealing with a shoulder injury, averaged 3.6 air yards per pass on his first nine drives of the game. But on his last two, he averaged 12.2 air yards per attempt, including 18 yards on the game winner.
Of course, this had a lot to do with a decimated, exhausted defense...
And the injury news keeps on coming...
George with the confirmation: an MRI test Monday confirmed that Dunbar's ACL is torn, and he will miss the remainder of the season.
Eatman puts the Dunbar injury into sobering perspective:
When the Cowboys lost Dez Bryant for several weeks with a foot injury, it left running back Lance Dunbar as the most explosive offensive player on the team...Now, the Cowboys will be without Dunbar for the rest of the season after he suffered what the Cowboys believe to be a torn ACL.
The Goose answers some questions in the wake of the Cowboys Sunday nigh tloss. Here, he is asked about which injured role player the team will miss most:
Dunbar. This is an offense that lacks speed. Bryant isn't a burner. Neither is Witten and Williams was only a 4.52 guy at the combine. Beasley's not a burner. Dunbar is the one guy who could take it the distance. The Cowboys envisioned him doing for this offense what C.J. Spiller could do for the New Orleans offense and Darren Sproles could do for the Eagles offense. There's a chance for a big play every time he touches the ball. The threat of the two-play, 80-yard drive left the building with Dunbar's knee injury.
The loss of Dunbar hurts on the field, but the pain is more acute in the Cowboys locker room, because everybody likes the kid so much. Here's your starting quarterback, for example:
"I hate it for him," Weeden said. "Seeing him lying there, my stomach hurt bad, that’s how I felt for him. He had a bad injury a couple of years ago and battled back to play at a high level. I’m close with Lance; love the guy like a brother. I really do. It don’t get much better, always smiling. He’s a great guy. Man, I hate it for him."
Stephen Jones believes linebacker Sean Lee will pass concussion protocols, Lane writes, and be available to play against the Patriots on Sunday:
"He'll go through all the protocol and hopefully the severity is not significant here and pretty confident here he can go through all the steps and hopefully be ready to go against the Patriots," Jones told "The G-Bag Nation" on 105.3 The Fan on Monday.
With all these injuries, the Cowboys certainly have their work cut out for them...
In his "Ten Things I Think I Think" segment, the dean of NFL writers opines on the Cowboys current situation:
3. I think the worst nightmare of Jerry Jones has been realized. Sunday night in New Orleans, a loss to the previously 0-3 and fairly defenseless Saints, was the kind of game that, when Jones looked at the schedule after the losses of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, he had to think, "We’ve got to win that one." And last week’s home game against Atlanta too. With New England at home, the Giants on the road and Seattle at home the next three games, the Cowboys could be 2-5 and in danger of making the return of Bryant and Romo in two months borderline irrelevant. Dallas does get ace pass-rusher Greg Hardy and solid run-playing linebacker Rolando McClain back from suspensions this week. Doubt that means all the difference when Tom Brady squares off against Brandon Weeden in six days.
This week's losers, for Mays, are the Cowboys, who have a pretty rare combination of injuries. Like this:
It rarely happens like this, though. Star quarterbacks across the league — Ben Roethlisberger, Andrew Luck, and even Drew Brees — are either playing hurt or missing time, but at least the Steelers still have Antonio Brown. Luck should be back on Thursday. And when the Saints needed a game-winning drive in overtime, even a hampered Brees was better than not having him at all. Even Jerry Jones, speaking in a hushed tone just outside the Cowboys locker room about Brandon Weeden’s game-tying drive, was able to admit that his team and the Saints were in different hands last night. "It’s not quite apples and oranges when the guy on the other side of the deal is Brees and you’re dealing with a guy as limited as Weeden," Jones said. "And we were."
The Cool One delivers the truth we don't want to hear. You might want to plug your ears and sing the Star Spangled Banner really loud...
The other team gets paid too, and right now, the Cowboys are too injured to play those other teams well and win games. This ragtag bunch was in it until the very end against the Saints and held on well into the fourth quarter against the Falcons. It wasn't pretty, and it won't be pretty for as long as the Cowboys continue having to field backups.
The Cowboys will not win games on talent the next few weeks, and maybe not at all this season. If they are going to win games, they will have to grind them out the hard way. They'll have to out-muscle, out-hustle and out-will their opponents, and even if they succeed with that, their margin for error will be very slim.
Phillips reminds us that the Cowboys miss Dez Bryant not only for his significant on-field contributions, but for his locker room demeanor:
They also need his emotion.
The Superdome’s visitors locker room Sunday night was simply crestfallen, physically and emotionally spent from the mounting injuries and the game’s see-saw ending...
Bryant, a winner and a fierce competitor, will not allow a locker room letdown no matter how thin the roster gets. He’s the living breathing embodiment of Jason Garrett’s "passion, emotion, enthusiasm" credo.
The sooner he’s 100 percent and ready to go, the better – for the sake of the Cowboys’ offense and their spirit.
If we think about the most trying times in recent Cowboys history - the days after Wade Phillips was fired for starting the season 1-7; the aftermath of Jerry Brown's death - we see moments in which Jason Garrett shines. This may prove to be one of those; here, care of Williams, we see the relentless positivity and focus that lifts teams in those moments once again on display:
"You can’t live in that world [of missing your starters]," Garrett said. "We live in the world of the players we have, and we have to do our best job as coaches understanding that and then putting our players in the best position possible to have success. When Dez comes back, or anybody else comes back, now you’re in a different world, and you focus on having success in that world."
The good news is that help is on its way...
The Cowboys waived defensive tackle Ken Bishop and linebacker Keith Smith on Monday, Phillips reports, creating roster space for Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain, who will be activated from the Reserve/Suspended list tomorrow. Bishop was active for three of the first four games, and Smith was active for all four. Neither recorded any defensive or special teams statistics.
Jeremy Mincey summed up the general feeling about Greg Hardy's return to the Cowboys' struggling defense:
"I can’t wait."
|Don’t forget to resister for our Blogging the Boys meet-up!
Oct 24-25, 2015
Cowboys-Giants in the beautiful Poconos
|Three awesome Cowboys-centric events!|
|Saturday, October 24
(8:00-10:00 PM): Dinner the night before the game
|Sunday, October 25
(9:00 AM - 1:00 PM): Pre-game brunch
|Sunday, October 25
(4:30-8:30 PM) Cowboys-Giants game, with free buffet
|Click Here to RSVP||Click here for more information on pricing, lodging, etc.|