Tony Romo won the internet this week when he used an infamous scene from Major League to let everyone in the world know what his plan is as he returns to action:
Well it has become the mantra for a team that has lost seven straight since Romo was put on the shelf in week two. In fact at a local event in Dallas last night, Romo surprised the team with some dessert:
Tony Romo's return should definitely ignite the team in hopes to make a very late push to try and capture the NFC East crown. There is no arguing who the leader of the team is or what he means to the team in general, as we've seen what happens when he's not on the field. However, Tony Romo cannot do it alone, he will need other guys on the team to elevate their play if they hope to "win the whole *expletive* thing." Which five Cowboys could really be difference makers in these last seven games?
5. Darren McFadden
McFadden was on a nice roll before his train was derailed in Tampa Bay. The defense coming up this Sunday is not going to be easy to move the ball against but McFadden was certainly happy to have his quarterback return:
"A guy like Romo back there behind the center, you can't load the box up because he's the type of guy who's going to get out of the play and get you into the right one anytime you try to load the box up on him," McFadden said. "It's crazy, just being out there and seeing the way he works and gets you in different plays and different situations, it's a great thing. He's a great veteran quarterback, he goes about his business the right way and does a great job at it."
This offense runs through it's running game and even though they have been losing, McFadden has been doing his part through most of these losses. In this final stretch, McFadden really has a chance to make a case for his return to the team next season. If the offense can get the running game back on track, this offense will be pretty hard to stop. The Cowboys have always been at their best with a strong running presence and McFadden has shown that he still has plenty left in him. Can McFadden get back on track and become Romo's best friend?
4. Tyrone Crawford
The Cowboys have really not seen many returns from their defensive tackles this season and that's rather disappointing especially for Tyrone Crawford. Just about every other football site around was declaring that Crawford would have a monster season this year but nothing has really panned out. Crawford currently has three sacks this season and for a position that is so important to the success of the Tampa-2 scheme, he has to elevate his play as the season starts over for the Cowboys. When Crawford is using his power, he has thew ability to put guards on skates very quickly. His initial burst is great and Crawford knows how to slip by blockers to penetrate the pocket. When things go as negatively as it has for the Cowboys as of late, it trickles down to every player at some point. Crawford hasn't exactly lost sight of confidence though as he hopes to get back the sack column soon. Crawford, who is celebrating a birthday on Sunday told Babe Laufenberg exactly what he wants:
"I want three sacks for my birthday. I want three sacks, six sacks total from the team. I would settle for three. I'm just gonna go out there and play. Most I've had in a game was two. To have like three or four sacks would be awesome. I just wanna come out healthy and I definitely want to get a W. Just go out there and be in the locker room after with this team, after a win, happy."
Crawford had a sack in the last contest against the Bucs, it would be great for the whole defensive line if he gets on a roll through this stretch. With Romo back in the fold, the hope is that this defense will not have to play as many snaps and can get enough rest to close out games. Crawford played 739 snaps last season and is on pace to play more through this season. Every good defense needs a chance to breath and as woeful as the offense has been without Romo, the defense is gassed before the fourth quarter. Crawford could really be a huge help for the team if he can get going in this game against Miami. The Cowboys sorely need some push through the middle of their defense.
3. Cole Beasley
Last season Cole Beasley became the go-to guy on third downs and had the best catching radius on the team last year besides Dez Bryant. Beasley is a machine with Tony Romo in the game and has become one his favorite targets. Beasley caught 75.5 percent of his passes last season, and, according to PFF, he was the only receiver without a dropped pass among the 90 NFL players with at least 46 targets. "The Show Pony" needs to get back to that third-down demon he was last year. All offseason long, everyone talked about how "uncoverable" he was but when the guy throwing the ball changed, Beasley disappeared for a while. He had a very nice game a few weeks ago against the Eagles, but now is his time to step up and make plays with the full accompaniment on offense back in the fold. The following excerpt is from a column I wrote back in May on third-down percentages:
The "Show Pony" did what he does best; get open. Beasley was targeted 17 times on third-down and caught 13 of those passes. Of Beasley's four touchdowns, two were on third-down tries and he often broke big yards after the catch. Beasley racked up 164 yards on third-down tries and showed to be Tony's new converting machine. At a 76.5% conversion rate, it's safe to say that Beasley just keeps finding ways to create a mismatch for himself. You can't really put a linebacker on him, he's too nifty for that. You almost have to cover him with a corner but that doesn't mean he's not going to find another way around it. He brought his June Jones-taught skill-set with him to the NFL, which is basically "just go anywhere but be open". Beasley never had a game where he didn't catch at least 50% of his targets. Beasley earned the quarterback's trust and should only get more looks in 2015.
If the Cowboys are hoping to get on a winning roll, Beasley will have to be a huge difference maker on offense. As Jason Witten's role has changed, it's Beasley who benefits most and the Cowboys need his help jump-starting the offense hoping for a magical run.
2. Sean Lee
Earlier we looked at Tyrone Crawford and spoke about how important the three-tech tackle is to the success of the Rod Marinelli defense. Well, the weak-side linebacker is just as important. It's a shame that Sean Lee has dealt with so much adversity related to his body giving up on him but Lee is still a phenomenal player for this defense. Now that Lee has cleared the protocol and is set to return to the field, they're going to need him more than ever. Lee has the ability to completely take games over and there may not be a linebacker in the league with better instincts and knowledge for the game. In week two, Sean Lee was an absolute nightmare for the Eagles to handle and his ability to diagnose plays and make tackles makes him invaluable to the team. Sean Lee was actually cleared to play but the Cowboys took the road of precaution after it was his second concussion in five weeks. One thing is certain, according to Todd Archer, Lee has no plans of changing the way he plays:
"I think the hit that I took was just wrong place, wrong time," Lee said. "Falling and I wasn’t able to really protect myself, kind of falling over the running back. You’ve still got to go and hit and tackle the right way and with the right form. It’s one of those things you’re not going to be able to avoid. I think if you try to play a different way you lean to more injuries probably."
Sean Lee, for better or worse, is a complete warrior. The Cowboys will need their defensive captain on the field in order to make this playoff push. As important as Tony Romo is to the offense, Lee's leadership and awareness as a linebacker is unmatched.
1. Dez Bryant
When Bryant came back into the fold, things didn't necessarily change drastically but they could with Tony Romo back under center. Dez Bryant is the heartbeat of the team and all runs smoother with the star wide receiver in the fold. Bryant has already shown the ability to make game changing plays as he did two weeks ago in the back of the end zone. The Cowboys really need Bryant to return to that force of nature player and help these Cowboys string together some victories. You knew things were bad when both Bryant and Romo got shelved but the NFL can change in an instant. The Cowboys haven't quit on this season and the relentless spirit that Dez Bryant brings to the table is going to be so important in the last seven games. It's time for a lot of back shoulder fades and slants from Romo to get the Cowboys' version of beast-mode firing on all cylinders. If Dez is making plays, the rest of the offense becomes a pick-your-poison outfit and that's exactly where they want to be. With all the tumultuous outside nonsense that has been buzzing around Bryant, a monstrous performance down the stretch can lift these Cowboys out of the depths of despair. Nobody is more happy to see Tony Romo back on the field than Bryant, now is Bryant's time to find redemption.