That 2-0 start for the Cowboys is but a distant memory after dropping five straight games since Tony Romo injured his clavicle against the Philadelphia Eagles in week two. Yet, the Cowboys sitting at 2-5 are not too far away from the division leading Giants at 4-4. Romo, who returned to practice today, is set to miss two more contests and the Cowboys are on the verge of becoming winless without him. It's not easy to win games in this league and especially so without your Pro Bowl signal-caller.
However, the Cowboys must rally in order to stay within striking distance of the NFC East leader and that means these next two games become even more important. Luckily for them, the next two opponents are against teams that have struggled this season as well. With Matt Cassel under center, the Cowboys have to find a way to sweep the pesky Eagles come Sunday night or their season could be all but over. Due to the nature of the NFC East, it's difficult to ever call any team dead in the water. So, what can the Cowboys do to revive themselves in a still wide-open division?
When The Cowboys Have The Ball
Okay, so the Cowboys' offense had a rough outing against a pretty stellar Seattle defense, did anyone really expect much more? What was troubling was how the offensive playcalling did nothing to help them out. After tossing three interceptions the week before, Cassel was very conservative against the Seahawks. Knowing the Cowboys' coaches, the gameplan was to be expected considering how defensively sound Seattle's defensive backs are. Well, the Eagles' secondary are not world-beaters but they do rank 4th in the NFL in interceptions with 11 picks. That's a scary thought for Matt Cassel and the Cowboys who have a dreadful -8 turnover ratio.
The best hope is that Dez Bryant is knocking off the rust and can spark this Cowboys' passing game. Cassel tried a few times but Dez was locked down in his first game back with outstanding coverage by Richard Sherman. In fact, Cassel had a few near-disaster throws that if not for Bryant, they could have been turnovers for the Seahawks. The Eagles don't have the corners to contend with a healthy Dez Bryant but that's not the full story. The other Cowboys' receivers have had a very hard time making any difference for the offense and that has to change with their emotional leader back. If the Cowboys can get the ball out quick to their receivers, they have a great chance of getting some rhythm going on offense and getting out of this drought.
The Cowboys have been getting some great play from their offensive line and it just seems to be going to waste because of the quarterback. They have found the recipe for success in running the ball but when the defense loads up, they have had little to no success. With one more week of practices, the hope is that the Cowboys can start having better offensive production with Bryant getting more comfortable.
With that said, the best way for the Cowboys to get going is to continue to run the rock. They have had success doing so against good rushing defenses and Philadelphia is not considered a good rush defense at 17th in the league. They give up about 110 yards a game rushing and that could be this offense's ticket to finally getting in the win column. Mix a solid rushing effort with high percentage passing and the Cowboys could win one in front of the hometown crowd but continue to struggle to convert offensively and they're in trouble. The Eagles are giving up 360 yards a game which gives some home they can move the ball, but they also are only giving up 19 points per game, will that be enough?
When The Cowboys Are On Defense
Dallas did a fantastic job in the first meeting to keep this Eagles' offense grounded. Sean Lee played like a man possessed and they forced plenty of turnovers. That's the one key to the game and with an interception last week, the Cowboys hope their takeaway problems are behind them. Sam Bradford ranks 4th in the NFL at giving the ball away with 10 interceptions on the year plus a fumble. The Cowboys put pressure on him back in week two, we should fully expect that to be the key in this game as well with Greg Hardy on a roll. Sam Bradford is a statue quarterback and he doesn't do much moving around. The other guys such as Tyrone Crawford, DeMarcus Lawrence and Jack Crawford need to step up and help create some opportunities for takeaways.
The Cowboys have done a nice job at limiting the yards gained by opposing offenses and currently sit at 8th in the NFL defensively. They also rank 13th in rushing defense and 12th in passing defense but getting the turnovers are the key for them. The Eagles will be looking to have a better gameplan after their awful performance in week two and they are 4-1 against the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. There has never been a better week for the Cowboys to pull out a defensive masterpiece against a team in Philadelphia that loves to give the ball away. Can the defense ball out again as they did in week two and sweep the Eagles?
The Cowboys are beyond desperation and need to win a ballgame before Romo comes back. It's the same thing that has been said each week and each week they have failed to accomplish that goal. Of course the offense misses Tony Romo something fierce but they have to rally. It's going to take a better effort by the players but also the coaches. Jason Garrett has not lost this locker room, they just need to find a way to play better and most importantly get a win. If they can get this one victory, it could be the spark that brings this team back from the dead. Winning is the only thing that matters and the Cowboys are making improvements but without Tony, it hasn't been enough. That's why this team must find a way to fight and claw their way to this victory. It only takes one crank to get the ignition started for a team that has the talent to compete but just needs their confidence back. If they can find a way to win the ballgame, it just may be enough to give us a reason to believe once again.