As we always do on Tuesday mornings, let's start with any leftover game analyses:
The Wizard of the Whiteboard with his weekly post-game assessment. Here, he points out the irony inherent in the last two weeks' cornerback play:
For 13 games in 2015, the Cowboys cornerbacks, including a former top-10 draft pick and a player on a $50 million contract, failed to register a single interception. That makes it extremely fitting that in the last two weeks, a former seventh-round pick and an undrafted free agent, each recently called up from the practice squad, have been able to make interceptions in consecutive games.
The Broad One drops by his buddy Will McClay's office and comes away with some intel on the diminutive Cole Beasley's holiday week:
After what Beasley was able to do with Moore under center against the Jets – I just thought we would have seen more opportunities. Maybe what scrapped that plan was the fact that Beasley got sick during the week and didn’t have much practice time, so the coaches didn’t want to commit that much of the game plan to him? My sources were telling me that Beasley was really struggling and could have very easily been inactive for the game. So even having him line up was a likely surprise.
Why didn't the Cowboys try to get The Senator more into the mix, given that their QB was making his first NFL start and could have used a safety valve? Apparently it was because job one is to block Rex Ryan's complicated blitzes:
"The issue is their pressure," coach Jason Garrett said. "That’s a big part of what they do. They force you in base offense and when you get to third down to handle the protection stuff first. That’s one of the reasons they’ve been successful on defense. What you need to do is handle the pressure first, then you need to gash the pressure."
McGuiness, who was a guest on our podcast last season during the beginning of free agency, offers up the weekly team-by-team "best of." In a development that surprises absolutely nobody who watched the game, Sean Lee emerges with the highest marks:
Staying much healthier this year, linebacker Sean Lee (+4.8) has been able to get back to his best and has had a really strong second half of the 2015 season so far. Against Buffalo, he had eight tackles that resulted in defensive stops, grading positively against the run, in coverage, and as a pass rusher, where he chipped in with a sack and a hurry.
Sunday's game managed to add injury to insult:
Defensive lineman David Irving suffered a fractured wrist in Sunday’s loss to the Bills, Eatman reports, and will likely be placed on injured reserve, along with Barry Church, who broke his right arm. In addition, Devin Street has been in the concussion protocol but seems to be "doing well."
Archer notes a little communication lapse re: Dez Bryant's health:
Earlier in the month Bryant said he was feeling as good as he had felt all season but Garrett said the receiver’s foot and ankle have gotten progressively worse in the last few weeks.
I'd bet that some time next season, we'll be reading stories about how Dez Bryant played the bulk of the 2015 season on a foot that an ordinary man couldn't walk on comfortably...
One of the dominant storylines - largely because it offers something new in a season of stultifying sameness - was the play of Kellen Moore. Some takes:
The Babe with his weekly post-game Q&A. Here, he's asked his opinion of Kellen Moore's performance:
I thought he really handled himself well in adverse conditions. He is in control of things. Threw the ball away when he had to, handled the offense well. I know I like him more than most, but that is OK. I don't just look at the stat sheet to figure out how he played. I still have a belief that he has some intangible qualities that are unique. 7-of-14 on third downs was most impressive stat of day. Now needs to figure out a way to get the ball in the end zone.
The weekly ALEX rankings. ALEX stands for Air Less Expected, and measures the average difference between how far a quarterback threw a pass (air yards) and how many yards he needed for a first down. So, if a quarterback throws a pass five yards behind the line of scrimmage on third-and-15, that would be minus-20 ALEX. From this, we can see that Dallas' QBs in 2015 have struggled to push the ball downfield:
Of the 38 qualifying QBs, the Cowboys two signal callers rank 31st and 36th. That's less than stellar, to be sure - but the last-place quarterback has his team in the playoffs, so this metric is clearly not the be-all, end-all.
Toddzilla recreates the sequence from Sunday's game that gives us a wee bit of hope that Kellen Moore can contribute in some fashion going forward:
With 11:40 to go and the Cowboys trailing 9-6, Moore had a chance to pull out a fourth-quarter comeback. On first down, Darren McFadden’s 22-yard run was negated by a holding penalty. On the next play, an 11-yard throw to Terrance Williams was wiped out because of a penalty.
Later came a delay-of-game penalty, setting up third-and-19, but Moore delivered a 22-yard completion to Williams for a first down.
It also aptly describes the exercise in futility that has been the Cowboys offense for the better part of the season.
As a season that's already over winds down to its bitter end, the premature global assessments begin to roll in...
Dallas Cowboys' offensive woes go deep - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Here's the heart of the matter:
The Cowboys haven't had four games without an offensive touchdown in a season since 2001. That also happens to be the last time the Cowboys started four different quarterbacks in one season: Quincy Carter, Anthony Wright, Ryan Leaf and Clint Stoerner.
But the offensive issues go deeper than Romo, too. In 35 drives with Romo as the quarterback, the Cowboys scored just five touchdowns.
Jason Garrett responds to questions about the Cowboys offense being too reliant on Tony Romo's particular skillset:
"I think our offense is flexible enough really to adapt to anybody," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday. "That's one of the things we like about our offense is that we can feature a guy or protect a guy if need be, not only at the quarterback position but at any position. That's what we try to do. We believe in our system of football on offense.
"You then have to understand who's playing on your team and how you need to tailor it to those guys whether that guy's been here for a long time or he's getting his first start. You've got to make sure the environment is as conducive to them being successful as possible."
The Sturminator sifts through all the detritus that is the Cowboys' ruined 2015 campaign for answers. Naturally, he lands upon the front office:
I suppose that leads us to the front office. 12 months ago we were singing their praises. But, man, the 2013 draft looks pretty bad. 2012 is down to Tyrone Crawford who never distinguished himself after signing his deal and playing hurt. 2014 appears promising with Zack Martin and Lawrence, but what about Devin Street?
The Cowboys look to have exactly one core player from each of the 2011 and 2012 drafts (Tyron Smith and Tyrone Crawford). To build a playoff-caliber nucleus, they are going to need to achieve a higher hit rate on second-contract quality players.
Coach Redball reminds assembled reporters that its possible to have a good process lead to a bad outcome. So, if you believe in the process, its important not to deviate from that when things go horribly, as they clearly have in 2015:
"I think you have to have convictions about what you're doing," Garrett said a day after a 16-6 loss to Buffalo that guaranteed the most losses for Dallas (4-11) since the last of three straight 5-11 seasons in 2002.
"Those convictions won't be shaken at all by the result — good, bad or indifferent. You're always trying to grow and evolve and get better. You're trying to always do what you do at a high level and we'll continue to do that."
In a recent radio interview, Brandon Weeden was asked if it would be extra satisfying to see the Cowboys on the sidelines if the Texans are in the playoffs. His response - to thorow some shade Jerry Jonses's way - is fair and reasonable:
"I mean yeah, absolutely. ... We get to play extra football and he'll be watching on his couch."
From the good problem to have department:
With the NFC East Division championship and the No. 4 seed in the NFC playoffs already in hand, the Redskins could decide to keep the momentum of a three-game winning streak going into Sunday’s regular season matchup against the Dallas Cowboys.
Or they could decide not to risk any major injuries and rest their starters against the Cowboys...
You may recall that this was precisely the debate raging in Dallas before the Cowboys-Redskins tilt one year ago, after the Cowboys had clinched the NFC East title the previous week against the Colts. Now they're having this argument in the nation's capital. My, how things have changed...