Still a few lingering articles about the Minnesota game. But this view - that penalties more than anything else made the game in Minnesota challenging - is one that I agree with. It's also the easiest thing to clean up.
Coach Jason Garrett rarely discusses big-picture topics like why the Cowboys scored a season-low 17 points. He prefers to focus on why each individual drive failed. Two of the Cowboys' 13 drives ended with kneel downs. Penalties wrecked five of the other 11 drives. When playing a defense as good as Minnesota’s, you can’t wreck drives with penalties and expect to score points.
And we haven’t even talked about Orlando Scandrick’s hands to the face penalty that negated an apparent interception by Anthony Hitchens that would’ve given Dallas the ball at the Vikings' 38.
Bob Sturm's weekly Decoding Linehan is always required reading. His most interesting observation is that Geoff Swaim's injury has weakened the rushing totals out of two-tight-end sets.
The Cowboys have been a dominant rushing team all season. Things have gone very well for them on the ground, which we believe is the foundation of what they like to accomplish. However, it should be noted that a disturbing trend has formed regarding their success rates since the injury to Geoff Swaim, the blocking tight end from Texas.
Swaim tore his pectoral muscle against Pittsburgh. Before that day, the Cowboys were getting a majority of their running game from multiple-tight end sets. Since then, Dallas has been trying to figure out a way around this obstacle because it makes its offense so much more powerful.
Why? Why do you think running with multiple tight ends is a big deal?
Because, when you are in a multiple-tight end set -- 12, 13, 21 (if a tight end is lined up as a fullback) or 22 personnel, you will see the defense attempt to defend you in their base personnel. They will not have a fifth defensive back on the field because they realize how difficult it is to stop the run being outsized so badly. Now that Swaim is out, there is a lot of the offense that is now trying to be replicated by Gavin Escobar, who, unfortunately, blocks like a wide receiver sometimes. If you make him block a linebacker or a defensive end, we see his issues bubble to the surface.
So the Cowboys are left with the unenviable choice of either trying to get Escobar to reach Swaim's level of blocking, or rip out a big part of the playbook that got the Cowboys to where they were when leaving Pittsburgh.
He doesn't really have a solution. Rico Gathers anyone? It's unlikely he'll be ready, but it's possible the Cowboys could add a blocking tight end from someone else's practice squad. Hoping for Gavin Escobar to become a better blocker is a ship that sailed a couple years ago.
The first part of this article asks about the offense, but it's this question that the Cowboys will have to answer by next week - what to do with Darren McFadden?
The Cowboys have to move running back Darren McFadden to the active roster by their Dec. 18 game against Tampa Bay, or he will not be eligible to play this season. I'm curious if this is the week they put McFadden on the roster. The Cowboys are coming off a tough stretch of three games in 12 days and McFadden's best game a year ago came at the Giants, Dallas' opponent Sunday night. Last year, McFadden rushed for a season-high 159 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries at New York.
Here's the first of a series of articles about the Cowboys' plans over these last four games, and how they will prepare for the postseason now that they are in the playoffs. Tyrone Crawford lays to rest any idea that the Cowboys are going to become complacent down the stretch.
"There’s more to get," defensive end Tyrone Crawford said. "And this team just loves winning and as a group we love winning together and I feel like that’s what it is. Football is about winning. You feel good after you win. You don’t want to lose in anything you do, no matter if you’re one-on-one pass rushing or the whole entire game with your team. You don’t want to lose. That’s our mindset going into the week, and that’s how we’re going to go into every week."
Jerry Jones addresses the question of whether Tony Romo will play once first seeding in the NFC has been clinched, and answers in his usually cryptic way. It looks like the answer right now would be yes, Tony Romo will get a chance to be ready, should he be needed in the playoffs.
"Here’s the thing: I want to do what gives us the best chance to have Tony contribute to a championship, and we’re speaking about Tony right now," Jones said on The Fan. "But I do want Tony to be ready to go in case that Dak should have an issue health-wise. That gives us strength going into the playoffs. Not from the standpoint of necessarily protecting Dak or protecting your quarterback when you’ve got the bye cinched or in the playoffs, but from the standpoint of having Tony at the readiest to come in and play would be my immediate or quick assessment."
Turning to the Giants game, this article points out how far the Cowboys' triplets have come since their week one game against the Giants.
Prescott’s regular-season debut was uneventful compared to his last 11 games. The rookie completed 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards and added 12 yards on two rushes. He threw 10 passes that traveled 15 or more yards beyond the line of scrimmage that game, completing just two of those attempts for 36 yards.
Since then Prescott has been one of the best downfield passers in the game.
Similar improvements have been shown by Ezekiel Elliott and Dak-to-Dez Bryant.
The Cowboys also continue to lead the Aikman ratings overall, and on offense, despite not doing so well against Minnesota.
It's a confusing situation with Randy Gregory's suspensions. Yesterday, it was believed that he might start practicing this week and could potentially play in two weeks (the Lions game). That was put to rest by the NFL who said he will not be able to practice until his 14-game suspension is over. He still may play this year as it is rumored he is appealing an additional suspension that was initially rumored last month. At this point, the NFL isn't confirming anything except that Gregory will not be returning to practice until the 14-game suspension is over.
In Archer's Five Wonders, he wonders if Charles Tapper could come off IR to help the team. If he was practicing with the team this week, like Gregory will, it might be something to get more excited about. At this point, it seems like long--shot speculation.
I wonder if it makes more sense for the Cowboys to call rookie defensive end Charles Tapper back from injured reserve than guard La'el Collins. It has nothing to do with who is a better player. That is Collins. It has everything to do with the state of the defensive line compared to the offensive line. The Cowboys need any and all help they can get rushing the passer. Tapper was drafted with the hopes of developing into part of the pass-rush rotation. If Collins returns, he won’t be active. (Or shouldn’t be.) If something were to happen to Ronald Leary or Zack Martin, the Cowboys can get by with Joe Looney. Right now the pass rush needs more help. Truth be told, expecting either to help after missing so much time isn’t wise, but there is more of a need on the defensive line.