Dear Dallas Cowboys, do you know who this week’s opponent is? It is the Washington Redskins, the team that was once your most intense rival.
It’s a Rivalry Game
In recent years, the rivalry hasn’t had quite the same intensity, but you have split your last last eight games against them, with a few of those games having serious playoff implications.. For example:
- In 2012, Rookie QB RGIII led Washington to a series sweep over you, taking the NFC East crown. Had the Cowboys won the last game in Washington, you would have won the division in a three-way tiebreaker with Washington and New York.
- In 2014, the Cowboys lost in overtime after Tony Romo left the game due to injury. Had you won that game, you would have ended with a 13-3 record for the first seed in the NFC playoffs. You would have had the bye, and would not have had to go on the road to try to beat Green Bay where they’ve been almost invincible.
So, beating Washington should have rivalry and potential playoff significance for you.
You Cannot Afford to Start -0-2
The next critical reason you need to win the game is to avoid an 0-2 hole to start the season. As OCC noted in this week’s playoff tracker:
If you're one of the teams that stumbled out of the gates on opening weekend, your 0-1 record means next week's game is already something of a must-win game: Start the season 0-2 and your odds of making the playoffs drop to just 10%.
You have the added incentive of putting Washington in an 0-2 hole with a victory. One of you (assuming no tie) is going to come out of the game in the NFC East cellar. It can’t afford to be you.
You Need to Change the Narrative
You also need to win this week’s game is so you can stop hearing about all the shortcomings the Cowboys have shown recently. For example, here’s a recurring story:
- Dallas can’t win without Tony Romo at QB. Indeed, you are 1-14 in your last 15 games started by Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel, Kellen Moore, and now Dak Prescott. Two of those quarterbacks are now gone, and a third is on season-ending IR.
You have a promising rookie quarterback this year, but you didn’t help him out much in game one. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley dropped catchable touchdown passes that Dak put into your hands. La’el Collins was called for holding on two critical fourth quarter drives, killing both of them. Zack Martin was called for a false start on the last desperate drive to give Dan Bailey a chance at a winning field goal. Terrence Williams didn’t get out of bounds at the end. The defense couldn’t prevent the Giants from running the ball up the gut at the end of the game. And the running game never really got going with Ezekiel Elliott, Alfred Morris, and the offensive line.
Here’s another bad theme.
- Dallas can’t win close games. Rob Phillips noted this after this week’s loss.
But this isn’t all about Prescott. Last year the Cowboys played 12 games that were within one score in the fourth quarter. They lost nine of them.
Like last year, the Cowboys have to be better in a lot of different areas when it’s crunch time, or these excruciatingly close losses will continue.
Is it a lack of toughness, coaching that’s too conservative, a failure to execute plays at critical moments? What are the reasons you keep coming up short?
This Game is Winnable. Time to Win It.
Finally, the formula you ostensibly use to win games — with your highly-touted offensive line leading the way for a powerful running attack that sets up opportunities downfield in the passing game — is exactly the formula Pittsburgh used in Washington last week to pummel them 38-16.
Can you do something similar and come away with a win? I guess we’ll all find out.
No more excuses. Time to win a football game.