The Dallas Cowboys are riding hot right now with the league’s longest active winning streak at five games. The division is, for all intent and purposes, locked up. With another trip to the playoffs on the horizon, fans are pretty excited right now. But is this excitement justified or are we getting a little ahead of ourselves? I decided to take a trip to the dark side and check in with my alter ego, the Phantom Menace, to determine if Cowboys fans need to slow their roll on this recent resurgence of enthusiasm.
Danny Phantom: What is your overall feeling about this team right now?
Phantom Menace: This team is coming off it’s greatest offensive performance in terms of yards gained in 40 years and they almost lost the game. And it’s not because the defense fell flat on their face like what happened to Tony Romo in 2013 in the Denver shootout. They almost lost because for the first three quarters of the game, the offense couldn’t score touchdowns. They let the beat-up Eagles hang around, take it to overtime, and then by the luck of a coin toss, finally put them away.
Lost in all those yards and the 29 points they scored is the alarming concern that the offense can’t finish drives. At first, you thought the law of averages was going to even out. Some red zone hiccups here and there can’t last, right? Wrong. And it’s not just red zone, it’s deep red zone. In the last six games, the Cowboys have had seven opportunities to punch it in after having the ball 1st-and-goal at the 10-yard line or closer where they have failed to get a touchdown. That’s a lot of points to leave on the bone, especially since all five of their games during this win streak have been by just one score. They are flirting with disaster. I mean, 13 points against New Orleans? They should’ve lost. 19 points after four quarters against Atlanta? They should’ve lost.
Danny: Can you see them making improvements and getting better in this department?
Danny: Can you elaborate a little on that?
Menace: They are 13 games into the season, what’s going to get better? Are they waiting for Amari Cooper to get acclimated to the offense? No, he’s already responsible for five of the team’s eight total touchdowns over the last three games. And he’s doing this despite the play-calling, not because of it. If Cooper doesn’t override the play on the big touchdown catch, we could be talking about a completely different outcome.
It’s interesting because I actually had another stop route on that play and they were, if you were watching, really sitting on those stop routes. And I was like, this is ridiculous. So when I broke the huddle I was kind of mad and I was like, Dak come on. And he was just like, just run it bro. And I guess he thought about it again and he kind of signaled a go route and I was elated when he did that. And I took off, caught the ball, and scored.
Cooper doesn’t get mad and even though he was just “kind of mad” that’s probably a good indication that something’s wrong. Why does a guy who’s only been here for six games know which plays to run better than Scott Linehan? We watched Prescott throw the ball and hit the back of the corner once and then another time where Cooper had to try to catch the ball (he didn’t) as it breezed past the corner. Cooper is great at getting separation, but not if the defense knows what he’s doing. Even on the game-winning touchdown, Rasul Douglas knew what was coming and beat Cooper to the spot. How many people have to say the defense knows what’s coming for us to admit they have a problem?
Danny: Ezekiel Elliott is back on top as the league’s leading rusher. Don’t you think between him and Cooper, this offense can do enough?
Menace: The most impressive thing about Elliott’s league leading 1,262 rushing yards is that he is doing that despite having some of his worst games of his career. In fact, in Elliott’s career, he’s only been held under 80 yards eight time in his career, but six of them have happened this season. Defenses know that if they stop Elliott, they stop Dallas. The Cowboys are 0-6 (0-4 this year) when Elliott rushes for under 75 yards.
To make matters most, their offensive line is not in good shape. Travis Frederick isn’t returning. Zack Martin continues to re-aggravate his MCL sprain which apparently they’re going to just keep abusing until it gives completely. And Tyron Smith is just not himself as he’s coming off one of the worst games of his career with three holding penalties. This is not good news considering three of those Zeke-stopping games this season have came against the Seahawks, Panthers and Saints (they’re not holding Brees and company to just 10 points again) and they’re the opponents the Cowboys are most likely to see in the playoffs this year along with the Los Angeles Rams who have Aaron Donald. Oh yeah, things are fine.
Danny: Sure, this team has gone through their struggles, but Jason Garrett has them focused and playing with a lot of fight right now. Is it possible they can fight through adversity and surprise people?
Menace: Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry doesn’t believe the moon landing really happened. If he played for the Rockets, I’d be disappointed, but hey - what are you going to do? Maybe if he sees it for himself, then he’ll change his mind. And that’s what it’s going to take for anyone to buy into Garrett being a capable coach. When you’re constantly coaching close games that could go either way by the some fluky no-clear-recovery fumble, then you’re just asking for trouble. These five wins are great. They are definitely better than losses, but this team should’ve spanked teams in some of these games. Eventually, his luck is going to run out and our luck and unfortunately for us fans, it’s going to happen in the playoffs. It may be one small leap for Garrett to make the postseason, but it’s going to be one giant leap to the unemployment line if he doesn’t win some playoff games!