A Tired Defense, A Bad Offense and a Flawed Gameplan

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In the NFL it is very rare that a team dominates on both sides of the ball week in and week out.

What is more common is a team having an identity that favors either side of the ball.

For the Dallas Cowboys that identity is our offense…hands down.

We all said, "If the defense can be average, this team can be dangerous".

And the defense has been just that….average.

Bend, but don’t break, and surprisingly, extremely opportunistic.

Turnovers have regressed to the means, but the defense is still upholding it’s end of the bargain… playing average

The script is simple – An offense that controls the clock, puts points on the board and makes opposing teams more pass heavy in the process…. Complimentary football, we hear the players and coaches say it every week… that is the script.

Week 9 vs the Broncos, the script failed… no, the offense failed.

Romeo would’ve probably sucked without Juliet… Just like our Defense sucked with no offense to compliment it.

A suspect outside zone run on 4th & 1 ended our first drive that only lasted 1 minute 26 seconds.

Our defense took the field and managed to force a 3 and out, giving our top three offense another chance to do what they do best.

The offense would again sputter on their second drive, and fail to convert, this time on 4th & two… at the Denver 20 yard line.

Each 4th down attempt took place within field goal range. Feel free to debate your take on going for it…I had no qualms with the call.

Dallas converts those and Mike McCarthy is a genius… the execution failed us on the second attempt, much in the way the play call did on the first… the decision, in my opinion, was not to blame.

The broncos offense took the field and drove for a "wear you out" 6 minutes and 19 seconds on a drive that saw them overcome two separate 2nd and 13s as well as a 5 yard penalty for a false start. They managed a TD and missed the extra kick (6-0 Denver)…

I told my wife, "It’ll be 17-13 Dallas at the half", because … well our offense is gonna do what they do. The players weren’t the only ones buying the hype, I’m sure the majority of Cowboys fans at that point in the game still felt like the ship would be rightened (word or no?) and we’d overcome this puny deficit to leave with our 7th straight win… I didn’t feel the urgency…neither did the players, especially the offense.

A minute and 48 seconds later another lackluster offensive possession would come to an end with no fruits to bear for their labor…well to be fair, there hasn’t been much labor worth rewarding with any fruit.

So the offense didn’t only avoid scoring any points but they didn’t do anything to let the defense rest after the grueling 6 minute drive they’d just endured.

Denver’s offense would return to the field to gash Dallas on the ground adding to their fatigue and then wisely decided to attack the tired defense deep, clearly playing to win, not timidly trying to avoid loss. 2 minutes and 47 seconds later 13- 0 Denver…

Surely Kellen and Dak have diagnosed the Denver defense and are ready to put in work now…no, I took more time typing this sentence then they spent in possession of the ball. 6 plays, 1 minute and 25 seconds later and they were punting the ball away, ending another lacluster drive.

The next possession Denver broke the will of the defense. They only finished with a field goal, but that field goal came after a drive that lasted for 12 plays, 7 minutes and 7 seconds… they wore the treads off the Cowboys tires.

The offense still had a chance to put something on the board before halftime and give our defense some much needed rest and maybe a bit of hope…but no 2 minutes and 2 seconds later another punt, another pathetic drive and another chance for the defense to face a team with confidence and momentum on their side. Fortunately we escaped the half without rendering another point.

Denver 16 Dallas 0… I still felt about 75% certain we’d pull this out. "We’re a second half team" I told myself, "Kellen’s halftime adjustments have been on point all year"… I told myself.

Then the defense makes a clutch stop getting Denver to punt after a 2 minute and 17 second drive…and holy heavens the Gods are on our side…A PUNT BLOCK…wait what? WTF just happened? What ensued was a suck the wind out of your life, screw your comeback, muffed punt (by definition) that returned the ball to Denver’s offense without our defense having swallowed their first gulp of Gatorade…yikes.

So, what does Denver do? Again they only managed a field goal, (19-0) but they tacked a 4 minute and 35 second drive right on top of the 2 minute and 17 one that just occurred…in essence that field goal was the result of a 6 minute 52 second drive… so the defense begins the second half much like they ended the first…exhausted.

And our powerhouse offense, the identity of this team, after throwing incomplete on 3rd & 1 and again on 4th & 1 welcomed our defense right back to the field with only 1 minute and 21 seconds having passed… seeing a pattern here at all? Not scoring points sucks, but not even managing to gain a few first downs to let the defense rest is what KILLED this game.

On the following drive the defense managed to get of the field in 2 minutes and 4 seconds (what a relief), and what’s better? The Broncos missed their field goal attempt. So with 4:48 to go in the 3rd quarter, our tired and weary defense had only given up 19 points…under the circumstances…that aint exactly horrible.

So after the two inexplicable pass attempts on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 on the previous drive of course our offense decides to dial up 3 straight passes on the next possession. The problem with this? No awareness at all!!! Your defense is worn the hell out… you cannot punt the ball away after 55 seconds of offense… yes, that’s right, they didn’t even possess the ball for a minute… it looked like the offense threw in the white flag right then and there… and that’s when I knew it was over. The two passess to end the previous drive and the 3 to start (and effectively end, this current one) was an acceptance of defeat…I’ve re-watched the game 4 times (various versions of it) and it is clear as day…they were done at this point.

Denver would score a TD on a 15 play, 92 yard drive that sucked up 7 and a half minutes and effectively put away any doubt that there was even the slightest chace for a comeback… the rest of the game was really waiting for the clock to read 4 zeros because the game was over.

The defense, to anyone that didn’t look deeper into it (including myself before reviewing the tape) looked horrid. When in fact they were merely playing their part.. they were average to start the game, making stops and giving up points, breaking some but mostly just bending… The offense, the coaching and the special teams all dressed the part, but neglected the script, and the defense was forced to carry the show in an impromptu fashion when all the other actors forgot their lines.

By the end of the 3rd quarter the broncos were:

Up 19-0

Leading in first downs gained 19 – 5

Yards Gained 349 – 122

And most importantly T.O.P. 32:15 – 12:45

Final T.O.P.

Denver - 41:12

Cowboys - 18:48

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