It is markedly less than Ideal. The Dallas Cowboys are coming off a hugely embarrassing performance against the Washington Commanders and now must find a way to right the ship against their wild card playoff opponent, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady, who has never quarterbacked in a losing game against Dallas. The failures were multiple against Washington, including all phases of the game. But even despite the special teams coughing the ball up twice and some real breakdowns on defense, it was the absolutely pitiful performance of the offense that seemed the biggest problem. Those offensive numbers are abysmal. 182 total yards, 64 rushing and 118 passing, spells defeat almost every time. They only managed ten first downs all game and just three after halftime, when there was still a chance to get back into things.
The running backs were unable to find holes with just 2.4 yards a carry. Dak Prescott frankly looked spooked and was badly out of rhythm, having the worst performance of his career with just 14 completions on 37 attempts. It is usually difficult to figure out the most significant factor in a game like that, but there is a good argument to be made that the problems started and were mostly due to a very bad day for the offensive line. It was a rearranged group because Tyler Biadasz was hurt the previous game. This forced Connor McGovern to move to center, Tyler Smith to shift inside to left guard, and Jason Peters had to go the entire game at left tackle. Meanwhile, Tyron Smith has been forced to play right tackle since the loss of Terence Steele to IR. Against Washington’s talented defensive front, they simply had no answers. Prescott was only sacked once, but that was largely because he was moving and evading the rush all game. And clearly the holes just weren’t there for the running backs.
While it may not be the complete solution, it certainly appears that the team has to get Biadasz on the field against the Buccaneers if they are to have a real chance to avoid yet another one-and-done disappointment in the playoffs. The center is normally the lineman who makes protection calls and adjustments pre-snap. It is fairly obvious that Biadasz is far more effective than McGovern. That might be even more important to moving the ball and scoring than having so many players out of their normal position.
At the moment, there seems to be hope that the starting center will be back from his injury against the Tennessee Titans.
Per @BobbyBeltTX on @1053thefan: There’s growing confidence around Tyler Biadasz being ready for Wild Card weekend and the training staff feeling better about his rehab so far.#DallasCowboys #CowboysNation— Brandon Loree (@Brandoniswrite) January 8, 2023
Tampa Bay, like Washington, has a fierce defensive line. Their best interior defensive lineman, Vita Vea, has missed several games with injury, but it is likely that he will return when Dallas goes to play the Bucs on Monday night. Carl Nassib is another player who missed their season finale that they hope will be ready. With Akiem Hicks and William Gholston, it is going to be a real challenge. Biadasz would be a major help to try and counter them.
If he does return, then it will be interesting to see how the Cowboys adjust. The assumption is that they will just shift Tyler Smith and McGovern back to the left, but Jason Peters did play the entire game against the Commanders. With Tyron Smith having some struggles at right tackle, there is another way this could shake out. They could move Peters back to right tackle, where he seemed to do very well when he was called on, put Tyron Smith back at left tackle where he has been so good for so long, and leave Tyler Smith at left guard. It depends on how they evaluated the latter’s performance there. They could even leave McGovern in and use Tyler Smith as the backup tackle. Desperate times call for creative solutions.
In any case, it all really hinges on Biadasz. While there are a bunch of other issues to address, the line has to be fixed to give them a chance. The game plan against Washington looked limited. With the fifth seed locked up, that may have been a deliberate choice in a game where they did not have the normal offensive line signal caller on the field. That is not viable against a team and coaching staff like Tampa Bay. Biadasz may not be enough to ensure a victory, but if he is not able to go in a week, a loss looks much more likely.
Get well, Mr. Biadasz. The team really needs you.