It’s Time To Admit That These Cowboys Are Everything We Thought They Wouldn’t Be
In any other universe, in any other season, C.J. Spiller’s 80-yard game-ending jaunt could very well have been described as a letdown for the blue-clad visitors from Dallas. Instead, it will go down in the history books as an emphatic affirmation of something we already should have known; the Cowboys, as they are, are not a good team.
That’s not blaming anybody in particular. That’s just stating the obvious.
The Cowboys on Sunday lost to the Saints in the same manner of a man drawing water from a 600-foot well. It took them all night to do it.
By more than just Spiller’s long catch-and-run that ended the shortest overtime game in NFL regular season history, the Cowboys gave away a halftime lead for the second consecutive week because they no longer have players who can keep it. Except the ones on the helmets, there are no stars to be found in Dallas.
Tony Romo. Dez Bryant. DeMarco Murray. Nowhere to be found was this triumvirate of offensive talent that carried Dallas to the NFC East title last season. By night’s end, their best defensive player (Sean Lee) and top receiving threat (Lance Dunbar) were in the locker room with injuries, too.
The result for the Cowboys was a 26-20 loss to a rebuilding Saints franchise relying heavily on the injured right arm of Drew Brees and a defense replete with rookies and football ne’er-do-wells. Brees completed 33-of-41 passes for 359 yards. The New Orleans defense, on the other hand, turned in a performance that coordinator Rob Ryan hasn’t seen in ages. The last time that New Orleans held an opponent with a winning record to 20 or fewer points in a game was in Week 16 of the 2013 season.
That doesn’t speak well for the job that Brandon Weeden did as the Dallas signal-caller. Weeden did lead a late fourth-quarter drive to tie the game and force overtime, but that only served to salvage what had been a very unimpressive outing to that point. He is still largely inaccurate on the rare occasions that he does push the ball downfield, and has yet to strike fear into an opposing defense now 24 starts into his career.
No, Weeden did not throw an interception, but neither did he force the Saints to stop loading the box against the run in the second-half. That, in a similar spin from last week, is what helped turn a 10-7 lead at halftime into a 20-13 deficit.
Weeden’s struggles have placed an added pressure on Dallas’ defensive unit, which now find themselves on the field for an inordinate amount of time. Rod Marinelli looked like a genius last year when his defense was on the field for 25 minutes per game. In the two games since Romo went down with a broken clavicle against Philadelphia, Marinelli has seen that average rise to nearly 33 minutes. And though he has added players into the lineup for a deeper rotation, it still hasn’t prevented the defense from running out of gas in the fourth quarter.
The defense will receive some help this week in the form of linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Greg Hardy, who are returning from the NFL suspension list. But it doesn’t change what is fast becoming apparent to all.
The Cowboys today are a shell of what we had all envisioned for 2015, and a crumbling one at that. Instead of running away with what is a very turbulent division, Jason Garrett’s squad now finds itself faced with the reality of simply trying to hang on until reinforcements arrive in mid-November.
Garrett, after the game, praised his team for playing hard to the final whistle. But it will take more than effort to play .500 football over the next six weeks. What he needs is consistent execution. And that might be too much to ask with the bunch that he has on the field right now.