Posted by: mdegeorge | October 26, 2010

Tuesday Morning Diagnosis: A Cow-lossal collapse in Big D

There’s only one thing that can dampen the excitement of the Texas masses at seeing a 160-foot LCD television: when that monstrous screen is consigned to showing highlights of an underachieving and borderline embarrassing Cowboys team.

That’s the predicament America’s Team finds itself in now after dropping their Monday night contest at home to fall to 1-5 on the season.

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While they’re not in completely uncharted territory—Paul Brown’s 1970 Cincinnati Bengals started 1-5 before winning seven of their next eight to make the playoffs—it would take a gargantuan effort from the ’Boys for them to fulfill their preseason billing of being the first home team to play in a Super Bowl.

And quite frankly, that kind of accomplishment isn’t something this character-deficient team is capable of.

This Cowboys team is certainly more talented than their record indicates, but they lack a certain killer instinct that was plainly obvious last night. On sheer talent alone (see Dez Bryant’s touchdowns) Dallas was able to hold the Giants to about their C- game, but couldn’t muster anything more than their own D game en route to the loss.

They had every chance to deliver the killer blow in the first half. They were staked to a 20-7 lead after turning the G-men over three times in the first half. But the combination of offensive inefficiency and a defense that, other than the interceptions, appeared to be sleep-walking most of the time spelled defeat on the night and of all reasonable expectations for the season.

Now, with five losses already and faced with the likelihood of a long lay-off for Tony Romo, this team is in a downward spiral that will land them in the draft lottery and Wade Phillips on the unemployment line by the holidays.

It’s not a talent question. They have a solid, if not always spectacular, quarterback in Romo who’s capable of winning games consistently. Despite the funk Roy Williams often phases in and out of, the offense has plenty of weapons in the arsenal. The defense, lead by DeMarcus Ware, also has plenty of big play potential.

But as a team, they’re just soft, especially where it matters most: the line.

Big D’s D is sixth in the league in yards allowed per game (317.3). But they fail the gut check tests, especially those for the line, such as rush defense (21st at 117.3 yards per game) and scoring defense (27th at 25.3 points per).

Even against the Giants’, the beleaguered unit was able to pull off the spectacular—intercepting Eli Manning three times and inducing five turnovers—but faltered at the basic—getting gashed for almost 500 yards of offense, including 200 in-your-face rushing yards.

The same is true for the offensive line. Despite looking bad in allowing Romo to get plastered and fractured last night, they have allowed only ten sacks this season, the fourth lowest total in the league. But that unit, with relatively inexperienced cogs like Doug Free and Montrae Holland, leads the 30th ranked rush offense in the league to 86 yards per game (despite the talented backfield triumvirate of Felix Jones, Marion Barber, and Tashard Choice).

The bottom line is that they’re a team without an identity that hasn’t played with much heart or soul this season. How else would you explain an excessive celebration penalty followed by a typically porous defensive effort leading a loss at home after the bye week to Tennessee? Or the inability to stand and answer the call in a do-or-die game against a Minnesota team off a tumultuous week that was ripe for the picking last week? Or failing to deliver the knockout punch to the Giants last night and then listlessly allowing New York to jab them into submission up and down the field?

It’s time for Jerry Jones to face reality: this was a team that for too long was able to coast along on the strength of their talent. This year, when that ability has been called on the carpet and they’ve been faced with adversity, they’ve cowered down…all the way to the NFC East basement.

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