Sunday, November 02, 2008

Giant problems: Dal 14 NYG 35

For a few weeks now, there has been an emphasis on how the Cowboys will be healthy, will be “back” after the bye week. After today’s thrashing at the hands of the Giants (and our own quarterbacks), the Cowboys have mercilessly reached the off week at 5-4.

After the Cowboys’ win over Tampa Bay last week, all the talk was about how the Cowboys would be going into the bye over .500 regardless of what happened in New York … well, New Jersey. The Cowboys were seemingly willing to accept their place as long-shots to beat the Giants, because, hey, after the bye everyone will be back.

(Read the Fan Report from my visit to the Meadowlands)

Congratulations, Cowboys, you’ve limped into the bye by essentially rolling over in a game that the pundits all said you had no chance of winning. Yes they were right (see: 35-14 score), but where was the “prove them all wrong” attitude like last year’s game in New York?

The Giants gave the Cowboys opportunities (3 turnovers), but capitalized on the Dallas mistakes (all 3 interceptions thrown by Dallas quarterbacks led to Giants touchdowns). Brad Johnson completed five passes to Cowboys and two to Giants. And Marion Barber has been a ghost since the injury to Felix Jones.

Wade Phillips and Cowboys fans got an answer to the Brooks Bollinger question, an answer I’d sum up as NO! After coming in for Brad Johnson to start the second half, Bollinger’s first pass was picked off deep in Cowboys territory, and Brandon Jacobs scored shortly thereafter.

But hey, Dallas got to the bye over .500.

But does that really make everything better now? Tony Romo should be back. Felix Jones should be back. Terrance Newman should be back. Jason Witten should be healthy. WR Roy Williams should be more acclimated to the offense. But watching the Cowboys putrid offense on a chilly afternoon at Giants Stadium illustrated just how bad things can be for Dallas this season.

Marion Barber ran for 54 yards on 19 carries (2.8 avg) and seems to be much less effective without Felix Jones providing a much needed change of pace. Jason Garrett involved rookie running back Tashard Choice in the second half, giving him the ball five times for 27 yards (5.4 avg).

And speaking of rookies, Mike Jenkins interception of Eli Manning shows that this secondary, despite their youth, can get the job done. Yes, Eli Manning was able to squeeze throws to receivers and his tight end to extend drives, but the defense found itself stretched to the limits due to the Cowboys’ inept offense.

But the bye week will cure that, right?

Perhaps Romo will cure all the offensive shortcomings, but the Giants were putting constant pressure on both Johnson and Bollinger on Sunday, each being sacked twice. Romo will immediately upgrade the recent passing problems and should make the offensive line look better thanks to his scrambling abilities. Plus with opponents now having to actually respect the deep ball, maybe linebackers and safeties will back off the line of scrimmage enough to give Marion Barber more room to run.

With Romo, the Cowboys scored 28, 41, 27, 24, 31 and 24 points in six games (a scoring average of ). Without Romo, it’s been worse than bad, with Dallas scoring only 14, 13 and 14.

There are now seven regular season games left in 2008 with four of them in Irving. With Dallas sitting at 5-4, they’ll need to win five of seven to likely make the playoffs. Winning four of seven might get you in. Maybe. If the playoffs started today, Dallas would be spectators. They are last in the NFC East. And the sad reality that just because you’re a preseason favorite to win the division, conference and Super Bowl, doesn’t guarantee anything.

Mercifully, the bye week awaits.

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