Perhaps the most disconcerting aspect of Dallas’ start this year is the absence of a “renewed” commitment to the run. Yes, this is a passer’s league — and with the likes of Green Bay, New England and Denver being amongst the best in the league, there’s a false perception that you can pass your way to victory.
Why is it false? Because those teams have Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning at the helm. They are, in the truest sense of the word, outliers.
And good as he may be, Tony Romo has, traditionally, been unable to carry a team on his back. Not to say that he hasn’t tried (8-8 last year may have been 4-12 without him) but it’s just not a formula for success with this particular team.
Through 2 games, the Cowboys are averaging 62 yards on 19.5 carries. Romo attempted 42 passes against KC, and the Cowboys had 13 called runs. 42 passes, 13 runs. That sort of discrepancy between run and pass plays would make more sense if the Cowboys were down more than a few scores. The Cowboys led at the half, and lost the lead with 3 minutes left in the 3rd.
Apologists for Cowboy play-calling thus far will argue that football is situational — you “take what the defense gives you”, go with what works, and get the ball in the hands of people who are making plays. That’s fine. But here’s what it does for your team and overall strategy over the course of the game, if you continually lean on only one-aspect of your offensive gameplan:
1. You become one-dimensional. There is only one way for you to get the ball up the field, and the other team knows that. They’ll play the odds — if you’re passing 75% of the time, you don’t think they’re prepared for that?
2. Leading to my next point — you’re wildly predictable. The defense knows what’s coming. They’re dialing up blitz-packages based on what you’ve shown them, and taking away routes they’d given you earlier in the game. Instead of keeping the defense on their heels (I.E. being unpredictable, a term Princeton-grad Garrett is presumably unfamiliar with), you’re giving them ample opportunity to learn your strengths and weaknesses.
If the Cowboys continue to operate this way, not much is going to change for this team. Romo is going to perpetually attempt to put the team on his back, and is going to come up short half the time — and that’s the simplest formula for 8-8.
This team has to establish the run — they have to become a team that can beat you both ways offensively, not just through the air. It’s a mind numbingly simple concept that the Cowboys have neglected to adapt into their overall strategy/philosophy for years — and we’ll hear the company line each week “we’re committed to the run”, but we’re all smart enough to know that this never rings true in application.
Things of Note:
Lance Dunbar will never see the light of day if he continues to put the ball on the ground. And that’s a shame, because he’s shown he can be explosive out of the backfield in both passing and running situations. For a team that needs a jolt from the running back position, it’s imperative that he finds a way to keep the ball secure.
Travis Frederick was absolutely owned, at least twice by my count, by Poe. Poe put a ridiculous move on Frederick for his two sacks — one of which was in the redzone. Don’t have to be a genius to understand that redzone mistakes, penalties or execution, will kill your team. Frederick, along with most* of the line, was otherwise fairly solid.
Doug Free* is terrible. Not much else to say. I don’t know why this man is still a Dallas Cowboy. He routinely misses blocks on both run and pass plays — on the off-chance he doesn’t completely miss his block and DOES engage his blocking assignment, he’s losing most of his one-on-one battles.
Mo Claiborne — wow, show us something. You were the 6th pick in the First Round (which your Twitter bio so proudly boasts) but you’ve, in an admittedly small sample size, played more like the 1st pick in the 6th round. Your second career interception might be a place to start — that, or not committing game-ending penalties.
Situational defense. The defense came up with some big stops throughout the game, and did a solid job of keeping Jamaal Charles at bay. That said, giving up huge plays on the final drive ultimately cost the Cowboys a formidable shot at winning the game. Mo Claiborne’s penalty aside, if they’d stopped Charles like they had all game, the Cowboys might have had a chance for some magic at the end.
Cowboys play the Rams next week, at home. What could’ve, should’ve, would’ve been set-up as an opportunity to start 3-0 for the first time since 2008, now becomes an early must-win for a team that supposedly moved past the demons that have haunted them for 5+ years.
What do you think? How do the Cowboys come back strong next week?