I know it is early in the season. I know the company line that is set by Mr. Garrett says to “take it one day at a time.” I understand no one who wears a uniform on game days is thinking about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, I also understand Dallas needs to win the next two games to set up a litmus test in primetime (Monday Night Football) against the Chicago Bears at home in Week 4 (October 1st on ESPN).
That tough road obviously starts with beating the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday afternoon. It would be a very big step to start the season with two wins on the road. To be one of the early-season undefeated teams after two weeks and to only have to leave Dallas six more times would be a monumental step in the Cowboys’ goal of making the playoffs this season and setting themselves up for success in January. It may be a tall order but the Cowboys need to get it done to truly capitalize on the significance of beating the defending World Champions at their place to open the season. The Seattle Seahawks are going to offer a strong opposition to the Cowboys in their first trip to Seattle since the January 2007 playoff loss. The crowd there is tough and Dallas will have to play another complete game to beat them at CenturyLink Field. Here is how they will do it:
Against the Giants, the Cowboys run defense was superb. The stats skew the big picture because the Giants had a few big runs in their final offense drives as the Cowboys were focused on stopping their passing attack. Otherwise, the Cowboys held the Giants rushing attack to less than 60 yards rushing on about 15-16 attempts. They also caused a fumble on a critical run in the 1st quarter. Now, the Giants were last in the league last year in run offense so expectations as to the Cowboys run defense might need to be tempered somewhat. However, if the Cowboys can put up the same type of production against Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks and force rookie quarterback Russell Wilson to throw more often, it will certainly bode well for Dallas.
Presumably the Cowboys WILL force Russell Wilson to throw often on Sunday and if they do, the key will be to stay disciplined. Against the Giants last week, the pass defense was night and day from a year ago. It can still be better and it will most certainly improve as rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne becomes more experienced and Mike Jenkins makes his return to the field and shakes off the “rust” that being sidelined with a shoulder injury has surely given him. If the Cowboys play disciplined football and avoid the temptation of trying to be spectacular, Russell Wilson will throw the game into the waiting arms of Cowboys defenders or be forced to the ground by the front seven.
The run offense looked good because DeMarco Murray is good. Otherwise, the Cowboys were not very impressive in that aspect. Plain and simple, the offensive line is bad. The final roster is already set for each team, so there is not much that can be done by way of free agent improvement. However, the Cowboys coaches (Bill Callahan, I’m looking at you) need to earn their money here. If Tony Romo cannot stay upright and DeMarco Murray has nowhere to run, the Cowboys will not be consistently able to effectively run the football. One thing is certain: the offensive line cannot afford another injury. The injury to starting center Phil Costa injury might actually help the Cowboys in the long run because Ryan Cook appears to be better suited to help this team. However, he is the last man that can be spared. Another injury to this offensive line could have devastating consequences to the overall effectiveness of the offense.
It goes without saying that the Cowboys cannot afford another 13-penalty performance, right?
Around the Division
- The Redskins and Robert Griffin III were impressive but please let us all pump the brakes. If he does the same thing against the rest of the division as he did against an absolutely dreadful Saints defense, then I will sing his praises. Until then, let us wait to induct him into the Hall of Fame. Don’t let me confuse you though. The kid played extremely well and he deserves this attention. A significant number of rookie quarterbacks play bad defenses and do not play as well as he did. He was great. But let us wait until he plays a true defense that does not allow 40 points to a rookie QB at home or a million yards after the catch as New Orleans did. Let us wait until they play a team that has their “first string” Head Coach. Also, don’t expect the media coddling of Robert Griffin III to stop anytime soon, either. The Redskins’ early season schedule is a cake walk. Their last 8-9 games are brutal and probably the toughest stretch in the league over that time. If he finishes the season the way he started, then he deserves all the credit in the world and the Redskins might be on the mountain top in the NFC East.
- It does not appear as though Philadelphia has figured out their woes from a season ago. Good on them for fighting back in a terrible game by their key players, but Michael Vick and that offense need to be better. They need to be less careless with the football. Their defense looks solid, though and they may be able to ride that for the times they do struggle. Side note: Does Andy Reid know he has LeSean McCoy on the roster? I don’t think he does and I hope he never figures it out.
- The Giants will recover. If you are writing them off, you are dead wrong. Remember when they were 6-6 last season? What about when they were 7-7? People wrote them off then, too. Same goes for several times in 2007. The thing that has made them 2-time World Champions is their ability to bounce back from adversity; something no one else in the division has yet to do with consistency as they have. The Giants still deserve the utmost respect until they are eliminated from contention.
Around the League
- The 49ers are scary good.
- The Packers are still one of the best teams in football but ran into a much better team on Sunday.
- The Bears are impressive in all three phases. The Cowboys will receive a true litmus test on October 1st in Arlington.
- The Ravens, Broncos and Patriots (MAYBE the Texans if they prove to stay healthy) are in a class all their own in the AFC. The Patriots actually have a defense now. Yikes.
- Dallas has a lot to do to catch up with these teams. I hope they can do it but they are fighting an uphill battle given the fact that the teams I just named are significantly more deep in all positions than the Cowboys.
1-0 is a good start. However, it is just the START.
If you like what you see, follow Mark on Twitter (@MrCowboy74) for all of your Cowboys news, updates and opinions.