Shame on me too. After a huge road win against the New York Giants in fairly convincing fashion, I was fooled into believing that this team was going to be different. This team was special and all the off season moves were paying dividends. No longer was this secondary a liability. No longer would we have to wonder if we could replace Laurent Robinson – Kevin Ogletree was here to save the day. This defense was going to be stout and our offense had too many weapons to stop for an entire game.
But, alas, the Cowboys were just pretending. This IS the same old Cowboys. They give you hope only to crush it the very next week. For those who think I might be overreacting or want to call me a “bandwagon fan”, I’m not. I’ve been a Cowboy fan all my life – through the glory days of back-to-back Super Bowls and the dark times like 1-15 seasons. I suffered through three straight 5-11 seasons with Dave Campo as head coach. If that didn’t chase me off, nothing will. It’s not “being a hater” to call out the facts that have presented themselves. At the end of the day, the Dallas Cowboys are represented primarily by the product they put on the field.
So, let’s hand out some quick grades for this week’s debacle in Seattle. These are my own opinions so feel free to disagree, but I really don’t think I’m off base.
1. Jason Garrett – F. The Cowboys had 10 days to prepare for this game. Let me repeat that. TEN DAYS! To lose a competitive game would have been one thing, but this team was completely unprepared on every level. This was an old fashioned butt whooping. That is ultimately the head coach’s responsibility. Many hail Garrett for his calm, “take it one day at a time”, “be the best we can be today”, analytical approach. But, is he too calm? There is a fine line in the NFL between level headed and complacent. I for one would like to see a little more fire out of the red-headed genius. It’s okay to get angry sometimes, Jason, when it’s called for. Your team should be as angry and disappointed as your fans are right now.
Secondly, the play calling is again suspect. We got behind early but we abandoned the run just like we did at times last season. DeMarco Murray only had 12 carries. But, of more concern to me is the fact that last week’s star, Kevin Ogletree had one catch and that was in the first quarter. Was Seattle THAT good that they could successfully cover Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Kevin Ogletree? Maybe it was Romo making the wrong reads or running for his life or not checking down to the right receiver, but the extremely effective passing game we saw in week 1 was a distant memory in this game. The Seahawks secondary is good, but the Cowboys will face even better units in the weeks ahead. They need to solve that challenge. Looking at our receivers, I just don’t see how one of them can’t be open on every passing play. The Cowboys gained less than a 100 yards in total offense in the second half – 51 of those yards came in the last 36 seconds of the game. Let that statistic soak in for a minute…pathetic doesn’t quite do it justice.
2. Rob Ryan – F. What exactly was the game plan for Seattle? Facing a rookie quarterback in his second start, the Cowboys defense should have been licking its chops. Instead of dialing up some of his exotic blitzes and trusting his newly acquired cover corners to take care of some pretty pedestrian Seattle receivers, Ryan for some inexplicable reason decided to essentially play a prevent defense for most of the game. As painful as it was, I re-watched the first half on Sunday night and cataloged the Seattle pass plays. The Cowboys rushed 5 defenders a single time in the whole first half. One time. The majority of plays – even the obvious passing downs – saw only 3 rushers with nickel and dime coverages. What’s worse is that when it became obvious we were not going to be able to put much pressure on Wilson or keep him from escaping and using his legs to pick up yards, Ryan made no adjustments. Remember that this was BEFORE our starting safeties were hurt. I simply don’t understand what he was thinking. It has been called out by some that this Ryan has really never had great defenses and lives primarily off the reputation of his father and brother. He went a long way toward proving that in this game. That game plan was a joke and set up this team to fail while making Russell Wilson look like Aaron Rodgers.
Add to that the fact that the Cowboys could not do the ONE THING that would be required to beat Seattle – shut down Marshawn Lynch. No real mystery there. Lynch gashed us for 122 yards (4.7 yards per carry) and in total the Seahawks amassed 182 yards on the ground. Even when in the second half it was obvious that the Seahawks were going to try and eat up clock by doing nothing but run it with Lynch, the Cowboys could not stop it. Because of that, the Cowboys’ offense only had 2 possessions in the 3rd quarter and one in the 4th quarter (excluding their final possession with 36 seconds remaining in the game). That is not elite defense. And so far, Ryan is not an elite Defensive Coordinator. Dare I say, he’s not even Wade
Phillips (horrible head coach, but a very good DC).
3. Felix Jones – F-. Felix has completely disappeared this season. His fumble on the opening kickoff was a killer. In that loud, hostile environment the Cowboys could ill afford to make that kind of a mistake. I don’t know what has happened to Jones, but he is contributing nothing (except negative plays) to this team. He fumbles kickoffs, make short, uneventful runs, drops passes, and runs poor routes. It is time for Jerry and this staff to face the fact that Felix might need a new start somewhere else. And, the Cowboys would be better served to fill his roster spot with a player that was both hungry and productive. There is no team that would trade for him except maybe Detroit now that they are in desperate need for running backs. (Perhaps we could bilk them like they did us on the Roy Williams trade). Short of that, they should cut their losses here and move on.
4. Dez Bryant - D. If Dez wants to be a mentioned in the same breath with great receivers like Calvin Johnson, then he is going to have to find a way to not disappear in games. His effort in Sunday’s game was nothing short of lackadaisical. He had two drops in the first half and one muffed punt and fumbled in the 3rd quarter after a 1-yard catch (recovered by Doug Free). His final stat line was 3 catches for 17 yards. That is not megatron-like. Yes, the Seattle DBs are big and athletic, but great receivers don’t care who is lining up across from them. They find a way to produce. In total this season, Bryant has 7 catches for 102 yards and no scores. That is not what the Cowboys thought they were getting when they took a chance on drafting him. He should be taking games over by now. And, either the Cowboys punt return team is pathetic or Bryant has forgotten how to return punts. His effort there was less than electric.
5. Cowboys O-Line – D. Despite a nearly miraculous effort against the Giants, just how weak our offensive line is became readily apparent against the Seahawks. Seattle has a good defense but nothing like the defensive line of the Giants. In this game, we could not open any holes for DeMarco Murray who gained only 44 yards on 12 carries. To be fair, the hole the Cowboys dug themselves through turnovers early in the game and then poor defense in the second half limited the number of carries. Murray should be getting 20-25 carries a game and 12 carries is never going to get the job done. In the passing game, Romo was officially only sacked one time, but he was running for his life on a lot of plays including the one interception he was rushed into throwing trying to fit it in to Jason Witten. Romo really does make this offensive line look better than they are with his legs and ability to escape. But, we can’t rely on that forever. The line is a work in progress and I think may eventually be good enough barring any more serious injuries, but they need to make progress more quickly.
6. Special Teams – D. The only reason this is not an F is that return specialist Leon Washington was largely held in check. But, the ridiculous blocked punt alone would earn this unit a failing grade. Add to that the fact that they fumbled the opening kickoff, Felix Jones repeatedly ran the ball out of the end zone from 8 or 9 yards deep after that not making it (or barely making it) to the 20, and the anemic 1 yard in punt returns (and a Bryant muff), and this unit appears to be in real trouble. Joe DeCamillis’ job is probably safe due to the fact that he broke his neck when the Cowboys practice facility fell on him in a bad storm in 2009, but I’m starting to wonder if he’s the right guy to get the job done. The Cowboys special teams are nothing to be proud of and haven’t been a factor for a while now.
7. Jason Witten – C. Jason is a warrior. Not many players could have made it onto the field for the Giants game after lacerating their spleen. I love the way Witten approaches the game. But, what has happened to his hands? He dropped 3 passes in the first half on Sunday. The first one would have converted on third down and prevented the blocked punt on the very next play. Another one would have been a long gain and potentially a score, but it bounced off his hands. We were a little lucky that ball did not float into the hands of a Seahawk. The reason he became Romo’s favorite target is because he always got open and would catch everything thrown his way. That is clearly not the case any longer. It’s incredibly frustrating because he is the guy that Romo goes to when the Cowboys really need it. When he can’t make the catch, it usually means a stalled drive or lost opportunity. He has also developed a bit of a propensity for the occasional false start or holding penalty at just the wrong time. That used to never happen. Drafted by the Cowboys in 2003, age and NFL wear and tear may just have started to catch up with him.
8. DeMarcus Ware – C. Another favorite of mine, D-Ware is a beast. But, he wasn’t on this Sunday. Even when he wasn’t double teamed, he was pretty effectively neutralized by a backup tackle. Starting tackle Russell Okung was out with an injury and was replaced by backup Frank Omilaye. I blame in part the defensive scheme Rob Ryan decided to use, but Ware must take over in games like this. He should have owned Omilaye.
9. Replacement Refs – D. Technically not a Cowboys issue, but the NFL needs to fix this. The replacements are doing the best they can, but they are overmatched. Players are going to get hurt and the integrity of the game is at stake. The unnecessary roughness penalty on Bruce Carter in the 4th quarter as he tapped Russell Wilson out of bounds while Sean Lee was looking for his teeth after a cheap shot from Golden Tate with no flag is just one example of how ridiculous it has become. It’s getting worse each week, not better despite the official “smiley face” the NFL is trying to put on the situation.
So, there you have it. Just as everyone reminded Cowboys fans that one game does not make a season, two games doesn’t make a season either. There is still a lot of football left to be played. Had the Cowboys taken care of business in Seattle, I would feel pretty good about this week’s game against Tampa Bay. Now, I have no idea what kind of team will show up on Sunday. It’s the home opener. If the right team shows up and the Cowboys get to 2-1, maybe we can call the Seattle game a bump in the road and put it behind us. Don’t forget the Giants on their way to the Super Bowl last season lost a home game to this same Seattle team in convincing fashion. But, if the Cowboys don’t show up for this game and drop 2 straight to teams they should beat, then yes Virginia, it’s time to panic. This game is suddenly extremely important if the Cowboys want to right the ship. Go Cowboys!