Normally, I am not one to say the sky is falling after one Cowboys loss, however embarrassing. I am not one to overreact to any single game performance in week two of the season. I am not one to call out the whole team when just the previous week, they beat the defending Super Bowl champions.
After this weeks performance, however, I can only say just one thing:
The Dallas Cowboys aren’t there yet.
Before any of you would-be “keyboard warriors” get up in arms about this declaration I have made with only a small sample size, consider this: Dallas had ten days to prepare for this matchup with the Seahawks–which is an eternity in the NFL. They also saw the way in which Seattle lost in Arizona to the Cardinals in week one and how they would be out for blood in the home opener (and they were, just watch this for evidence) against Dallas. Despite all of those indications and all the time they had to prepare for this matchup, the Cowboys looked like a 5-11 team and allowed themselves to be dominated for 60 minutes.
Now, there were positives for sure. Dallas only committed five penalties in the entire game –as opposed to 13 last week–and excelled on third downs, going 7-13, but the overall team performance in the 27-7 beat down is what has me the most concerned and -ill admit it- ticked off. You can’t single out an individual player for this game, but it certainly had one of those “Oh boy, here we go again” kind of feelings when running back Felix Jones coughed up the opening kickoff and gave the ball to Seattle in prime field position.
Immediately after that happened , I had flashbacks to the game in Arizona in 2008 where it started with a J.J Arrington kickoff return for a TD to put the Cardinals on top from the get-go. If you remember the rest of that game, quarterback Tony Romo broke his pinky finger, Felix Jones went down with a torn hammy and ex-punter Matt McBriar broke his foot on a punt blocked and returned for a TD in overtime to end the game.
That was week 6 of the 2008 season and Dallas came out battered and bruised –we all remember how that season ended in Philly, 44-7– just like this game. Safeties Barry Church and Gerald Sensabaugh were banged up, linebacker Sean Lee got decked on a crack-back block that was certainly the definition of targeting and should have been called as a penalty by officials.
If Felix fumbling the opening kickoff wasn’t enough of a reminder of ’08, Seattle blocking a Chris Jones punt inside the 10 and walking into the end zone for the very early 10-0 lead without doing anything on offense certainly was. I said in my prediction for this game that it had all of the makings of those trap games that Dallas is just all too susceptible to. Look at a few of the games over the last few years against teams Dallas SHOULD have beaten:
2011 @ Arizona, head coach Jason Garrett infamously ices kicker Dan Bailey who misses the potential game-winning field goal. Dallas goes on to lose in OT 19-13.
2010 @ Washington. Season opener, everyone remembers CB DeAngelo Hall stripping ex-Cowboy Tashard Choice on a short little swing pass before the half and running it into the end zone. and EVERYONE remembers OL Alex Barron bear-hugging LB Brian Orakpo as Romo threw what he thought was the game-winning TD to ex-Cowboy WR Roy Williams, but was negated by holding on the final play of the game. Redskins win, 13-7
2010 Dallas @ Minnesota. Brett Favre looks mediocre the whole game, but Dallas allows a kickoff return for a TD by Percy Harvin to start the second half and Romo throws two costly interceptions. Vikings win, 24-21
The point is, Dallas has an unfortunate recent history of not performing when the expectations are high. Not many analysts expected them to beat the Giants, but they did. When most people expect for them to handle Seattle, though, they drop the ball and look completely out of sorts on every side of the ball. It is not a slight to Seattle, who played extremely well, but Dallas did not look like they were ready for the game. Tight end Jason Witten dropped three passes in one game for most likely the first time in a Cowboys uniform, WR Dez Bryant dropped some passes as well and first week hero WR Kevin Ogletree had one catch for a measly 26 yards.
No matter how you slice it, Dallas provided a whole list of reasons to believe this is still the same 8-8 team that underperformed a year ago. Tampa Bay this week is certainly not going to be a picnic, it will be a game against another team that will be miffed because of a matchup they blew against the Giants last week, and the Bucs will want to take it out on Dallas. The Cowboys cannot afford to lose more than a few home games if they expect to win the division or make the playoffs this year; the schedule is too hard.
I expect to see their best performance this week in the home opener. After last week, they owe it to the fans.
If they lose this one, the doubters will multiply tenfold.