Yes, it’s all about focus, or in this case, the lack of it. We have not seen anything remotely close to a perfect game from the Dallas Cowboys offense this season, not even during the big game 1 win over the New York Giants.
In the Giants’ game, the offensive line had many false start penalties that moved the offense backwards, but they overcame it and went on to win. This was an indication of lack of focus by the line forgetting the snap count or being more worried about their opponent on the other side of the line and firing off to early. Jason Witten had one too, likely due to playing with pain.
Next came the game with the Seattle Seahawks. Felix Jones’ fumble was a lack of focus on his responsibility to hang onto the ball. Jason Witten’s dropped passes, another loss of focus likely caused by still being in pain from the spleen injury.
Chris Jones’ blocked punt followed a lack of focus by Dan Connor on his responsibility to protect the punter from having his kick blocked. Then there was a multitude of dropped passes by the receivers. The line seemed to play with more focus, at least as far as false start penalties are concerned.
Finally the Cowboys were able to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home. Lack of focus by the offensive line reared its ugly head again, with them and Witten committing numerous false start penalties.
Then there was the interception of the pass intended for Miles Austin and more dropped passes by Witten and the rest of the receivers. It was a testament to the defense that the Cowboys were able to win this game with an anemic 16 points on offense.
So, despite all of these mistakes, the Cowboys are a respectable 2-1. But then the Chicago Bears came in for a visit on Monday night. The Cowboys are looking good, right? Even if the offense is still under-performing we’re in good shape because of our top rated defense, don’t you think?
But then Dez Bryant ignores or doesn’t know what Tony Romo is asking him to do on a route adjustment Tony called because of an expected blitz and the pass goes right into the hand of the Bears’ cornerback, it’s pick 6 time. Dez also dropped several catchable passes, a big stain on what should have been a career night.
Then Kevin Ogletree let one fly off his hands right into the arms of a defender and another pass intended for Witten ends up in Bears’ hands for another pick 6. The line was more focused, as far as the snap count is concerned, but was less than impressive when it came to blocking. This led to the pass rush causing an interception/fumble by Romo.
Many want to blame Romo for the catastrophe, but that would be incorrect. How is it Romo’s fault when the receiver is not where he’s supposed to be? How is it Romo’s fault when the pass bounces out of the receiver’s hands right to one of the defenders. How is it Romo’s fault that sloppy play got them so far behind that he had to start pressing on his passes to try to get back into the game?
The defense that we were counting on could only do so much when the offense didn’t give them any time to rest between series. We should have still had an answer for Brandon Marshall late in the game though.
So here we sit at 2 and 2. Does that mean the Cowboys are finished for the season? Hardly. However, there is reason for alarm with so many players on the offense playing without focus and continuing to make the same mistakes over and over again.
So what’s the answer? To come to an answer, we need to identify the source of the problem. Is it coaching? Well certainly when it comes to the offensive line, we can blame coaching for some of the problems. When going to a new scheme, complicated by lack of continuity in training camp due to injuries, there will be some confusion.
But how long should this last? It seems to be better already, with improvement at limiting false start penalties. The bigger issue though is blocking. Is it a lack of focus or are they just not very good? We will see as the season continues.
My hope is that they get a better understanding of their assignments and continue to improve.
On the other big issue caused by lack of focus, receivers dropping catchable balls and Dez still running the wrong routes, it’s more difficult to assess. The coaches can do all they can in practice to instill focus and it probably appears to be accomplished. But then they get into the game and it all goes out the window.
It reminds me of when I coached Pee Wee Football. The kids all seemed to get it when we practiced during the week and then we would get into the game and the wheels came off. My point?
Focus must come from the player and if you have a player or players that can’t play with focus during the game, you have to sit them down and use them sparingly until they show you they can play with focus.