With the impressive win over the Philadelphia Eagles in Philly last Sunday, the Cowboys face the easiest three-game stretch on their schedule at home, but is that really something to be optimistic about?
After all, the Cowboys are 1-2 there this season –don’t get me started about how Dallas had to play six of their first nine games on the road, that is ridiculous- with the two losses coming on a blowout by the Bears and a Giants game which started as a blowout, but ended up being a loss by a hair, or a fingertip, if you will. The win was also remarkably unspectacular. Dallas defeated Tampa Bay in the third game of the season 16-10, a game in which both offenses could do next to nothing and a long punt return by Dez Bryant provided the spark that led Dallas to the winning score.
Over the last three years, since “Jerry World” has opened, Cowboy Stadium has been anything but a friendly confines to the Cowboys. Dallas is 8-11 in their last 19 games at home and has been prone to underperforming in games that most would consider easy wins. Last season on Thanksgiving against the 3-8 Dolphins, Dallas squeaked out a 20-19 win, they beat the Redskins 18-16 and while that is always a rivalry game, 18 points at home against a poor defense last year was considered a failure. The only team from the NFC East who has not beat Dallas in their new digs is the Redskins, and they will oppose Dallas next Thursday for the annual Thanksgiving Cowboy game.
If you look deeper into the statistics of Dallas at home this year and previous years in Cowboy Stadium, you’ll see that quarterback Tony Romo has had some of the worst games of his career there –and some of his best as well. People this year will note that Romo has thrown 10 of his 13 interceptions at home, with nine coming in two games against the Bears and Giants, and that his mistakes early in games have led to deficits for Dallas.
This is not wrong.
However, Romo has been very good in November in his career and will have to keep that streak up in the next three games if Dallas expects to build a winning streak. So far, Tony has not thrown an interception in the first two games of the month and has played his best football of the year, not making ill-advised decisions by forcing throws into tight windows and protecting the ball when he is under pressure. All fans know that as Romo goes, the Cowboys go.
Another glaring problem at home this year, though, is the abomination in the post game statistics for Dallas: the running game. Starting running back DeMarco Murray has been out the last four games for the Cowboys, but he was healthy for the first two home games of the year, and the stats were not pretty. A team high 38 yards rushing against Tampa Bay, and a team high 24 yards rushing against the Bears. Felix Jones followed the disturbing lack of a running attack with a feeble 19 yards against the Giants. Now these totals may be misleading because of the large deficits the Cowboys have found themselves in against the Bears and Giants, but the fact of the matter is that Dallas –specifically head coach and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett–abandons the run WAY too quickly in games.
Garrett treats the run as taboo and something that should only be used sparingly, and what else would you expect from a coordinator who was a quarterback with….the Dallas Cowboys. Garrett called a good game against the Eagles this past Sunday, only the second time I have praised his play calling all year–the first being when the Cowboys shredded the Baltimore Ravens for 227 yards, the most ever allowed by Baltimore ever. But usually, he refuses to balance the two and the box score reveals that Romo had twice as many passes as Dallas has run attempts in the game; that is not the work of an effective coordinator. Most fans would groan if they saw Tony Romo with 50+ pass attempts or 62, which he had against the Giants two weeks ago. It is simply not conducive to success when you pass so much.
Let’s use the Atlanta Falcons as an example. They have a largely ineffective running back in Michael Turner, who averages only 3.8 yards a carry on the year, but they keep feeding him the ball in short yardage and goal line situations even though he gets stuffed on a lot of them. Why? Because you have to put the thought of the run in the defenders heads so that play action will work effectively. If you have second down and 13 and have been passing 60 to 70 percent of the time, a play action will do nothing but lose you yards or get the quarterback sacked and Dallas’ offensive line isn’t good enough to block well for draw plays. Nobody is fooled when the Cowboys run a play action boot when Romo has already attempted 30+ passes before the end of the third quarter, the defenders do not even look at the running back as they swarm towards the QB and try to force a bad throw or throwaway.
This all ties back to the Cowboys underachieving ways at home, meandering along against mediocre teams that they should beat, and of course, committing untimely penalties that do nothing but make the home fans more quiet then they already are. That brings me to my final point.
Get your heads out of your posteriors, Cowboy fans.
Every game I attend or see on television, the crowd of 80,000 + is quieter then hole 18 at the Byron Nelson Tournament. Fans simply do not get involved, which is a huge reason as to why opponents do not consider this a hard place to play. Teams like Pittsburgh, Seattle, Green Bay, Atlanta, Baltimore, Denver, Minnesota, Chicago and New Orleans are consistently successful at home largely because of how loud the fans get at the most important times of the game. I scream my head off at every game I attend and consider it a job to render my vocal chords useless for the next couple days. If all fans had that mentality, teams would absolutely dread coming here. So, if fans are going to complain about the teams performance at home, they need to make sure that they are giving it their all at the games and not letting the sound of the concessions guy walking up and down the isles yelling “Beer! Cold Beer!” be more audible than the cheers from the crowd.
Cleveland, Washington and Philadelphia. Three straight home games that could vault Dallas to a 7-5 record and a rebirth from a season that seemed lost a week ago.
Be ready, Cowboy fans.
The team needs you.