Sep 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Head linesmanGeorge Hayward (54) picks up a penalty flag during the game with the Dallas Cowboys playing against the New York Giants at AT

Dallas Cowboys Improving Their Discipline

After last game many Dallas Cowboys fans are singing the chorus of same old Cowboys. And it’s hard not to.

In my column before the game, I said that the Cowboys needed to beat the Chargers to prove they are the type of team that can capitalize on the opportunities they are given (In other words: the NFC East sucks…lock it up). Capitalizing on opportunities has been a struggle for Dallas the past few years. If they could beat San Diego, I mused, it would prove they’re a different team than we’ve come to expect.

Sadly, all the Cowboys seemed to prove on Sunday is that they are a team struggling with inconsistencies on both sides of the ball. The offense goes for 21 points in the 2nd quarter…and can’t score the rest of the game. The defense forces a pick-six and, well…actually the defense was consistent in their deficient play throughout the game other than that.

Phillip Rivers had his way thanks to a quick release and questionable pass coverage. That’s just the way it is.

Nonetheless, I’m going to stick with my message that the Cowboys are, indeed, a better team this year. Yes, they are 2-2, the same start of every team Jason Garrett has ever coached. Yes, they keep settling for frustratingly long field goals. Yes, the teams they have beaten have a combined record of 1-7.

But there is one important stat standing out as a sign of things to come: Penalties.

For a long time, the Cowboys have been among the league leaders in penalties. In 2008 they lead the NFL. In 2009, they did it again. In 2010, 2011, and 2012 they ranked 24th, 26th, and 26th (respectively).

A quarter of the way through the 2013 season? The Cowboys are sitting in 9th place with 21 penalties, tied with New Orleans, one ahead New England.

Is this compensation for being .500 through 4 games? No way. Does not committing penalties automatically mean success? Not a chance. The Ravens won the Super Bowl last year leading the league in penalties.

However, it is a sign of discipline, something Garrett (the Ivy-league educated former NFL QB) craves from his team. We should appreciate the fact that in his 3rd full season as head coach (one in which the roster is no longer made up of other coaches’ guys) we are seeing this kind of change. On two key issues that he has stressed, turnovers and penalties, we are seeing improvement.

Don’t give up on Garrett yet. This team is not the same.

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