I was hoping this year would be different, and indeed it is. Unlike last year when they were blindsided and blown away by the Seattle Seahawks, the Cowboys lost a close one yesterday to the Kansas City Chiefs. But what remains the same as last year is beat the New York Giants, then lose the next game. This game was winnable, but if you’re the team giving the ball away, rather than taking it away you decrease your chances of winning. If bad calls by the refs are going against you and not for you, your chances for a win are less.
Sep 15, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Quintin Demps (35) breaks up a pass intended for Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
The phantom offensive pass interference call against Dez Bryant had a major Impact. Rather than being a long completed pass, it ended up pushing the Cowboys back into a must pass situation that allowed the Chiefs blitz to get to Tony Romo, forcing a fumble that led to a Chiefs score that allowed the Chiefs to take the lead. The second phantom pass interference penalty called against Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne allowed the Chiefs to run more time off the clock, causing the Cowboys to not have enough time left in the game to attempt the game winning field goal.
Am I saying the refs stole one from the Cowboys? Not exactly, although the outcome could have been different without these calls, the Cowboys just didn’t execute well enough on both sides of the ball to win. Plays like the long pass the went through Bryant’s hands and the “close but no cigar” interceptions that several Dallas defenders were in position to catch all led to a game that was much closer than it should have been.
And we are still seeing too much of an imbalance between the pass and the run. Lip service about wanting balance has to be followed through with making it happen and we just aren’t seeing that. DeMarco Murray, as good a running back that we know he is, looks below average behind this line. Lance Dunbar appeared a little more dynamic when he was carrying the ball, but his fumble that gave the ball back to the Chiefs was unacceptable. I’m hoping with recently signed guard Brian Waters getting into playing shape, we will see improvement in the running game, once he gets comfortable with the rest of the starters.
Sep 15, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Dallas Cowboys tight end James Hanna (84) is tackled by Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Brandon Flowers (24) during the second half at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs won 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
I also find myself hoping the Cowboys get more creative with their tight ends. First, if you get rid of your fullback in order to create more offensive flexibility with how you use your tight ends, then you need to get them to block like fullbacks when called upon to do so. There weren’t many passes to the tight ends in this game, but what I did observe was that Jason Witten looked slow, and that James Hanna was not able to break tackles. In my opinion the best use for Hanna is to use his speed to get open downfield when he’s covered by a linebacker, but all the passes to him in this game were short.
As I said before, this is a “bend but not break” defense. As such, success is predicated on getting the other team to make mistakes and turnovers. In this game the Chiefs just didn’t make many mistakes and didn’t turn the ball over. The two Cowboys turnovers gave the Chiefs the edge. If there is any consolation it’s that the Eagles, Giants and Redskins all lost too. That has Dallas tied for the division lead with the Eagles at 1-1 and the Giants and Redskins at 0-2.
So it appears fans of this team are in for another roller coaster ride this season. But no need to panic, there’s a lot of football left and I’m hoping this roller coaster goes up a lot higher than it comes back down.