Cowboys vs. Buccaneers: What Went Right, What Went Wrong


The Dallas Cowboys have lost yet another game in the absence of quarterback Tony Romo. In the seven games since their starter went down, the Cowboys have found numerous and seemingly inventive ways to lose. On Sunday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas lost perhaps it’s most frustrating game of the streak. Now we take our weekly look at what went right and what went wrong in the sunshine state.

What Went Right

Despite early success from Tampa running back Doug Martin, the Cowboys defense was very effective stopping the run. The Bucs had 26 rushing attempts and were held to only 84 yards. Tampa never did fully abandon the run, but Dallas was able to control Martin and company to keep the offense in the game. Linebacker Rolando McClain looked to regain some of his form from 2014. If that trend continues and fellow linebacker Sean Lee can come back healthy, Dallas will finally have the tandem they thought they would have back in the offseason.

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Special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia’s unit had it’s best game of the year covering kicks and punts. The punt coverage unit gave up only one return for three yards on six total punts. Add that to the three touchbacks on as many kickoffs for place kicker Dan Bailey, and the Buccaneers were faced with long fields for most of the day. After a shaky start to the season, the Cowboys special teams as a whole are becoming a reliable if not spectacular unit.

For the first time since the the Philadelphia game in Week 2, the Dallas defense was able to create multiple turnovers. Reserve safety Jeff Heath was able to pick off two errant Jameis Winston throws. This would have made him the hero of the game had it not been for an ill-advised defensive holding call that negated a game clinching fumble recovery with less than a minute to go. That not withstanding, the Dallas defense can look to this game as proof that they can in fact create turnovers going forward.

What Went Wrong

Coming into Sunday’s contest, running back Darren McFadden and the Cowboys offensive line had been running the ball like it was 2014 all over again. That ended in Tampa Bay. Dallas ran the ball 21 times as a team, but was only able to eke out 42 yards on the ground. McFadden averaged only 1.9 yards per carry and the Cowboys managed only 2.0 as a team. Dallas must get this fixed if they are going to be able to return to some state of relevance in 2015.

Sunday’s game was one of several this season in which the Cowboys were unable to find the end zone. Dallas has one of the finest field goal kickers in the NFL in Bailey, but their inability to consistently put the ball in the end zone has damned them this season. The final 20 yards of the field are the hardest to get, and Dallas has to get six points more often. With a change at quarterback coming next week, the team should be able to turn this around.

At the end of the day, the one thing that hurt the Cowboys chances more than anything else was the penalties that kept the Buccaneers drives going. This has been a theme for Dallas throughout the season. The biggest culprits have been the secondary. Whether it be pass interference, defensive holding, or illegal contact, the defensive backs have kept many teams hopes alive and the trend continued Sunday. If this team is unable to change this, it won’t matter who plays quarterback going forward.

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We have finally come to the end of Tony Romo’s stint on Injured Reserve-Designated For Return. It is possible that the Cowboys have already buried their playoff chances with this seven game losing streak, but the rest of the division has not run away from Dallas. If Romo is able to deliver a win against the Miami Dolphins in his return next Sunday, the Cowboys will be only two games behind the division leading New York Giants with six to play. The margin for error is decidedly thin, but the Cowboys aren’t dead yet.