After watching Monday night’s humiliating debacle against the Chicago Bears—in which Tony Romo threw five interceptions and the defense was stymied by Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall—you’d be hard-pressed to think the Cowboys will improve upon last year’s anemic 8-8 record.
It was an ugly loss, and an all too familiar setting for Dallas fans who’ve witnessed many a goose egg laid by the team on national T.V.
Monday’s game was beyond disappointing. At least three interceptions were on Romo. Dez Bryant had an ineffective 100-yard game; there was miscommunication with Romo and a number of key dropped passes.
It's even more distressing that the running game is still nowhere near where it should be. In four games, DeMarco Murray has only scored one touchdown (an 11-yard run against Tampa Bay at home).
It’s laughable that the only member of the team who could be considered an “A” player right now is kicker Dan Bailey. He’s perfect with a 5-5 record.
The Cowboys were spared having to take the field this week. It’s probably the best-case scenario that they get a bye week before playing the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium.
And as bad as the Cowboys looked last week against Chicago, it might be too early to dismiss them for the rest of the season.
It would be a tall order for the Cowboys to learn from Monday's miscues and bungles and etch out a double-digit win season. Following the Ravens, the Cowboys finish out the month with a trip to Carolina to play the Panthers, where second-year quarterback Cam Newton is struggling. They then head home to play the Giants, who they beat in their season-opener in New York.
If it’s possible to find any silver lining in the fiasco against Chicago, it might be that Jason Witten looks to be over his spell of dropped passes.
Dez Bryant has also quietly accumulated a great season, but has yet to see a touchdown. Over four games, he’s accumulated 21 catches and 269 yards.
The Cowboys boasted a robust defense that came through in their win against Tampa Bay, but they looked positively baffled by Jay Cutler—a quarterback who has posted a QBR lower than five in multiple games.
Against the Bears, they were without linebacker Anthony Spencer. Victor Butler was a poor substitute against the Chicago run game, facing the tandem of Matt Forte and Michael Bush.
Brandon Carr, who played quite well as a safety the week prior, also suffered a setback. He was pivotal in allowing Brandon Marshall and Devin Hester to pretty much have their way on the field at Cowboys Stadium.
And while there are still a slew of problems to discuss from Monday’s game, perhaps it’s just best to look ahead to Baltimore. The Ravens are currently 4-1 and ahead of the AFC North. Their only loss came at Philadelphia, where the Eagles’ Brent Celek picked through the defense for over 150 yards.
Sunday, they beat the Kansas City Chiefs but only mustered three field goals, and relied heavily on the Chiefs' mistakes in the red zone.
Stopping Ray Rice and making sure Joe Flacco doesn’t have time in the pocket is pretty much the formula for the Cowboys to shut down the Baltimore offense.
Looking farther down the road, the Cowboys' schedule gets even murkier. November starts with a trip to Atlanta, currently 5-0, and then to Philadelphia to face the division-rival Eagles.
Philadelphia is currently 3-2, and the Eagles have had a roller coaster season with last-minute drives and multiple-turnover games from Vick.
In December, the Cowboys should win against the Cincinnati Bengals. The week after sees a home game against the Steelers. The Pittsburgh defense is nowhere near the level it used to be, but it’ll still be quite the challenge for Dallas.
The season closes out against the New Orleans Saints at home and the Redskins in Washington.
Predicting the NFC East this season is almost a four-way toss-up. The Eagles, and that offense anchored by Vick, are topsy-turvy.
The Giants are also 3-2 but, distressingly for them, 0-2 in the division.
The Redskins are the wild card. With Robert Griffin III, Washington has finally been gifted the promising, athletic quarterback it’s been lacking for years. But the Redskins come in with penalties and game-ending mistakes, and while Griffin is as mobile as it gets, with a smaller build than most quarterbacks, he’s also more liable to injury.
On paper, the Cowboys should have easily handled the Bears on Monday. Instead, they laid down a stinker and took their season, a quarter of the way through, to 2-2.
They need eight wins to get to double digits, and might just need to cross their fingers and hope their division rivals make 10 wins the threshold to make the playoffs.
After all, a year ago the Giants took the division and went all the way to the Super Bowl—all with a 9-7 record.