The game wasn’t a complete waste as it taught us a little about the Cowboys. They showed that they are resilient and can keep pace with some of the toughest teams in the league.
Nevertheless, the Cowboys suffered the loss. Now at 2-3, the season isn’t close to over. There are things to improve on and fix before next week's game at Carolina.
This game provided us with five truths about this Cowboys team. Whether good or bad we need to recognize these truths. Some will need to be fixed while some will help them realize what can help them be better.
Check them out:
1. Time Management is a Huge Weakness
You can admit it—we all thought the Cowboys had sealed the game after that huge pass interference call against Baltimore. At this point, the Cowboys were on the edge of field-goal range and had 26 seconds left to play.
Tony Romo lined up and nailed a quick pass to Dez Bryant. Bryant got up, jawed off a little and Jason Garrett didn’t know what he wanted to do. Meanwhile, the clock is still running. The Cowboys lose any opportunity to get closer for kicker Dan Bailey and ultimately lose the game.
This has been the story of the season for the Cowboys.
Whether it’s the play clock or the game clock, the Cowboys are consistently testing their luck. Almost every play has Romo making adjustments until there are about five seconds left on the play clock.
This lack of organization makes the Cowboys predictable. Hard counts are rendered useless because there isn’t any time to utilize them. This is exactly why the Cowboys have a tough time on offense.
2. Dez Bryant Is Going to Be a Star
Yes, Dez Bryant did drop a two-point conversion, but if you blame this game on him you are completely ignorant.
Bryant came off a game that saw him drop three passes and get heavily scrutinized about his focus despite catching eight passes.
In Baltimore, Dez looked like a different receiver. He ran great routes. He used his body to keep the defensive back from being a factor. He snagged balls out of the air with strength and focus.
Dez was a star.
His final stat line was 13 receptions for 95 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, it was Dez that kept the Cowboys in this game.
If Dez continues to show resiliency like he did for this game, and keeps working hard, he’ll be an elite receiver in this league before we know it.
3. Balanced Offense is the Key to Success
At the expense of DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys found some balance in their offense today.
I always said that the Cowboys should be a game-managing team. Murray has all the ability to carry this team up and down the football field. Add in contributions from Felix Jones, Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar like we saw today, and it becomes a very capable running attack.
If the Cowboys can run the ball well and average north of three yards per carry, Romo won't have to feel like he has to do so much.
Romo is a good quarterback and I think we’re all over the talk of him reaching an elite level. What he does well is keep plays alive. If Romo is asked to throw the ball over 30 times a game, then of course he’s going to make mistakes—he’s a gunslinger.
The Cowboys can keep up with any team if they play offense the way that they are built to. One thing Jason Garrett can’t do is fall in love with the pass. Keep the offense simple and balanced and they’ll be around in every game.
4. Phil Costa is Underrated
Add me to the list of people that spent a lot of time complaining about Phil Costa this offseason.
However, today in Baltimore, Costa was near flawless.
I tried my best to keep focus on Costa in his first game back since New York. He was great. He moves so well off the snap and is a very solid run-blocker. Costa does a good job limiting confusion with Romo and that’s why we saw a decreased number of delay of game penalties today.
I think that Costa can really develop under Bill Callahan. Costa is getting better as he gains experience. I’m curious to see how much better he gets as the season progresses.
If Costa becomes a reliable center it will be a huge gain for the Cowboys who need help just about everywhere else on the offensive line.
5. Undisciplined Play Will Doom the Cowboys' Playoff Hopes
False starts, illegal shifts, holding and chop blocks are hurting this franchise more than we could ever imagine. As soon as the Cowboys get into the red zone, they get undisciplined.
When teams lose their control in the red zone they become ineffective at best. These penalties usually take the Cowboys from a manageable situation to an almost insurmountable one.
The truth is that if the Cowboys keep taking themselves out of winnable red-zone situations, they’ll be forced to kick field goals. When you can’t score touchdowns, you can’t win games. It’s pretty simple.
The Cowboys need to figure out how to play disciplined or they will find themselves on the couch come January.