The Optimist's Guide to the Dallas Cowboys

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 19, 2013

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 15:  Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field after losing 37-36 to the Green Bay Packers during a game at AT&T Stadium on December 15, 2013 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The sky is falling in Dallas. Just ask anyone.

After blowing a 23-point lead against the Green Bay Packers last week, the Cowboys are 0-2 this month. With the team in the midst of another apparent December death-spiral, the pointed fingers have come out and are ready to break down everything that's "wrong" with the Cowboys.

On many levels, that's understandable. Late collapses in big December contests. Ill-timed turnovers by quarterback Tony Romo. Outbursts from star wideout Dez Bryant, who left the field with over a minute left in the Green Bay game.

If those storylines sound familiar, it's because they are. We've heard them all in recent years.

However, Todd Archer of ESPN reports not everyone is ready to give up the ship just yet, including defensive end George Selvie, one of a number of young defenders pressed into action by injuries this year:

It's not tough at all...Everybody's got to realize what position we're in. We've still got a chance to go to the playoffs. We've got two games against two teams we've played and won. But we have to go out and do it again. We just got to play like the last time we played those guys.

Frankly, Selvie has a point.

Even after the Cowboys' epic collapse against the Packers, the team still controls its own destiny. Beat the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles (two teams the Cowboys have already beaten this year) and Dallas wins the division.

Is it really so hard to imagine that happening?

But what about Tony Romo? Surely he'll throw a late interception that will doom Dallas to defeat? Gah!

OK, it's undeniable that statistic draws a wince, but it's hardly an all-encompassing indictment of Romo's inability to get it done in big games. For every stat that people use as evidence to show that Romo is a choke artist, there's another that others use as proof he isn't.

In 2013, Romo is having one of the better seasons of his 11-year NFL career. He ranks third in the NFL with 29 touchdown passes and inside the top 10 in completion percentage and passer rating.

Tony Romo 2013

For all the talk about Romo's interceptions, it's worth noting he has nine this year. Eli Manning could knock that out in a half.

It's also not like Romo will exactly be facing formidable defenses either. The Redskins rank 21st in the NFL against the pass at 252 yards per game. The Eagles rank 31st, allowing nearly 300.

NFC East Defense Comparison 2013
TeamTotalvs. Runvs. PassScoring
DAL427.3 (32)129.9 (28)297.4 (32)27.5 (26)
PHI402.4 (30)110.8 (16)291.6 (31)24.9 (17)
WAS362.7 (20)110.9 (17)251.9 (21)31.0 (32)
Numbers in parentheses denote NFL rank

Of course, the only defense in the league worse against the pass than Philly this year is Dallas, but there's a silver (and blue) lining there as well.

That silver lining isn't coming from the defense itself. It's just too beat up, and both Washington and Philadelphia rank inside the top 15 offensively. Even eternal optimist Jerry Jones admitted on his weekly radio show (via Jon Machota of The Dallas Morning News) that headed into the Green Bay game, “We weren’t going to count on getting any stops as we went into the ballgame.”

With that said though, amid the rampant criticism of how the Cowboys played in the second half of the Packers game is an offensive solution to a defensive problem.

DeMarco Murray 2013

With 24 more yards on the ground, running back DeMarco Murray will top 1,000 yards rushing for the first time in his three-year NFL career. Murray has stayed relatively healthy in 2013, and the result has been 5.5 yards a carry and more touchdowns than in his first two years combined.

Now, according to David Moore of The Morning News, Murray would also like the opportunity to close out a ballgame or two:

The offensive line and myself would definitely have liked the opportunity to close out the game for us. I think that’s kind of what you want to do. As an offensive line and the way we’ve been running, we feel like we can close the game out.

But, once again, that’s up to (Bill) Callahan, who calls the plays. He gives us great opportunities. We’ve just got to continue to get those opportunities and help this team out as much as we can.

This is the point where Callahan and Garrett should listen up, assuming they'd like to return next year.

The Eagles and Redskins have nearly identical, run-of-the-mill run defenses, each allowing around 111 yards per game on the ground.

In other words, if the Cowboys commit to running the football, they should have at least some success doing so.

This serves three purposes:

  1. The ball gets closer to the goal line. This is good in football.
  2. The ball gets closer to the goal line without Tony Romo throwing said football 50+ times.
  3. If Dallas has said football, the other team does not, leaving the Dallas defense on the sideline where they can't hurt anyone (including themselves).

Is Romo going to have to throw the ball? At some point sure, especially in games that have the makings of shootouts.

However, a balanced offensive attack means fewer forced throws (in theory, anyway) and a lower chance for back-breaking mistakes. It also keeps the Dallas defense off the field.

That's it. It's that simple. One step. Run the ball and the Cowboys can make the playoffs.

Cooking a Hot Pocket is harder.

And maybe that's why there's so much outrage swirling around cyberspace regarding the Cowboys. Maybe it isn't the sky falling that has everyone up in arms.

Perhaps people are just frustrated that the folks in charge of "America's Team" don't seem to be able to cook a Hot Pocket.


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