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Falling Short...A Microcosm of The Cowboys

DENVER - OCTOBER 04:  Elivs Dumervil #92 of the Denver Broncos sacks quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on October 4, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Cowboys 17-10.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Lee TawilContributor IOctober 4, 2009

As the Cowboys come off of a disappointing loss to the Denver Broncos, 63% of NFL pickers wonder how the Cowboys managed to lose this game. Sure the Broncos were 3-0, but the Cowboys were supposed to be their first real test, and they were supposed to beat the Broncos by about 3 points, albeit they were on the road.

For the last several years, it seems like the Cowboys have been a team destined for greatness, but they just never seem to live up to the billing. They lose games their supposed to win, and they play down to the level of their competition. Now, I am not saying that the Broncos are a bad team, and the Cowboys should have for sure beaten them, but it was a game that really shouldn’t have been as hard as they made it.

After the first quarter, although the Cowboys looked shaky, they had a 10 point lead. They were making the usual mistakes, but they did enough to have a lead.

But it seemed to stop there.

They could not score the rest of the game, even though they had more than one golden opportunity to do so.

So what was the thing that changed so much over the course of the game? Did they Broncos clamp down much more, or was it all on the Cowboys’ lack of execution?

From my perspective, it was a combination of both.

I have to give a ton of credit to that Denver defense. They are indeed the real deal. However, I don’t think that a sharp Cowboys team only scores 10 points against this defensive unit. Here is where the Cowboys concern me:

The Cowboys were 3/14 on third downs, which is an appalling 21%. Yes, the Broncos were only 20%, but they made fewer mistakes to exacerbate it.

It seemed like any time the Cowboys were in a third and long situation, they were very ineffective. I understand that third and long is a tough situation offensively, but when you have a quarterback like Romo who is so gifted with his feet, you would think that it would help them be more successful. That does not seem to be the case at all.

Between sacks, fumbles, and interceptions, third downs were a nightmare for the Cowboys’ quarterback. That either means a lack of preparation or weak play-calling. To me, this week it was a lack of preparation by Romo.

How could Romo, on 3rd and 11 on the Denver 17, throw an interception to Champ Bailey?

First of all, why wouldn’t you make a safer throw in a third and long situation in field goal range?

And second of all, why are you throwing in Champ Bailey’s direction?

He is arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, and you are throwing his way on third down in field goal range. To me, that’s is just not smart, and it shows a lack of preparation. His passes are clearly predetermined, and he is not reading defenses correctly. That is basics of being a quality quarterback in the NFL, and Romo is definitely falling short of that in my book.

But that wasn’t it with Romo. Later in the game, when the Cowboys are trailing by 7, and they have 2 plays to score from the 2-yard line, he again tests Bailey TWICE. Why do you continue to throw Bailey’s way?

Wasn’t it bad enough that he prevented a sure 3 points earlier in the game with a pick?

Do you really have to test him twice more with the game on the line?

Outside of that, I had one glaring problem with the play-calling in one specific situation. It might be a spot that is overlooked, but to me it was the difference in the game.

After the Cowboys stopped the Broncos on a 4th and 1, I felt that the Cowboys needed to capitalize with a big play attempt. It was something that the Giants did against the Cowboys in week 2, when they tested them deep after a big defensive play, and the Giants were rewarded with a huge pass-interference penalty. It swung the momentum back in the Giants favor, and it gave them a huge boost. The Cowboys, though, did not learn from their opponents’ smart mentality.

Instead, they throw 2 short passes and run the ball, leading to a 3 and out, and a wasted opportunity to shift momentum heavily in favor of the road team. Had they taken a shot deep and succeeded, they would have been in total control of the game at that point, and the game might not have been as tight. Rather than needing a touchdown to tie it at the end, maybe they could have needed a field goal to win it. All I am saying is that when the opportunity presents itself, the Cowboys need to try and capitalize in a big way. They need to stop playing not to lose, and they need to start playing to win. This is what separates the good teams from the great teams.

Overall, to me, the Cowboys are still showing weakness performing in pressure situations. Third downs need to be corrected, and they need to punch it in on that final drive. They have enough talent to do it, but they seem to let their emotions ruin those situations each and every time. Until the Cowboys man up, and start succeeding in the face of pressure, they will continue to be that really talented team that always seems to underachieve.

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