Teams that play a lackluster game during the first-half are graded on how well they adjust in the second half. After a 4-4 start, the 2013 NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys is no different.
What they do in the final eight games starting against Minnesota will determine the fate of what could be another underachieving season, or, a playoff push like no other.
Unless you’re the Kansas City Chiefs, I have no doubt that every single team have their reasons as to why they are not 8-0. Realistically though, if you cheer for the team with a star on their helmet, 6-2 is not that far-fetched from reasonable logic.
Dallas literally threw the game away against Denver, and in Detroit, well, let’s just say fans are still cleaning up vomit stains after watching Matthew Stafford & Calvin Johnson rob Dallas blind.
Que sera sera, or as Dallas fans have been accustomed to saying, whatever.
Dallas has three games remaining with teams that are above .500 (New Orleans, Chicago, Green Bay). Dallas matches up well in the other five games that also include three divisional teams in which the Cowboys have already beaten.
Critics state Dallas can only beat the average teams while always folding against the good ones. Honestly, they are absolutely right. That simple logic however, dictates Dallas should make the playoffs, finishing 9-7 and NFC East champs.
There is more at stake than logic however, as Garrett’s Gang must do something more than meet the logical standard. They need to find themselves within the next eight games. If they stay the course, a logical playoff spot may very well be waiting for them, but then it’s one and done.
Logical teams don’t win playoff games. (See the 13-3 Cowboys vs Giants playoff game in 2008 for proof)
There’s a big difference between ‘getting into the playoffs’ and ‘making the playoffs’.
‘Getting into the playoffs’ is very well what Dallas might do. Playing in a bad division will help them get into the post-season, possibly even at 8-8.
‘Making the playoffs’ is what Dallas needs to strive for. A post-season spot will go a lot further for their psyche knowing they earned their way in by beating New Orleans & Green Bay and finishing the Vikings and Raiders of the world.
Finding ways to close out opponents during the second half will define who Dallas is in 2013.
They have the entire second half to show the NFL what they’re made of.
Head Coach Jason Garrett must emphasize to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan that under no circumstance, no matter how scared he gets up there in the booth, “DO NOT abandon our running game!”
There is a key component to the teams who have yet lose a game this season: Rushing attempts.
Of the five undefeated teams in the NFL, four rank in the top ten of rushing attempts. The lone exception is the pass-happy New Orleans Saints who rank 21st.
(2) Seattle: 139 total rushing attempts/average 35 runs per game
(6) New England: 122/30
(8) Denver: 120/30
(9) Kansas City: 118/29
The big surprise is Denver. One would think with Manning’s peripherals (16 TD/0 INT), the Broncos ripped out all running plays in their playbook. They may have written them on the back cover, but they’re in there. New England is running more because Tom Brady has no one to throw to, but all is well in Foxboro despite the passing game’s shortcomings. Seattle & KC’s entire game plan is dedicated to the rush, so no surprises there.
Where does Dallas stand?
The ‘Boys are ranked 23rd with 89 total attempts and averaging just 22 rushes a game, but even those low numbers are rife with errors.
Take into consideration Dallas ran the ball 34 times against St. Louis, and the stats diminish substantially, making any running back want to vomit: 55/18.
Unbelievable but real.
It is imperative to keep Peyton and that high-octane offense on the sidelines as long as possible. Every bit of help Dallas’ defense can muster to put pressure on Manning and stop the passing onslaught is welcome. A few three-and-outs and some big stops here and there will definitely stop the bleeding and put the 2013 NFL MVP front-runner on the bench.
But not for long.
Everyone is clamoring for a good ol’ shootout down in Texas. Our beloved defenders of the Alamo clamored for the same experience, but we all know how that day ended.
The best chance Dallas has in order to pull this off is making the game as boring as possible for Manning & Co.
Dallas must force feed their running game.
Even if Demarco Murray gains just 2 yards on first down and three on the next, it still puts Callahan in a better play-calling position than say 3rd & 10. Everyone knows your throwing the ball on third and long, however, make the defense stare down the barrel of a 3rd & 4, well then, they’re thinking twice about what’s coming at them.
More so, running the ball will eat up precious seconds off the clock which is Peyton Manning’s ally. Running the ball and extra 15 times a game and milking the play clock will theoretically expend at least nine minutes from the game.
Imagine not having to see Peyton Manning-to-Welker or Decker or Thomas or Thomas for nine extra minutes on the field?
Peyton can make another Papa Johns’s commercial, teach your 4-year old daughter to read a Cover 2 scheme, and change your oil in less than nine minutes. He’s that good.
I’d be foolish to throw out a prediction (I predicted Dallas would beat San Diego 34-21 last week. Embarrassing). I can say with a certain degree of confidence that if Dallas is clinging to any speck of hope in this game, they need to run the ball right into the teeth of the beast.
Wish #2: A New Coach
I’ve always said, “If you don’t have a better option, there’s no need to make a change.”
Listen to any sports talk radio show from Dallas to San Antonio and you’ll hear every other caller scream for Tony Romo’s departure.
My response is simply, “Who do you plan on replacing him with?”