Though the Cowboys were without their usual offseason splashes in free agency, the team’s offseason was full of new faces and realignment of old ones.
Jason Garrett’s duties as play caller were transferred to offensive coordinator and assistant head coach Bill Callahan. Fans and media were assured by Jerry Jones this was in no way an attempt to undercut Garrett’s authority. The thought was, without the added pressure of calling plays on Sundays, Garrett could focus on keeping morale up and managing the game. Mercurial defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired, much to his own dismay, replaced by 74-year-old Monte Kiffin and his Tampa-2.
The Cowboys lone big signing came in March, when Tony Romo signed a blockbuster 6-year, $100 million contract extension and along with it, was given unprecedented control of game planning and freedom at the line of scrimmage.
These moves were supposed to produce two things: A defense that flies to the ball, produces turnovers and doesn’t give up big plays: An offense that is more fluid and balanced. Has either of these really been the case, thus far?
PART 1 – The Offense
Just like the 2012 season, the Cowboys opened up with a big win against divisional rival the New York Giants. Tony Romo finished the game with a 90.8 quarterback rating, throwing for 263 yards and two touchdowns. Miles Austin had ten receptions for 72 yards. Jason Witten hauled in eight passes, two for touchdowns. DeMarco Murray led all rushers with 20 carries for 86 yards.
On the surface, these numbers are impressive. However, digging deeper, they show a similar trend to last years Cowboys. While Tony had a good quarterback rating, he threw a whopping 49 passes; an almost 3:1 ratio of pass to run (49:20). This is not the balanced attack we were promised. With the Cowboys leading the entire way, due largely to the six turnovers forced by the defense, one would expect the offense to lean heavily on the run game, keeping Eli Manning and the potent Giant’s passing attack off the field. Instead, Manning (27/42 450yds 4TD) and the Giants took advantage of the Cowboys lack of clock control and almost stole another one at AT&T Stadium.
In week one, the Cowboys relied on Romo’s arm and came away with a victory. Tony was efficient but the lack of a real running game left them high and dry too many times in the red zone and left Eli Manning with too much clock. The truth is, the Cowboys barely got by in a game they should have won handily.
Going into week 2 against Kansas City, the team and fans alike knew they were in for a test. Not only do the Chiefs have one of the greatest home field advantages in the NFL, new coach Andy Reid has proven to be a thorn in the Cowboys side ever since his days in Philadelphia.
This game was an absolute contrast to week one against the Giants. An upstart Chiefs defense was firing on all cylinders. Harassing Tony Romo (30/42 298 1TD) all game long. The Cowboys once again showed no commitment to the running game, with DeMarco Murray carrying the ball only 12 times, for a measly 25 yards. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Tony Romo’s attempt to carry the team on his back fell short.
This game really seems to be punctuated by a third quarter play that left many mystified. As the Cowboys came to the line of scrimmage, deep within the Chiefs red zone, Dez Bryant was single covered by Brandon Flowers. Tony Romo appeared to change the play at the line, never looking Bryant’s way, instead throwing a screen to rookie wide receiver Terrance Williams that was stopped for a loss. The Cowboys settled for a field goal on the drive. Those four points proved to be the difference in this game as the final score was 17-16 Chiefs.
Is the Cowboys inability to run due to a lack of commitment or vice versa? Does Tony Romo have a little bit too much freedom in the offense now? Is it causing him to think too much instead of being the reactive gun-slinger we are used to? This isn’t the team we were promised all off-season. So far, this team is exactly who we though they were. They’re the same team they were last season.
Obviously, this team has plenty of time to turn things around. Week three is far from time to panic and they already have a divisional win.
*Next I tackle the defense. Has the switch to a 4-3 produced the results we expected? Through two games are there more questions than answers?
All stats provided by ESPN.com
- This Cowboys loss falls in the lap of the offense (star-telegram.com)
- Dallas Cowboys’ Awful Play-Calling, Decision-Making Warrant Immediate Change (rantsports.com)
- So much for easing Tony Romo’s burden (espn.go.com)
- Much like last year, Cowboys again can’t get on a run (star-telegram.com)