“America’s Team” went out of their way to ensure “Cowboys Nation” enjoy a spoiled meal but – one week later – even a reasonably-corrective recovery was not part of the deal. The Dallas Cowboys (from GM Jerry to coaches to players receiving little remedial help from rigidly-schemed approaches) have been given and spoken excuse after excuse, and it all sounds like it comes straight from their collective caboose.
There was no overdose of Turkey Day tryptophan that has continued (for the third consecutive week) to subvert Jason Garrett’s unflinching, process-based plan. Outside of the injuries all teams suffer and fear this time of year, the players have no lack of raw-to-refined skill to (at least) fulfill and to (at most) really thrill.
The Cowboys entered the “Windy City” with a more-than-realistic chance to turn their negative streak into a closer step towards the tournament dance. The Chicago Bears had (and still have) their own wild mess to better starch and press, but Chicago was (significantly) better at the one thing Dallas knew they HAD TO do to pass inspection, change direction, and see precious victory pull through. Dallas had to play complementary football (something they have been unable to dependably do over the long haul).
Following a Jourdan Lewis interception on the Bears’ first series, Dak Prescott and Co. – for the second consecutive game – began with all guns a’ blazin’, lookin’ amazin’, and free from early-scoring shame. Rather than having to rely on a kicking game clown, they delivered a long drive with a nice mix of Ezekiel Elliott, Randall Cobb, Michael Gallup, Blake Jarwin, and back to Zeke for a ground-and-pound touchdown. 7-0 Dallas with previous problems solved? Not quite. Play calls and execution both had to have (unreasonably) evolved.
As GM Jerry embarrassingly learned once again to his incredulous dismay, if “everyone in the league” can easily grasp your tendencies (because of your unyielding belief that clean play execution – no matter your opponent’s focused pollution – is the only solution), you will often be diagnosed before you can even get out of your own way.
The Cowboys found themselves down 24-7 before a timely third-quarter fumble fell from heaven. Jaylon Smith used no such “Peanut Punch” but – for a moment – the Bears were no longer eating Dallas’ lunch. Dak and Co. – facing little more than a pumped-up prevention – scored 14 points (as if Dallas’ offense had undergone a surprise reinvention). After “Marinelli’s Men” bent and broke again, the Cowboys were down 31-21 with 20 seconds remaining on a 4th-and-7 from the Bears’ 13. Garrett chose the safe play (with Troy Aikman imploring his old teammate – with plenty of couth from the booth – to instead please, PLEASE, swing away).
Brett Maher (GASP) made the field goal, giving the Cowboys a micro-slim chance at an onside kick retrieval and a Hail Mary throw better-suited for Evel Knievel. While far from a guarantee, going for it from Chicago’s 13 (and assuming points greater than three) would have turned the tying score effort into a Maher specialty.
Nonetheless, there was a pathetic, no-bounce, zero-lift onside attempt from Maher followed by a Bears recovery. Cowboys Nation – in unison – said: “Why bother?” Dallas lost to Chicago 31-24. The Cowboys’ postgame remarks and comments throughout this past week have proven refreshing, revolting, and perplexing.
Good Quote Or Garbage Bloat?
"[The Bears] took it to us. We just got to see if we can step in here and win a game. I don't care if we stay in contention all the way down until they have the playoffs, we got to start showing our fans, more importantly, show ourselves we can do the things to win games." – GM Jerry (conveying a level of exasperation typically only voiced by Cowboys Nation).
"The most frustrating part is we have the skill level, we have the players, we have the chemistry . . . at times, but we're not playing together as a team, complimentary enough when we need to, and we've got to figure out what it is." – Dak Prescott (stating the obvious following the game but being oh-so-careful not to mention a certain, tuned-out redhead by name).
“I hit every ball pretty well tonight. I’ll put my head on the pillow tonight feeling good about I did this week. I feel good.” – Brett Maher (who – since his recent dismissal – may be praying other teams-in-need only view him as a “liquored-up idiot kicker” who is just “misunderstood”). While not nearly as mental as Mike Vanderjagt, once the Cowboys settled on Kai Forbath, that was that.
“I’m testifying. I’ll take ownership of those last couple of games. I haven’t been playing like myself. I haven’t been taking the leadership role I should be taking. It’s time for me to step up.” – DeMarcus “Tank” Lawrence (making as useless an observation like the one by their former kicker, now on “vacation”). No one denies what Tank has done against the run, but SACKS brought him his massive contract extension. It is long overdue for a return to his original purpose, his QB-corralling intention. “Everyone” has heard enough of his talk and – without more walk – it will not just be the prognosticators and fans who will balk.
Will They Or Won’t They?
America’s Team hosts the high-climbing Los Angeles Rams this Sunday afternoon. While the Cowboys still (tenuously) control their own destiny, against the wall their backs are pressed so tightly that none of their remaining regular-season opponents should be expected to swoon.
Dallas has lost three in a row with three more (competitive?) contests to go to determine if they qualify for the postseason show. On the other side (after getting shredded by the Baltimore Ravens 45-6 during the NFL’s 12th week), the Rams – with (a couple of timely trades and) consecutive victories – have halted their late-season slide and (at just the right time) have begun to peak.
The myopic among Cowboys Nation may view this faceoff as a titanic rematch of last year’s playoff battle, but discerning fans understand the result of this game (without a highly-caffeinated, correctly-coached Cowboys team ready to ream) could be a slaughter after seeing what L.A. did to Seattle.
What’s that you blurt? “The Seahawks are not the only team with ballhawks who can hurt! Dallas should capitalize off of those silly Jared Goff interceptions!” – you defiantly proclaim (hoping and praying THIS will be “that magic moment” when Marinelli’s Men finally change widely-held perceptions). Wait just a moment while “The Tortured Cowboys Fan” cleans up hot liquid sprayed violently from both nose and mouth. Anyone with reasonably good vision knows if Kris Richard’s Kids rely on that scenario, it will be a no-no, and the Cowboys’ (currently) modest chances of victory will go significantly south. The Cowboys’ cornerback conundrum and safety situation (with their pursue-the-player-not-the-pigskin paradox) will only display signs of recovery if Dallas’ defensive linemen can (GASP) stop the run and otherwise play hard as rocks.
Will Marinelli’s Men tweak their (predictable-to-the-Rams) scheme more towards a thus-far uncommon theme (dating back to last year’s playoff COUGH) by slowing the Rams’ running game just enough to (potentially) make precious play-action opportunities rough? Will Maliek Collins and (the still-gimpy) Antwaun Woods demonstrate their (long-since evaporated) nose tackle goods . . . or will another game-long tell bring familiar, self-inflicted hell? If Dallas’ defensive tackles can break their schemed shackles, will DeMarcus “Testimony Bologna” Lawrence apply more sack-stacking adherence? Will Robert “The Mighty” Quinn be able to stop the increasing overshoot of his QB loot? Will Michael Bennett continue to do all he can to help keep the Cowboys in it?
Will Jaylon “Once THE MAN, Now The Myth” Smith, along with Sean “Once More Gimpy” Lee and Joe “Sturdy Promise” Thomas dig down deep(er) and find a way to better mesh in the continued absence of Leighton Vander Esch (while all concerned continue to wonder what the heck is going on with his neck)?
Will the “Lukewarm Boyz” continue to fill the gap(s) with more tackling crap? Will the d-line encroachment continue to Dallas’ detriment?
Will Xavier Woods and Jeff “Shoulder Soldier” Heath will themselves to fill in the air-to-air gaps WHEN-and-if the always-chasing Byron Jones and (particularly scheme-stunted) Awuzie Chidobe collapse? Will the diminutive Jourdan “Just The QB And Me” Lewis continue to be the only member of the Cowboys’ secondary to regularly stare down “Richard’s Rules” and say “Damn those chasin’ fools! I have a nose for the ball! We can do this?” Will anyone blame Lewis for at least TRYING to extend beyond a plan that routinely discourages true, eyes-on-the-ball, man-to-man?
If Marinelli’s Men can, in fact, hold their own, will Kellen’s Crew start soon enough, persistently perform plenty tough, and keep “Wade’s Warriors” from cutting Dak and Co. down to the bone? Will key members of “The Average (No Longer Great) Wall Of Dallas” continue to absorb the injury pain they are clearly hiding . . . and redirect the punishment they used to be known for inciting? Will the (understandably surly) Ezekiel Elliott – in turn – take all the road they can lay and burn, baby, burn . . . or will he allow Todd “The Load-Managed, One-Legged” Gurley to outdistance him often and early?
Will Dak Prescott (who has come so far since last facing L.A.) reach even further than ever before (to keep his team within arm’s length of the postseason door) dare to dump (more of) the Dakuracy and Dakward Mobility? When the (poorly-called or badly broken) play is (inevitably) not going his way, will he CHOOSE to tap his morbidly-unused agility?
The Tortured Cowboys Fan is NOT a Dak hater, but (in the absence of coaches who KNOW how to schematically, almost surgically operate OR something extra from a teammate) Prescott can no longer afford to simply "trust the system" until the third or fourth quarter (otherwise known as later).
In the face of a scheme so old that it is practically designed to fold, will Prescott personally place extra emphasis (when – to a man – no one else can) on possessions the Cowboys must be bold? Throwing it away has (largely) become his new way, but in order to keep the yards coming to build-and-MAINTAIN momentum, will “He Who Is Obedient To A Fault” use his legs more often to go get ‘em? No, he does not need to mimic the Raven’s MVP-Esque QB, but (for the purpose of extending plays) coaches, teammates, and fans should not have to increasingly plea.
Will Dak (as THE preeminent, unquestioned, on-field leader of a scheme-tainted team) bring his A++ game and – aggressively (rather than submissively waiting for it to become necessary) – put HIS team on his back? Will Prescott (in the presence of a coaching message that has become lame) truly owns his role and motivate his team to play a complete, 60-minute game? As Troy Aikman made quite clear towards the end of his playing career, it is incredibly unfair (to be a player with – suddenly – more hats to wear), but when the coaching message no longer floats on air, the (veteran) QB is encouraged to fill that burdensome void and be one – or THE ONE – to care.
Will America’s Team (to a man) regain their personal pride and productive stride? Will the Cowboys get closer to making a believable dent in the tournament pavement? Will the organization (with just three more opportunities to further succumb to their self-propelled inequities) be fulfilling plans for more than one employee’s permanent vacation?
We shall see. We always do.
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