For any team to start the season 0-2 and for people to celebrate, it would have to be the Dallas Cowboys.
This past Sunday “America’s Team” dropped their third straight game dating back to the end of last season when they were run over by a Minnesota freight train. The Cowboys looked out of balance, out of whack and out of sorts against the Bears as the team struggled to identify themselves.
This game was the Cowboys home opener and they were expected to even their record for the year and come to 1-1. But I guess Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and his playbook had other plans because from the looks of things, Garrett forgot about his team’s main strength: The running game.
The Bears beat the Cowboys 27-20 sending them in a downward spiral that has every NFL prognosticator wondering if they’ll have the ability to climb out.
Sunday Tony threw the ball 51 times; bringing his total attempts for the year to 98. While Romo has been efficient in the first two weeks of the season (66 percent completion rate) it wouldn’t surprise me if his arm fell off by Week Five if he keeps this pace up.
The Cowboys have three of the best running backs in the NFL and so far neither running back, Marion Barber, Tashard Choice, or Felix Jones, have rushed the ball over 13 times in one game. Against the Washington Redskins in Week One Garrett split the carries for Jones and Barber, giving each back a total of eight carries a piece.
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That’s about enough for both guys to get warm in pregame.
Sunday against Chicago Jason called 11 running plays for Barber, seven for Jones and one for Choice. For the “big three” running backs in the first two ballgames of the season that brings their grand total of rushing touches to 40. To give an example of how shallow that number is, Sunday against the Jets elder running back LaDainian Tomlinson had 22 carries. That’s more than half of all three Cowboys running backs put together.
So for the Cowboys troubles on offense, is offensive coordinator Garrett to blame?
To answer, let’s take a look at another stat. For the first two games of the season the Cowboys are averaging a paltry 69.5 yards per game. If all three running backs have rushed 40 times combined and are only averaging close to 70 yards per game, that’s 1.7 yards per carry as a collection.
Now Barber alone is averaging 3.7 yards per carry and Felix is not far behind with 3.5.
But for two running backs that are as explosive as any in the league, why the low per rate carry?
Two things may be working against Dallas in the case of their incredibly shrinking running game.
Larry French/Getty Images Number one is their offensive line. Sunday against the Bears was the first time the Cowboys starting offensive line has played together as a unit since training camp. Starting guard Kyle Kosier has been injured as well as starting tackle Marc Colombo. Once those guys get up to snuff and begin to gel together their line may be in good shape.
However, the Cowboys line is getting old and seems to be often injured so Barber and Jones may run behind a patchwork all season.
The second factor working against Dallas is the gumption of Garrett. Just a few seasons ago it was believed that Garrett was the head coach in waiting for the Cowboys, now that idea may have been tossed out of the window with Dallas’ Super Bowl chances.
In two games Garrett has called over 100 pass plays against just 40 rushing plays for Choice, Barber and Jones.
At one point in the Bears game Garrett dialed up 31 pass plays versus just 16 run plays and this was in the second half.
One has to wonder what Jason has against running the football.
Basically, Garrett needs to run the ball more for the Cowboys to have success. With such a dangerous weapon in Jones cooling in the backfield, it’s almost asinine that he isn’t being utilized more.
Next week the Cowboys will face an even stiffer test as they prepare to travel to face off against their instate rival the Houston Texans.
Houston has a mean passing game as evidenced in the Texans quarterback Matt Schaub’s 497 yard passing day against the Redskins this past Sunday.
If the Cowboys aren’t able to handle what the Texans throw at them on Sunday (don’t forget their preseason match-up), then Dallas is in serious trouble.
But we already knew that, right?
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