Team Recovery

It wasn’t easy, but my beloved Dallas Cowboys recovered from their loss to New England the previous week by defeating the Minnesota Vikings 24-14.  But while it was definitely encouraging for them to bounce back with a win, and also to finally score an opening drive touchdown, I can’t escape this “blah” feeling about the slippage — however minute — this team seems to be suffering in recent weeks.

It definitely all started with the Buffalo game, which though ending in an exciting comeback win for the Cowboys, also appeared to reveal many previously unseen flaws.  Tony Romo was the main offender in that game, with six turnovers that likely would have been nine or ten, had Bills defenders not had such hands of stone.

Then, last week we saw the return of the white elephant that’s really been in the room the entire time: the horrible Cowboy pass coverage.  Granted, Tom Brady is playing better right now than Montana and Elway at their peaks combined, and a key member of the Cowboys secondary (Anthony Henry) was out with injury, but it immediately brought back to mind the season opener against the Giants (which the Cowboys only won because Romo was very Brady-like in that game) and the even more nightmarish memories of last season’s eviceration at the hands of the Saints.

Minnesota isn’t a bad team, per se, because they have one of the league’s best running backs in Adrian Peterson, as well as a very stout defense.  However, Tarvaris Jackson is, without a doubt, the single worst quarterback ever to don a uniform for an NFL franchise.  Yet despite Jackson completing only six passes THE ENTIRE GAME (while Romo completed almost 30 in THE FIRST HALF), the Cowboys only managed to beat the Vikings by 10 AT HOME…and that was largely on the strength of a blocked field goal return?!?!?

See, this is what has me concerned.  Yes, they are 6-1 going into the bye week alone atop the NFC East.  BUT, they return from the bye with three straight games against division foes, including two straight on the road.  In fact, if you look at their schedule the rest of the way, it looks much, much tougher than the primarily soft path they coasted through during the first seven games (excluding the Patriots and Giants, of course).  Only the Jets on Thanksgiving appear to be a slam-dunk at this point.

That being said, even if they only go 5-4 after the bye, they’ll still finish 11-5 and will almost certainly make the playoffs (perhaps even with a first-round bye).  Even so, I would really like to see them return to their pre-Buffalo form.  I want to see the same Romo who won NFC Offensive Player of the Month for September.  I want to see the same defense that held opponents without a touchdown for nine consecutive quarters.  I know they have it in them, because I’ve already seen them do it.  Let’s just hope they get refocused and rededicated during the bye week, because this team can and should be something really special, and not just another first-round playoff loser.

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