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Cowboys 0-2 Start Cause for Concern, Not Panic

Posted on September 20, 2010 by Chris Kent

Two games into the season, the Dallas Cowboys are staring at 0-2. While most fans are screaming for the heads of players and coaches, not all is lost. It is early in the season and too early for anyone to be throwing it all away.

Statistically, teams that start 0-2 don’t always make the playoffs. One team that did start 0-2 was the 1993 Cowboys. That team won the Super Bowl. There is a big asterisk by that team as it was without hall-of-fame running back Emmitt Smith who was holding out due to a contract dispute.

Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, was signed in time to play week three and the Cowboys reeled off seven straight wins en route to a 12-4 season and their second straight Super Bowl win. However, there is not a running back the caliber of Smith this time around. Furthermore, Dallas does not have a dominating team like it did in 1993.

Dallas linebacker Anthony Spencer converges on the Bears' Jay Cutler

While the Cowboys have promise and potential, they are young. They are good enough to give it a good run this season and are capable of making the playoffs. However all that is just talk right now. Dallas has to focus on playing better football.

The schedule doesn’t get any easier. Dallas plays at Houston – who beat the Cowboys in the preseason – next week. With a bye the following week, the Cowboys face a must win against the Texans. No team wants to go into a bye off a loss and no team wants a week off to dwell over 0-3.

After the bye, the schedule really becomes competitive with home games against Tennessee, division foe New York, and Jacksonville along with a road game at Minnesota, also 0-2. There is time to turn a dismal start around. Focus, preparation, and execution are needed. Pointing fingers, letting these two losses linger with you, and panicking are not.

A play here and a play there and Dallas could easily be 1-1 or maybe 2-0. Mistakes have cost the Cowboys in each of their first two games. While most of these have been on offense, the defense and special teams have also let them down.

Dallas tight end Martellus Bennett is gang tackled by the Bears

Tony Romo’s two interceptions in the first half in Sunday’s home loss to the Bears were costly and lead to a pair of field goals for Chicago. The normally sure-handed Miles Austin dropped a catchable ball and had another one deflect off his hands that lead to the first interception of Romo. Dallas rushed for only 36 yards and committed three turnovers.

While the defense kept Dallas in it, it was not flawless. A breakdown in coverage with safety help lead to a gapping hole on Jay Cutler’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Greg Olsen for a10-7 lead late in the first quarter. After Dallas took a 14-10 lead on Romo’s 1-yard toss to Chris Gronkowski, Devin Hester hauled in a nine-yard pass from Cutler for a 17-14 Bear’s lead. Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins – who would suffer a knee injury later in the game – was beaten on the play.

Dallas’ kick coverage teams also gave up big returns in the game which lead to good field position for the Bears. Add in a missed field goal by first-year kicker David Buehler and special teams need a boost. Buehler also didn’t kick an ideal onside kick which the Cowboys needed in the end.

The week one loss at Washington showed similar miscues. Romo’s ill-advised screen pass to Tashard Choice on the last play of the first half ended up being stripped by DeAngelo Hall who recovered it and scored the Redskins only touchdown of the game. Then the costly holding penalty by right tackle Alex Barron nullified Romo’s apparent game-winning touchdown pass to Roy Williams.

While some of these mistakes have to be corrected, others have to be avoided. Yet some of these mistakes are not just on the players as they involve the coaches. Such is the case with the screen pass to Choice at Washington right before halftime. Why not just take a knee there Jason Garrett and go in at intermission down 3-0 and not give Washington points and momentum?

Terrence Newman makes a diving tackle on the Bears' Earl Bennett

Still, there is plenty of time to regroup. The Cowboys have not been blown out in either of their games. They also have made big plays such as rookie Dez Bryant scoring his first touchdown on a 62-yard punt return against the Bears.

While it will take a while for Bryant to settle into the Cowboys’ offense, he is showing signs of contributing earlier than expected. His two catches from Romo on the game’s final drive showed a glimpse of his clutch and big-play ability. Sunday’s punt return touchdown showed his explosiveness.

Since he missed most of training camp with an injury time will only tell how good Bryant will be. Thus far, his early reviews are promising.

Also promising is the play of Romo. While his two-minute drive against Washington fell short, his leadership showed and he was more assertive with his decisions. He is throwing the ball away more and moving around better in the pocket to avoid the rush, things that plagued him in previous years.

Furthermore, Dallas had starters Kyle Kosier and Marc Colombo back at guard and tackle respectively Sunday against the Bears. This will help them get their continuity back which will help the offense gel.

Not all is lost in Cowboy camp. While Dallas is struggling, they are far from done. The season is young.

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