Sunday, September 23, 2012
Cowboys' offense has long way to go
By Jean-Jacques Taylor ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- No one wants to hear about the process of building a winner right now. No one wants to hear about the Dallas Cowboys stacking good practice after good practice.
All anyone wants to know right now is how long it's going to take Jason Garrett to fix his raggedy offense.
Thankfully, football is a team game.
The Cowboys' defense turned in its most dominant performance in the 19-game Rob Ryan era, which is why the Cowboys finally subdued the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-10 in a game as ugly as Medusa.
You can take solace -- if you're one of those folks who listens to Tony Robbins CDs -- in the fact every NFC team has flaws. San Francisco, the latest Super Bowl favorite, received a butt-kicking from Minnesota on Sunday.
Three weeks into the season, and Atlanta and Arizona are the conference's only undefeated teams. Of course, no one who lives outside the Valley of the Sun believes in the Cardinals.
Hey, as bad as the offense played Sunday, the Cowboys will spend this week in first place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys' goal remains the same: Stack as many wins as possible while playing six of their first nine games on the road. Do that, and they'll be positioned to make a late-season playoff run.
"We look at wins and losses the same way," linebacker Sean Lee said. "What can we do better to make ourselves a better team? We're going to look at the game, and we're going to find a way to improve."
That shouldn't be too hard to do on offense.
Then again, few of us will remember their struggles against the Bucs a few months from now if the Cowboys correct the litany of mistakes they made.
The Cowboys' offense has totaled just two touchdowns in the past two games under Jason Garrett.
That's a big "if." Make it huge.
This offensive line, until it proves otherwise, is absolutely awful. It can't run block. Or pass block. And it's only a matter of time before Tony Romo doesn't get up after sustaining yet another vicious hit.
The Cowboys (2-1) won despite three turnovers, 13 penalties and 22 negative plays -- four sacks, seven penalties and 11 minus plays -- on offense.
The Cowboys had a negative play, a penalty or a turnover on 11 of their 13 possessions.
Garrett is lying to himself if he believes the Cowboys can consistently win with those types of errors, no matter how hard they compete.
This win was an aberration.
An interception by Lee set up Dallas' only touchdown, which came after a four-play, 23-yard drive. A fumble recovery and a punt return set up a pair of field goals.
DeMarco Murray carried 18 times for 38 yards. Seven times, the Bucs dropped him for a loss.
Romo, under duress much of the game, never looked comfortable in the pocket. Who can blame him?
The offensive mistakes -- whether it's a blown assignment resulting in a sack or a pre-snap penalty -- have put the Cowboys in way too many bad situations.
The Cowboys faced third down and 10 or more yards seven times in 11 possessions, not including the last possession when Romo took a knee three consecutive times.
Five times, the Cowboys faced third-and-15 or more.
"The biggest thing is not constantly getting behind the chains," said Garrett, referring to the numerous long-yardage situations on third down. "Then you're trying to survive in drives. We had some rough drive starts, so you compound the two and it's hard to get into a rhythm.
"I thought we did a good job of battling. We're going to look at it play by play and player by player and get it cleaned up."
The offense is Garrett's baby, and it's among the worst in the league right now.
It has produced just two touchdowns in the past eight quarters, and it was absolutely abject against Tampa Bay. These are the same Bucs who allowed 41 points, 31 first downs and 606 yards last week to the New York Giants.
Fortunately, Ryan's unit was as dominant as the offense was poor. A Romo interception set up Tampa Bay's only touchdown, a 29-yard drive that needed six plays.
At one point, the Bucs punted on eight consecutive possessions. They had 96 yards of total offense when they started their final drive of the game.
None of that will take the focus away from the Cowboys' offense. It's broken, and Garrett needs to fix it.