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Thursday, November 29, 2012
Updated: November 30, 12:20 PM ET
Cowboys blazing an uphill trail

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- No team wants to be lumped with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles this season. After all, the Jaguars are a football disgrace, and the Eagles and their obnoxious fan base have already quit on the season.

Jason Garrett
The Cowboys' preparation under Jason Garrett is combining with player errors to produce too many early deficits.
But that's the company your Dallas Cowboys keep these days.

The Jaguars and Eagles are the only teams that start games worse than your Cowboys.

Jacksonville and Philadelphia have each been outscored by 83 points in the first half of games this season, while Dallas has been outscored by 61.

Yikes.

Coach Jason Garrett, as you would expect, is too busy stacking good meetings and good practices to concern himself publicly with why the Cowboys consistently find themselves behind at halftime.

We're talking about a team that has trailed at halftime in seven of its last eight games, which represents a trend whether Garrett chooses to acknowledge it or not.

As bad as Philadelphia is these days -- the Eagles have lost seven consecutive games -- it would behoove the Cowboys not to breathe life into a team looking for any excuse to quit.

Fact: You can't consistently play from behind in the NFL and win. And this team certainly isn't good enough to do it.

It's too hard to come back from large deficits, especially for this offensively-challenged team with a propensity for making dumb mistakes and turning the ball over.

This has nothing to do with William Wallace speeches from Marcus Spears or DeMarcus Ware or whoever tries to get the Cowboys fired up before kickoff.

This has everything to do with Garrett's preparation during the week combined with the Cowboys' penchant for committing mistakes at the worst possible times.

The only team the Cowboys have been ahead of at halftime in the last couple of months is Philadelphia.

Two weeks ago, the Cowboys trailed the raggedy, 3-8 Cleveland Browns at halftime 13-0. Last week, they trailed the Washington Redskins 28-3.

Earlier this season, they trailed the New York Giants 23-0 early in the second quarter, and the Seattle Seahawks 10-0 less than five minutes into the game.

The Cowboys haven't had a single 7-0 lead all season, which is hard to do.

Then again, the Cowboys have scored just two touchdowns on their 11 opening drives this season. Their 20 points scored is tied for 15th. For what it's worth, the Atlanta Falcons lead the NFL with six touchdowns on their opening drives.

Tony Romo
Tony Romo and the Cowboys have trailed at halftime in seven of their last eight games. They are 3-0 this season when taking a lead into the locker room.
Just so you know, the Cowboys are 3-0 when they lead at halftime.

"It comes down to red-zone consistency," running game coordinator and offensive line coach Bill Callahan said. "We've driven the ball the length of the field and stubbed our toe with penalties and it kills us -- it just kills us -- and we're coming out with threes instead of seven.

"The focus is doubling your efforts and really re-focusing to maximize your concentration because everything becomes more critical."

Take last week. After forcing a Washington punt, the Cowboys were driving for a touchdown on their first drive.

On third-and-goal from the 6, a situation the Cowboys convert 56.8 percent of the time this season, Jason Witten committed a procedure penalty. Third-and-11 is a situation the Cowboys convert 21 percent of the time.

As you would expect, the Cowboys settled for a 3-0 lead instead of a 7-0 lead and the emotion and momentum that accompanies that type of early advantage.

Throw in Romo's two first-half interceptions and we shouldn't have been surprised the Cowboys were getting their butts kicked.

Consistently falling behind in the first half has made them the NFL's most one-dimensional team. The Cowboys throw the ball 66.8 percent of the time, the highest pass-run percentage in the league.

Romo has thrown more than 60 passes in a game twice this season. Five times, Romo has thrown more than 40 passes in a game.

Dallas is 1-4 in those games, and 1-14 since 2008, when Romo throws more than 40 times.

At 5-6, the Cowboys have no margin for error. They must beat Philadelphia.

"Obviously we would like to be in a better position, but I like the feeling that at least your team has a chance to do something special at the end of this season," Romo said. "It's going to take great effort and great commitment and everybody doing their job a little better than what we've done at this point.

"I think our team can do that, and we just need to start that off this week."

It starts with the Cowboys playing their best football in the first half for a change.