The Dallas Cowboys play their first home game of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday and this isn’t just a contest between two .500 teams – it’s a game that will separate one mediocre team from the pack. The question remains: which will it be?
In Week 1, the Cowboys beat the New York Giants, who then turned around and beat the Buccaneers in Week 2, although it required over 500 passing yards from Eli Manning. After a rough outing in Week 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, that should be a huge green light for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. A good day for Dallas’ passing game is the first key to a win.
The Cowboys were aggressive and confident on both sides of the ball in the big primetime win over the Giants in Week 1. That swagger vanished in Week 2 as Dallas was blindsided (in the literal sense for Sean Lee) by the Seahawks. From the opening kickoff, which was fumbled by Felix Jones, the Cowboys stumbled through the contest and flew back to Texas in shock of a 20-point loss. The problem? Mental toughness.
One big win in primetime over a division rival and the defending Super Bowl champions and Dallas lost all focus the next week against a much weaker team with a rookie quarterback. The Cowboys’ defense was stifling for most of the game against the Giants and then just fell off the wagon in Seattle.
Dallas’ new pair of cornerbacks – Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne – played well against the Giants’ top five passing attack based on 2011 numbers and then made Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson look like a Hall of Famer. The Cowboys stifled New York’s running game for 93 percent of that Week 1 contest and then let Marshawn Lynch run all over CenturyLink Field.
To play well against the defending champs and then play so poorly against a sub-.500, non-playoff team the very next week just continues to prove the Cowboys have almost no mental toughness. This team can’t play like a contender one week and then not show up the next. Those teams don’t make the playoffs and those teams definitely don’t win Super Bowls. Romo doesn’t seem to think it’s an issue, which is another major problem.
“It’s going to change throughout the year,” Romo said. “Some weeks you’re going to run the ball really well, other weeks you’re not. Some weeks you’re going to throw it for a real high percentage, other weeks you’re not. If you think you go into each game and have the same exact output you had the last game with the same people doing things, it’s just unrealistic.”
Sure, the Cowboys’ game plan will slightly change each week, but their focus cannot. The team can’t just take the week off after a big primetime win – that’s why Dallas has one playoff win in the last 16 seasons. Of course, the Cowboys’ management certainly isn’t helping things, but until this team learns to focus for more than five days at a time, it’s doomed.