So that was the ugly. I wrote the other day how we’ve seen the Dallas Cowboys play good, and we’ve seen the Dallas Cowboys play bad, and we were all hoping to not see the ugly. Well today we saw it; luckily we saw it in a win.
The Cowboys got as ugly a win as possible in beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 16-10 in their home opener. How ugly was it? There is no joke coming, unless you think 13 penalties, three turnovers and 15 negative yard plays are funny? Maybe the punchline is despite all that, the Cowboys won.
Winning is the most important thing on a day like today but there were some other positives to take away from the win. One was the Cowboys getting Dez Bryant involved in the second half and where he had 3 catches for 47 yards and a big 44-yard punt return to essentially seal the game. I’ll keep saying it, only positive things happen when the Cowboys get Bryant involved in the game.
Another positive was the Dallas defense, who was dominating on the game. They held the Buccaneers to 166 total yards on the game and finally forced a turnover when Sean Lee intercepted a tipped Josh Freeman pass. DeMarcus Ware chipped in with two sacks, both included a a forced fumble although the Cowboys defense couldn’t recover either.
The Cowboys defense also found a new niche when Brandon Carr moved to safety after Barry Church was lost for the year with a torn Achilles tendon. With Carr at safety, the Cowboys got a shot in the arm when they got Mike Jenkins back at corner, and unlike last week, Jenkins received plenty of playing time and played well. The depth at the cornerback position continues to look like a blessing if Dallas continues to use Carr at safety.
That was all of the good. Now the ugly.
The Cowboys offensive line, which was a mess last year, is worse this year. I’m not even sure there is actually an adjective to describe how bad they played. If this unit doesn’t improve fast, Tony Romo may get killed. He took a beating all game long and to his credit, he kept getting up. And it’s not like you can single out any of the lineman, they were all bad, tight ends included.
Tyron Smith continues to struggle with the switch to left tackle and the Cowboys two big guard acquisitions, Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau were awful in this game. DeMarco Murray had little room to run all game and he was often hit before he made it back to the line of scrimmage. Not only did they allow tons of pressure on Romo, they committed holding penalties and continued to have problems with false starts.
Speaking of false starts, Jason Witten has had three of them. No, I’m not talking about the penalties today, I’m talking games. Witten was a hero playing in week 1 against the New York Giants but he’s been atrocious in the past two games and he’s had a false start to the entire season. He had three more drops today, including one pass that likely would have resulted in a touchdown. He needs to step his game up because he continues to be one of Romo’s favorite targets.
It was clear on this day the Cowboys are having major issues on offense. They couldn’t run, they couldn’t pass, and when they got the pass off cleanly, they still had trouble holding onto the ball. It also doesn’t help that they’re an undisciplined group who gets penalties seemingly on every possession dictating the offense to throw the ball. The penalties don’t allow the Cowboys any balance on offense and takes away one of Tony Romo’s strengths, the play action fake.
You aren’t going to win in the NFL playing like that every week, the Cowboys are lucky their defense was good enough to bail them out. Make no mistake though, playing like that isn’t good enough and the Cowboys know it.
They also know they got a win today, which is a beautiful thing.
you can follow Ben on twitter @BenGrimaldi