From the Armchair: Dallas Cowboys, Week 16
Growing up in Oklahoma, I have been fascinated by tornadoes my entire life. And, as I studied the weather, I learned that an important element of forecasting the weather is to study patterns that have occurred previously. (Side note, while I studied both engineering and meteorology during my matriculation at the University of Oklahoma, when it came to make the important decision of what to do with my life, I ultimately switched to advertising because there were more cute girls in my advertising classes.)
So, applying that study of patterns to the Dallas Cowboys, I was predicting a number of things for today's game against the Redskins:
- As the Cowboys have lost in epic fashion to backup QB in their previous two games (Josh McCown with Chicago, Matt Flynn with the Packers), I fully expected Kirk Cousins (in for RG3) to look like the second coming of John Elway against the Cowboys' NFL worst defense.
- As they have done in almost every game this season, the Cowboys would have early success with the run game then abandon it to force passes downfield
- The defense would piss away a lead (see above week 15 against the Packers)
- Tony Romo would throw a clutch INT in the 4th quarter with the game on the line in December (see career, his entire)
Safe assumptions on all the above, right? While Kirk Cousins didn't exactly have a day for the ages, he moved the ball consistently against the Dallas D and connected with Pierre Garcon seemingly at will (Garcon finished with 11 catches for 144 yards) while throwing for respectable 21 for 36.
The Cowboys offense moved the ball in the first half, but could only muster 14 points, with both touchdowns benefitting from big runs (a 62 yard punt return that set the Cowboys up on the 3 yard line for their opening drive and DeMarco Murray's 43 yard run in the 2nd quarter. After a brutal Romo INT to start the 2nd half, the Redskins scored to cut the Cowboys lead to 14-13, Dallas decided it needed to pass more than they ran.
As predicted by their play all season, the Cowboys D very quickly let a 14-6 halftime lead turn into a 23-14 deficit. Given the injuries and lack of depth on the defensive unit, this wasn't a surprise but overall, even when healthy, Dallas' defense has pretty much sucked all year. Today was no different.
Where it all came tumbling down was the prediction based on pattern no. 4. Tony Romo did not blow it in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. In fact, the QB led the Cowboys to 10 4th quarter points, highlighted by a clutch, 87 yard drive with 3:39 left that ended with a 4th and goal from the 10 TD pass to DeMarco Murray to put Dallas back ahead by a point with 1:16 to play. That Romo did it with an apparent leg injury only made it more impressive.
I still have plenty of gripes with this Cowboys team from top to bottom but, the fact remains they gutted one out today and grabbed a win against a Redskins team that's better than their record suggests.
Today's win sets up a one game, winner take all for the NFC Easy (sic) title next week against the Eagles. Now, if one were to look at patterns, with the Cowboys eking out a win against a three-win team while the Eagles blew the 8-6 Bears off the field, the forecast might predict an Eagles win. But, as Tony Romo showed today, performance can sometimes exceed prediction.
See ya next week!