Cowboys' playoff chances take big hit with loss
NOV 04, 2012 10:06p ET
Here are my five thoughts on the game.
That should pretty much end any talk about the postseason. It's unlikely that an 8-8 team will reach the NFC playoffs so to go 9-7 the Cowboys would need to win six of their last eight. That includes two games each against Philadelphia and Washington to go along with contests with Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. Not sure how anyone gets six wins out of that.
The chances were there. The Cowboys defense held strong early, Atlanta's Matt Bryant missed field goals and the Dallas offense had opportunities. But they settled for field goals. You can't knock off undefeated teams in their building by settling for field goals. As Dan Bailey's second three-pointer went through the uprights, a 6-0 lead did nothing to scare an offense loaded with offensive weapons. I had the feeling that settling for threes would come back to haunt them, and it did. When you're 3-4 with your season on the line, there's no need to be safe.
I understand that Jason Garrett prefers to establish the run game. That's the safe, old-fashioned way to win football games. But safe and old-fashioned was not going to beat the undefeated Falcons on Sunday night. The Cowboys needed to let Tony Romo go no huddle much earlier than down-10 with under eight minutes remaining. That's when Romo is at his best, and it was the only chance the Cowboys had to pull the upset. After Atlanta went up 13-6, the Cowboys went three-and-out on an incomplete short pass, a Lance Dunbar run that lost three yards and a short pass underneath to Miles Austin that was never getting the 13 yards needed for a first down. Not sure how anyone cannot question Garrett's play-calling.
Another Cowboys game filled with yellow flags. Dallas was charged with seven penalties for 50 yards. It's unacceptable to have this trend continuing each week. Not sure how it gets fixed but I certainly know where it happens, and that's at Valley Ranch. Whether that will happen or not seems unlikely. However, they did eliminate the turnovers on offense, so anything is possible. The bottom line is the Cowboys aren't good enough to make those mistakes and get wins against undefeated teams in Week 9.
It's tough to blame the defense too much for that final Falcons drive. Yes, Orlando Scandrick and Danny McCray made some critical tackling mistakes. But that shouldn't negate what the unit was able to do for the majority of the night. Rob Ryan continues to talk a big game, lose valuable players to injuries and still back it up. Was the defense close to flawless? Of course not. They had a couple of shaky drives and some confusion at the line of scrimmage before a few plays. But they kept the offense within striking distance. Bruce Carter did an outstanding job quarterbacking the unit and making plays in both the pass and run game. Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware made plays in the backfield and Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne were solid against arguably the NFL's best receiver duo.
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