While the Dallas Cowboys haven’t exactly been the epitome of a rejuvenated and dominant franchise, they have somehow managed to remain competitive in a mediocre division that has been rife with intrigue and dismay from week to week. Despite the Cowboys paper thin defense and their lack of a reliable rushing attack, this team has still found ways to win only when it is absolutely necessary. Although this type of desperate motivation may not garner the Cowboys a SuperBowl win this year, it may give them a chance to actually make the post season for the first time since 2009.
Surprisingly, the Cowboys well-deserved victories have been due largely in part to the consistency and poise of their franchise quarterback Tony Romo. While Romo has always been impressive statistically speaking, in years past he has been prone to turning the ball over at the worst possible moments. Last year, Romo threw an abysmal 19 interceptions, which has a dubious honor that Romo hadn’t been graced with since he did it for the first time in 2007. This year, Romo has only thrown seven interceptions and has completed 64.2% of his passes. While Romo’s accuracy has taken a noticeable decline since last season (he completed 65.6% of his passes last year), his completion percentage isn’t always indicative of his teams overall success as Romo only completed 63.1% of his passes in 2009 when the Cowboys won their last playoff game.
Although Romo’s reclaimed discipline and overall poise have gone a long way in keeping this team relatively competitive in their division, the same cannot be said for the Cowboys abysmal defense. More often than not, the Cowboys embarrassing losses have been due to their defense failing to hold off the opposition at critical moments in the game. More often than not, this reeling Cowboys defense can only be relied upon to give up big plays in the fourth quarter when their awareness and determination is needed the most. As a result, three of the Cowboys five losses have come when they were leading at halftime, with two of those losses occurring after the Cowboys blew a fourth quarter lead. To be fair, the Cowboys have sustained some devastating injuries to their defensive corps, most noticeably to that of their best pass rusher DeMarcus Ware. Since his injury, Ware’s has seen minimal playing time and his lack of prominent defensive contributions has crippled this already anemic defense significantly.
While the Cowboys defense has had more than it’s fair share of inexcusable failures, their rushing prowess has been noticeably diminished compared to what it used to be. This year, the Cowboys running game has been held in check effectively has they have only been able to rush for 79.7 yards per game (29th in the NFL). Despite DeMarco Murray’s improvements over last year, the Cowboys running game has proved to be a desperate last resort at best and an inconsistent mess at it’s worst. Although Murray’s lack of offensive production in the past is undoubtedly due to his untimely injuries, this year, despite being healthy, Murray’s running capabilities have simply been an afterthought to the Cowboys offensive philosophy.
Even though the Cowboys outlook for success has always been grim down the stretch, they may have a chance to steal some easy wins if Romo can remain confident and defiant like he has been this entire season. On Thanksgiving, the Cowboys get to play a dazed and confused Raiders team at home and then proceed to go on the road against a inconsistent Bears defense that should allow Romo to carry this team to victories in each of these matchups. However, the Cowboys most critical victory will inevitably be their final regular season game against the Philadelphia Eagles who they are currently tied with for first place in their division. Although the Cowboys track record as been less than encouraging in terms of clinching a playoff spot, if they can win out in their next four games, it’ll make the prospect of facing a division rival less intimidating.
In the end, despite the Cowboys ability to garner the right wins at the right times, it’s hard to deny their disappointing underachieving ways when their season is on the line. In their last two seasons, the Cowboys of have gone 8-8, with both of their final losses come at the hands of division opponents who have shut them out from reaching the playoffs. Yet, despite the Cowboys woeful missteps, this team still has a chance to follow their newly confident quarterback on the road to success. If Romo can be the calm and disciplined leader he has been all season, the Cowboys may surprise themselves and the sports nation at large if they can finally find a way to make the playoffs.