It’s official. The NFC East is the most dysfunctional division in all of pro football.
Case in point, the Carolina Panthers crushed the Dallas Cowboys 33-14 on Thanksgiving Day leaving their record at 3-8 and only two games behind the leading Washington Redskins who stand at 5-6 (yes, this journalist insists on calling them the Redskins).
Seriously, not even the continuation of woeful calls by NFL referees week in and week out can match the insanity that has gripped the NFL East. If Cowboy quarterback Matt Cassel’s leadership skills can come alive against the Redskins (oh, did I mention Tony Romo injured his previously injured clavicle again and is out for the regular season) and notch a victory against their bitter rivals in their Monday Night Football contest, Dallas will be a game out of first place.
Talk about living in the twilight zone (which the Jones brain trust has been doing all season).
The Carolina Panthers thoroughly humiliated Dallas at home. Actually, it was QB Tony Romo who really shamed the Cowboys. Three plays into their opening drive and just four days removed from ending the team’s losing skid against the Miami Dolphins, the banged-up quarterback threw an interception that was returned 36 yards for a touchdown. Romo would repeat that performance at the end of the half by completing a pass to Panther safety Luke Kuechly for a 32-yard catch and run. Unfortunately, those 14 points would be too much for Dallas to overcome.
The problem with the Dallas Cowboys is a simple one. They no longer have a running game. In fact, they haven’t had a running game all year thanks to the front office decision to jettison DeMarco Murray last April. You see, billionaire Jerry didn’t want to commit $21 million in guaranteed money to the league’s leading rusher because he was convinced anyone could run behind his young offensive line. He was woefully wrong. The Carolina Panthers, The running game was non-existent.
Darren McFadden, who is hot one week and cold the next, was extremely frigid this particular day on national television. He pounded out 11 yards on the ground in ten carries. His back up, Robert Turbin gained 11 yards on two carries. Quarterback Matt Cassel finished the three-headed rushing attack by going for 9 yards on 2 carries. Yep, anyone can run behind the Cowboys offensive line but it doesn’t guarantee they are going to go anywhere.
The Dallas sports media likes to pile on the Cowboys defense for being ineffective when in fact, it should be lauded. The defense has done its job keeping the team in games especially when rules are in place favoring the offense. The big problem with the Dallas offense is defensive coordinators around the league DO NOT fear it in any way, shape or form. And folks, we’re talking about an offense that features three All-Pro interior linemen, one All-Pro tight end, one All-Pro wide receiver, one All-Pro quarterback and one All-Pro running back. Oh wait, the Cowboys front offense let the league’s leading rusher get away from them in free agency because it was too cheap to keep him. That one haunting decision has neutralized the entire All-Pro offense the team sported at the end of last season.
After 11 games, the Dallas offense is averaging about 14 points per game. Last year the team scored almost 30 points a game totaling 467 points for the regular season. DeMarco Murray averaged 115 yards per contest on the ground. This year’s woeful offensive production has placed tremendous burdens on the defense and it just can’t keep the team in games anymore. But someone has to take the blame for the 3-8 record to date. Daddy Jones and son Stephen certainly aren’t going to look in the mirror and point a finger.
Back to the Thanksgiving Day massacre. Despite their victory, it’s hard to believe the Carolina Panthers are still undefeated. Quarterback Cam Newton had a pedestrian game throwing the ball going 16 – 27 for 183 yards. He rushed 12 times for 45 yards. The Dallas defense rose to the occasion throughout the game holding Carolina to field goals instead of touchdowns. But those field goals, combined with miscues and Newton’s 6-yard TD scamper was all they needed.
Cowboy Notes – Team owner Jerry Jones has deluded himself into thinking the Boys in Blue still have a playoff game in their future because his team is only two games back in the whacky Eastern Conference. Thus, Tony Romo has not been placed on injured reserve so he can come back and embarrass himself in the team’s first playoff game. You can stop laughing now … The sports media around Dallas was convinced the Cowboy front office would be able to figure out the running back situation when Murray was allowed to leave. What they have figured out is it was the biggest mistake the team could have ever made. Some twenty years earlier, Jones had to deal with his team’s top rusher, some guy named Emmitt Smith, who held out two games because he wanted a raise. Jerry gave it to him and the team won the Super Bowl. Jerry has now learned the lesson the hard way. The Dallas offensive line with the various blocking schemes it employs, (much like it was for Smith in his time), was the perfect fit for Murray’s running abilities. None of the 15 running backs the team has tried out this year have been able plant their foot solidly on the ground this year.
– David Huff
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