Dallas Cowboys Have A Severe Reality Check


The Dallas Cowboys have a problem with their run defense, secondary, quarterback and coaching, which the Atlanta Falcons exposed.

When the Dallas Cowboys faced the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, most Cowboys fans expected a victory, regardless of whether or not the Falcons were favored. The fans were right for three quarters because the Cowboys played extremely well. They played like Super Bowl contenders.

The Cowboys jumped out to an early 14 point lead. Running back Joseph Randle ran like an All Pro, scoring three touchdowns in the first half. Even starting quarterback Brandon Weeden was on a streak, completing a total of 20 consecutive passes dating back to the Philadelphia Eagles game.

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Weeden came out firing, dinking and dunking all over the field. He looked comfortable and at ease as he constantly found tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver Cole Beasley, and running back Lance Dunbar. His precise passing helped the Cowboys score 28 first half points.

The Cowboys had to be pleased with Weeden’s play. He played well and then some. The only blemish was an ill-advised interception in the second quarter.

So, with the offense clicking Weeden playing with confidence and the defense holding Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan and No.1 receiving threat Julio Jones in check, a victory was in the making.

Then reality struck.

Up 28-17 at halftime, the Cowboys allowed the Falcons to rally and score 22 unanswered points en route to a 39-28 victory.  It’s not so much that the Falcons scored 22 points, but rather how they did it.

On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons scored at will. Ryan hooked up with Jones repeatedly, as he torched the Cowboys secondary like a grown man playing with children. The defense couldn’t stop running back Devonta Freeman either.

Sep 27, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman (24) spikes the ball after scoring a touchdown in the second quarter against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Freeman had 30 carries for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Jones had 12 receptions for 164 yards and two scores.

Ryan added another fourth quarter comeback to his 2015 resume.

The Cowboys pathetic and uninspiring defensive play was reminiscent of 2013. That’s the year the Cowboys had the worse defense in the league and worse in franchise history. Like that ’13 defense, unavailable defenders were at play once again against the Falcons.

What’s this team excuse? There is no excuse, except that the Cowboys haven’t figured out how to win without Tony Romo or Dez Bryant.

Rod Marinelli had his worst game as defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. He didn’t call any blitzes and didn’t double team or jam Jones at the line of scrimmage. Jones put on a wide receiver clinic while running precise routes and abusing lackadaisical corner backs.

The Cowboys inability to stop the run is a major concern moving forward and a surprise as well. Against the New York Giants and Eagles, the Cowboys literally stuffed the run, especially against the Eagles. DeMarco Murray and Darren Sproles looked like Pee Wee running backs.

Freeman ran like an All Pro running back. I had no idea who Freeman was until he destroyed the Cowboys. That’s a problem, people.

Before anyone screams out “wait for Greg Hardy, Rolando McClain, and Randy Gregory to get back,” the Cowboys better fix their run defense first and foremost, and teach the secondary how to cover. If the Cowboys can’t stop the run, it doesn’t matter how many sack specialists they have if they’re never in passing downs.

Ryan, Jones, and Freeman showed the Cowboys’ defense they aren’t that good when they face elite teams. Beating the lowly Giants and Eagles is one thing. Playing against a legit playoff team is another.

Need I say anymore?

Jason Garrett bears the blame, too, because he and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan made no adjustments after the Falcons stopped the Cowboys running game and short passing game.

By run blitzing, the Falcons held the Cowboys run game in check.

What did the Cowboys do in return?

Absolutely nothing.

The Cowboys simply sat on 28 points as if the game was over. The Falcons dared Weeden to throw the ball deep and he didn’t. Nor did Weeden call any audibles with a stacked box.

I blame Weeden to a certain degree, but blame Garrett and Linehan more because they didn’t trust him to throw downfield. Weeden didn’t throw a pass over 20 yards. That’s ridiculous and beyond comprehension.

You can’t have a quarterback in the NFL and not allow him to throw downfield. Not going deep played into the Falcons hands and basically handcuffed the Cowboys as a team. Beasley was the only receiver to catch a pass.

Furthermore, if he takes a shot down field, maybe there is a pass interference call on the Falcons. Maybe receivers Terrance Williams, Devin Street and Brice Butler out jump the defender and score a touchdown. You never know unless you try, and the Cowboys didn’t attempt to try.

Williams was targeted twice and dropped a pass. Street and Brice Butler were non existent. Heck, Dunbar had more catches than all of the receivers combined, 10 receptions for 100 yards.

Because Dallas’ offense was stagnant in the second half and couldn’t sustain any drives, the defense stayed on the field too long and suffered. Add inept coaching to the mix, and you have a blueprint on how to beat the Cowboys with Weeden playing quarterback.

The Cowboys’ running game went from dominant to disappearing altogether after halftime. Dallas mustered minus 4 yards on five carries in the second half. How do you completely abandon the run because a team stacks the box?

There has to be an alternative, but that’s when coaching comes into play. Apparently, the Cowboys didn’t have it against the Falcons. Since the Cowboys don’t trust Weeden, then get backup Matt Cassel up to speed.

What’s simple is the Cowboys aren’t as good as the Falcons, a team that is playing like one of the best in the league. Until the Cowboys can correct their coaching, quarterback  play, and defense, the Cowboys will remain mediocre.

That is a reality check.

Next: Dallas Cowboys: Moving On Looking Back

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