Too much ado about Dallas?
Oct. 12: Tiki Barber and Jerome Bettis debate whether the Cowboys are overrated, based on Dallas' recent struggles.
The Dallas Cowboys' state-of-the-art stadium will open next year and the owner will take his team and move in with a Super Bowl trophy in hand. At least that’s what it says on the blueprint.
But not even halfway into the 2008 season, the Cowboys have some significant issues. Their star quarterback missing a month is just the latest.
The latest is star quarterback Tony Romo has a broken little finger and will miss at least three games over the next month. Dallas will turn to ancient Brad Johnson in the meantime, but even when Romo returns, he may not be the Romo we're used to.
In Sunday's 30-24 overtime loss to the Cardinals, Romo had decent numbers. He completed 61 percent of his passes, exceed the 300-yard mark and had 3 TDs. Yet the joy and exuberance that has made Romo one of the game's most magnetic players was missing.
Did you see him high-fiving Marion Barber? Did he chest-bump with T.O.? Not even close. Instead of running around and bouncing off the field, he slumped on the bench. Head coach/cheerleader Wade Phillips described Romo’s play as sporadic.
When Romo returns, he'll be coping with an injury to his throwing hand and knowing that he hasn't been his usual Tony Romo self.
Maybe it’s better that the Cowboys are having their problems now rather than in December. There are other issues besides the Romo injury.
Terrell Owens complained that he didn’t get the ball enough after a loss to the Redskins. Last week, Adam Jones was involved in yet another incident when he got into a fight with the bodyguard who was supposed to protect him. The end result was an indefinite suspension for the often-troubled cornerback.
Marion Barber and star rookie Felix Jones weren't involved during the loss to the Redskins. It's strange to see one of the league's top running back tandems only get the ball a small amount in a crucial game. We’re still waiting for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to give us a straight answer on that one. We’re also still waiting for Phillips to demonstrate his leadership over what appears to be the league's strongest and most talented team. So far that leadership is missing in action.
The Cowboys should be able to beat St. Louis this Sunday. But then the surprising Bucs come to Dallas, following by a trip to the Meadowlands to take on the defending Super Bowl champion Giants. After Dallas' bye rolls around on Nov. 9, Romo is due to return — and face a Redskins team that's already beaten the Cowboys once.
The injury to Romo should force the Cowboys to get back to the basics. When the glaring light of HBO’s "Hard Knocks" cameras focused on Dallas, the undertone of a trip to the Super Bowl seemed to be the team’s focus. The Cowboys don't seem ready for that trip.
In order keep working to that goal without Romo, the Cowboys have to do several things.
The defense hasn't been overwhelming, but needs to get better. Linebacker DeMarcus Ware has registered at least one sack in his last nine games and has six this season. They'll need even more from Ware.
Fellow linebacker Bradie James was shocked when he heard the news about Romo, but he knows what has to be done. "We've got to play relentless football now without our signal caller, our leader, our captain on the offensive side," James said. "That's the thing about a season; you never know what can happen. You hope you are playing some real good ball when things go down, so here we are and now we've got to make some adjustments and move on."
On offense, Dallas must rely on the hard running of Barber and Jones, which in turn should open things up for Owens and tight end Jason Witten.
But Johnson is just as important.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Johnson find the open receiver and can hand the ball off to his two backs and he is an accurate passer with a Super Bowl ring in his possession. He is an ideal short-term answer until Romo returns.
Dallas will likely emerge from its Romo-absence 6-3 and primed for a playoff run. No, the injured pinkie finger is just a momentary blip and not the end of the world.
That'll be later this season in the postseason.
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