Once in awhile, it all comes together in the same game, and a team looks unbeatable. Sunday’s game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Buffalo Bills was one of those days for the home team from Dallas.
In recent games, Bryant has been caught on camera stalking Romo on the sidelines and complaining that he is not getting his chances. In the previous game against the Seattle Seahawks, Bryant caught a sure touchdown pass but fumbled just before crossing the goal line. It was a hard hit, and would have been virtually impossible not to fumble it, but some Dallas diehards surely thought to themselves, “There was your chance, Dez, and you blew it.”
Laurent Robinson has been a tremendous boost to the Dallas offense. He has made key receptions in recent weeks while the Cowboys’ pro bowl wide receiver, Miles Austin, has been sidelined with a nagging hamstring injury. It has hardly mattered that Austin has been out. Robinson, and even wide receiver Jesse Holly, have been very productive at the wide receiver position.
A careful look at the success of the Cowboys offense in the game against the Bills shows two things that have been a concern in the first half of the season, but which made a turn for the better.
The offensive line, which is young and has been caught in some blown assignments early in the season, had a stellar performance against Buffalo. The line allowed no sacks and very little pressure on Romo. Romo performed a Houdini-like escape on a couple of plays to avoid sacks, but for the most part, he could have eaten a bag of peanuts in the backfield, before passing, because of the excellent play of a very young offensive line.
Not many writers will say it in the Dallas press, since they are mostly zeroed in on Romo’s performance, but there is a direct correlation between outstanding offensive line play and the success of a quarterback. Just ask former Dallas quarterback Troy Aikman who customarily treated his offensive line to special gifts and accolades after games in which he had come out as the superstar he was.
Romo and DeMarco Murray
Cowboys fans have been waiting all season long to see a game in which Tony Romo was very good from start to finish. The Bills game was the first sign this season that Romo had the kind of game in him that Cowboys fans have been longing for since Aikman’s retirement.
Running back DeMarco Murray continues to astound. In the game against the Bills, Murray rushed for 135 yards in 20 carries, and he caught six passes for 36 yards. What gives fans great optimism is that Murray is doing this week after week, without turning the ball over, while starting running back, Felix Jones is recovering from injury. Murray is quickly becoming a fan favorite, if not a favorite of head coach Jason Garrett.
The defense of the Dallas Cowboys held Buffalo to 114 rushing yards, which is an improvement over recent weeks. The Dallas defense gave up only one touchdown, a pass of 31 yards. DeMarcus Ware continued to add to his excellent season on the number of sacks on the quarterback. In the game against Buffalo, Ware recorded one sack, momentarily putting him at number one in the NFL, just above Minnesota Vikings’ Jared Allen with 13.
One significant improvement for the Cowboys was the third down conversion rate. Previously ranked 22nd in the NFL with a third down conversion rate of about 34%, in the game against the Bills, the Dallas offense converted on eight of 12 opportunities on third down, for 66%.
By all appearances the Cowboys have shown over the past couple of weeks that the team has some power which may lead them to the playoffs. The problem has been inconsistency. When things come together as they did on Sunday against the Bills, the Dallas Cowboys are a team which may indeed be competitive in a playoff scenario.
Still, the only team who has beaten the San Francisco 49’ers this season, the Cowboys have shown some ability at times to be highly competitive against good teams. Correcting the third down conversion rate, the turnovers, and the offensive penalties may well put the Cowboys in contention for a playoff spot.
Next week’s opponent is the Washington Redskins, who have had a disappointing season with only three wins. Dallas fans know, however, that it is just this kind of game against a key rival that can turn smiles to frowns. Even though the Cowboys will be facing teams in the next three weeks which have losing records, the Redskins, the Miami Dolphins, and the Arizona Cardinals, it is just this kind of challenge that will show whether or not the Cowboys are real contenders.
Fans are hopeful that Dallas will go 3-0 over the next three weeks, but they also know that these hopes have been built up before only to see opportunities squandered away by boneheaded plays by Romo and his receiving corps or a one-week respite by the offensive line. It does not seem likely at this point that Dallas will commit these same mistakes as the offensive line seems to be on track, and Romo is fully recovered from his early season injury of broken ribs.
Fans are hopeful, but it is not yet time to purchase Super Bowl tickets. There is a lot of difference between making the playoffs and beating the likes of the Green Bay Packers to win a trip to this year’s NFL championship game. But, things are pointing in the right direction.