Five thoughts on Cowboys' OT loss to Saints
Dec 23, 2012 at 1:57p ET
Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys falling to 8-7, a game back of Washington for the NFC East lead, with one game remaining.
1.) Jason Garrett's bunch has become Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles fans. One of those teams needs to defeat the New York Giants to give the Cowboys a playoff shot with a win next Sunday in Washington. The Cowboys need to win the division to reach the postseason. They can't do that now without a Giants loss. But even that might not be enough. With the way the Redskins are playing, winning their last six in a row, the Cowboys will have no chance without an effective running game. The Saints held the Cowboys to 40 yards on the ground. That won't get it done.
2.) Yes, the Cowboys allowed 34 points Sunday and that's rarely going to earn a victory. But take a step back before putting too much blame on Rob Ryan and the defense. Despite the underachieving year the Saints have had, their offense is still elite. The Cowboys defense is obviously not elite. But there's only so much you can do with the patchwork group they've been putting on the field. Five starters (Jay Ratliff, Kenyon Coleman, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee and Barry Church) and several key reserves were missing. To make things worse, Ernie Sims, Alex Albright and DeMarcus Ware all exited with injuries Sunday. The inside linebacking corps was left with only Brady Poppinga and Dan Connor. Frankly, I'm surprised they hung in there the way they did.
3.) Earlier this week, Tony Romo said: "I believe when I step on the field in the fourth quarter, if we're within 10-14 points, we're going to find a way to win the ballgame." The Cowboys were within seven entering the fourth quarter and went down 14 before Romo rallied the troops. Romo is in a good place right now. That gives the Cowboys a chance in any game. It should be entertaining to see how things unfold next weekend.
4.) Regardless of whether the Cowboys make the playoffs or not, Dez Bryant has given the team hope for the future and cracked open Jerry Jones' window just a little bit. Bryant wasn't as much of a factor in the second half but his second-quarter presence is one of the biggest reasons why the Cowboys were within a 17-14 halftime score. Bryant tied the franchise record by recording a touchdown pass in his seventh consecutive game. He then added another score seven minutes later, his 12th touchdown of the season. Despite a fractured left index finger, the 24-year-old managed to record his best statistical game of his career. As long as Bryant stays out of trouble off the field, he has a chance to carry the Cowboys offense.
5.) It's easy to say the running game wasn't working after DeMarco Murray fumbled in the second half, leading to a 24-17 Saints advantage late in the third quarter. But I'd like to see more of Murray in the first half against Washington. The Cowboys need to keep Robert Griffin III on the bench and running clock with Murray is their best option. He only carried four times in the first half against the Saints. Murray was injured and did not play when the Cowboys lost to the Redskins, 38-31, on Thanksgiving Day.