Just when you thought this season might be different for the Cowboys, they regressed back to the same ol’, same ol’ against the Chiefs.
Another agonizing, mistake-filled loss, 17-16. Here comes another 8-8 season.
Without the benefit of six turnovers, as the Cowboys were gifted in their season-opening win over the Giants, the second game of the season exposed what the cynics had already expected: Despite a number of changes in the off-season, not much has changed at Valley Ranch.
Handing over the play-calling to Bill Callahan was supposed to change things. The offense would be sharper, more balanced and head coach Jason Garrett would be able to manage the game better.
Instead, an ineffective running game was once again abandoned early. The offense had management issues – a screen pass on the final play, 96 yards from the end zone? Really – and again the Cowboys put up plenty of yards but didn’t have the points to show for it.
Dan Bailey is an exceptional kicker, but a 3-to-1 ratio of field goals to touchdowns will get you beat most of the time.
And then there’s the curious case of Tony Romo suddenly becoming an inaccurate passer. It was probably because of his sore ribs from getting crunched in the Giants game, but Romo did say in the preseason he found “something” in his mechanics that would improve his passing.
Whatever that change was, dump it. Romo appeared to be trying to throw an interception in the second half. Only a friendly call by the officials kept him from doing so.
As for all the talk about Dez Bryant being poised for a bust-out year? Once again, Bryant disappeared for large chunks of time. During one series he wasn’t even on the field for several players.
Can’t use the double-team excuse this time, either. Bryant was often spectacular, but like the rest of the offense, he had a head-scratcher moment. Bryant inexplicably dropped a deep throw down the right sideline with 8:57 left that could have changed the game.
The defense wasn’t without blame in this one. Although the Chiefs put up just 17 points, the Cowboys couldn’t get a stop when they most needed one. Just one example: A pass interference penalty on Morris Claiborne kept the Chiefs’ final drive alive long enough to make a comeback all but impossible.
Most egregious of all is that the defense didn’t produce a single turnover. We’ve been told the mantra for this Monte Kiffin-Rod Marinelli has been turnovers. The Cowboys drilled and drilled at knocking the ball out.
First game: Six turnovers.
Second game: none.
That’s called regression, folks. And it happened in a very winnable game. A year ago the Cowboys also opened the season with an inspiring win over the Giants, then lost on the road to the Seahawks. Sound familiar?
At least in Seattle, the Cowboys got steamrolled by what proved to be one of the NFC’s best teams. The Chiefs are better, but they aren’t world-beaters. Not yet.
But the Chiefs did make changes in the off-season, real changes. New coaching staff, new attitude, and now 2-0.
The Cowboys made changes in the off-season, too. But they’re right back where they were a year ago at 1-1. And things don’t look so different.