Cowboys not passing test through five weeks

October 18, 2012

IRVING, Texas – The evidence keeps rolling in: The gap between the intellect of "teacher" Jason Garrett and the education of his "students" is massive – especially when the pop quizzes that need to be passed are represented by Dallas Cowboys opportunities in opponents' territory.

Jimmy Johnson, a Garrett mentor, used to say, "You don't need to be nervous about what's gonna be on the test if you know all the answers." In other words, intellectual preparation is key.

And despite Garrett's indisputable brain power, his 2-3 Cowboys continue to flunk offensive tests when it counts the most.

Through five games, the Tony Romo-led offense has ventured inside the opponents' 45-yard line a total of 22 times. Those trips have resulted in seven touchdowns and seven field goals – totals that are unsatisfactory enough.

But it's the trials and tribulations along the journey towards the goal line that is even more troublesome.

In a Week 1 win at the Giants, Dallas:

•Scored on two Romo-to-Ogletree connections without incident.

•Marched to the NY 6 but allowed a 9-yard sack to force a FG.

•Scored on a Romo-to-Austin 34-yard strike that had to come from 34 because Tyron Smith's false start penalty backed them up from having been at the 29, then Dez Bryant's motion penalty backed them up from the 24, then Mackenzy Bernardeau's illegal-use-of-hands penalty backed them up from the 14, then Doug Free's holding penalty backed them up from the 24. (Seriously: 30 yards of penalties after starting at the 29!)

In a Week 2 loss at Seattle, Dallas:

•Opened its offense with a second down at the Seattle 24 and threw an interception.

•Got an Austin catch for a score on a drive without incident.

•On the final play from the Seattle 42, passed to Felix Jones, whose actions were inconsequential given the score but added some embarrassment by clumsily tripping in the open field.

In a Week 3 win over Tampa Bay, Dallas:

•Got a DeMarco Murray rushing score from 11 without incident.

•Drove to the Tampa 24 before sustaining a false-start penalty on Doug Free and eventually settling for a 32-yard field goal.

•Had a first down at the Tampa 6 but gave up possession on a sack-and-fumble by Romo.

•Had a first down at the Tampa 30 backed up 10 yards by a holding penalty on Free, then from the 9-yard line a false-start penalty on Smith, then a sack of Romo that forced a Dallas field goal.

•And then another first down at the 6, with a Lawrence Vickers holding penalty helping to stall the drive, Dallas settling for yet another FG.

In a Week 4 loss to the Bears, Dallas:

•Opened with a drive to the 39 following by a run for a loss and a sack of Romo.

•Got to the Bears' 38 on another drive stalled by a run for a loss.

•Got an Austin TD catch of 10 yards without incident.

•Drove to the Chicago 16 while giving up a run for a loss and then an interception that bounces off Kevin Ogletree's chest.

•After taking over following a Bears turnover at the Chicago 37, immediately gives it back on an interception returned for a score.

•In catch-up mode, Dallas hurries to the Chicago 45, at which point Bryant gets an illegal-shift penalty, Murray runs for no yards, and then Romo is picked.

And finally, in the Week 5 loss at Baltimore:

•Dallas gets a 22-yard Felix Jones TD but only after a Free holding penalty moved the ball back from the 12.

•Dallas moves to the Baltimore 30 but gets a holding call against Smith to back the Cowboys to the 40 ... then throws an interception.

•Dallas moves to the Ravens 12. But the Cowboys are called for an illegal shift, backing them to the 17. And then Bryant's catch is somehow good for a minus-7 yards, forcing a 42-yard Bailey field goal from 12 yards deeper than where Dallas started.

•Dallas gets to the Baltimore 31. Doug Free is called for a false start. Dallas settles for a Bailey kick.

•Bryant catches a 7-yard TD pass without incident.

•Dallas is at the Baltimore 10. An illegal shift penalty backs them up. Later, Romo is sacked. Eventually, from the 16, the Cowboys kick a FG.

•Dallas starts a fourth-quarter desperation drive and gets to the Baltimore 29, then is hit with an illegal block penalty on Felix Jones. Two plays later it's a false start penalty on Ogletree. Eventually, Bryant catches a 4-yard TD pass... but then drops a pass that would've tied the game with the two-point conversion.

•Then, of course, comes the successful onside kick... the clock-management gaffe caused in part by Ogletree and Austin not hustling back to the line of scrimmage to save time... and Bailey's first missed kick of the year on what would've been the game-winner from 51.

Five games. A total of 22 ventures inside the foes' 45... and in addition to the seven TDs and the seven FGs... one fumble, one missed kick, one illegal-use-of-the-hands penalty, one illegal-block penalty, three illegal-motion penalties, four interceptions, five holding penalties, five false starts, countless mental cramps, and, if partridges in pear trees were against the football rules, probably a gaggle of those, too.

Garrett was asked this week if his team is "smart" and he offered only an elusive non-answer... which was probably a smart thing for him to do. Is there value to a teacher standing up at a PTA meeting and announcing he oversees a classroom full of dopes?

If you don't like this Cowboys coach's evasive words, let's try again to offer Cowboys coach's words to live by as it applies to a Dallas team that... penalties and makes intellectual goofs:

"You don't need to be nervous about what's gonna be on the test if you know all the answers."