Watching the Dallas Cowboys lose in Arizona Sunday just reminded me of the weaknesses I had pointed out before the season even kicked off. Yes, the Cowboys have a few very skilled players, but they must have ignored what the New York Giants did in their 2007 playoff run to a Super Bowl XLII win. Their front line on both sides of the ball borderlines between mediocre and poor. Watching teams saunter through their blockers with ease is a prime example of what I mean. The Cowboys are lucky that Tony Romo has only broken a pinkie finger so far
The officiating this past Sunday was a debacle, so it was indeed karma that Arizona prevailed. From the terrible "tuck rule" that cost Arizona 6 points, to the blown call that gave the Cowboys the 5 yards they needed to take the game into overtime. When a defensive player is injured, there is supposed to be a timeout called immediately. The 20 minutes of confusion that led up to the wrong call just highlights the fact that the NFL needs to hire full time referees like Major League Baseball does. If that isn't fiscally prudent, then get guys who know the rule book.
Now Brad Johnson is set to start at least a few games. With the way the offensive line has been overmatched all season, there is a good chance that Brooks Bollinger may get on the field. Neither guy has a good arm, but the 40 year old Johnson knows how to manage a game. Marion Barber is in his first year as a featured back since high school. With Felix Jones now out a few games, his mettle will be tested more than ever before. Perhaps Tashard Choice will get a few carries? Now that teams will be able to double Terrell Owens and Jason Witten due to the lack of Johnson's arm strength, expect extra defenders in the box often. You think T.O., who cried about his lack of use after getting a third of the plays called his way, will keep quiet during this time? Expect venom and tears if losses follow.
Another woeful part of the Cowboys arsenal right now is their defensive line. After watching the Washington Redskins dominate them two weeks ago, some expected change. It did, though Arizona's major weakness all season has been their rushing attack. Still, the very immobile Kurt Warner was not sacked until late in the 4th quarter. Marcus Spears has shown some improvement so far this year, but other than Jay Ratliff, the rest of the Cowboys defensive line has been inconsistent. To make matters worse for the defense, Roy Williams and Terence Newman have been injured and Adam Jones looks like a guy who hasn't played football since 2007. Newman will be out a month, but Williams return may be any week now. On a positive note, rookie Cornerback Orlando Scandrick appears to be a steal and is outperforming 2008 first round pick Mike Jenkins so far.
The onus of the Cowboys successes the next few weeks, and maybe their playoff hopes, will not rest squarely on the shoulders of guys like Barber, Johnson, Owens, Witten, or Ware. The fortunes rest mostly on the level of play performed in the trenches. After facing the Rams this Sunday, they will have to go up against the Buccaneers, Giants, and Redskins the following three weeks. All teams who rely on controlling the line of scrimmage to win. This is the style of play that gets you far into the playoffs as well. With Romo possibly missing all four of these games, you may be seeing Jerry Jones master plan for a 2008 Super Bowl win go up in smoke by November 16.