Cowboys Day After: Garrett 'Unemotional' Eval

IRVING - If you are fascinated by evaluating the number of red-shirted vacationers in Arlington on Sunday, we're not your guys. The day-after evaluation inside of Valley Ranch? That, we can do:

NOT THE BIG LEAD: The Dallas Cowboys have issues. They have "football illnesses.'' The number of 49ers fans who acquired tickets to Sunday's game, a 28-17 season-starting loss by Dallas, isn't the "illness.'' It's a symptom.

You want to talk about the symptom? For just a moment? Fine.

“I think if you step back and look at some of the marquee franchises in this league – the Cowboys, 49ers, Steelers, Packers, Chicago Bears – a lot of these teams travel really well,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday. “And people love to come to our stadium, they love to see AT&T Stadium, where the Cowboys play, and particularly if you’re one of these franchises you’re going to make an effort to do that.”

Cowboys fans sold their tickets. That's what happened. People in red shirts bought them. That's what happened. It happens most everywhere when the home crowd is disgruntled with the home product.

Jerry Jones knows this, no matter how many times he is baited into pretending he doesn't notice. If that is your obsession -- "Jerry Sucks!'' and all that -- you can vote with your time on Sunday afternoons and you can even vote by selling your season ticket. (Though when you do that, Mr. Jones still gets your money, you know.)

The actually solution to 10,000 or 20,000 or 40,000 "enemy'' fans in your building? Play better football.

Said Garrett: “I think at times during the game we gave those guys in the red shirts plenty to cheer about, unfortunately. ... We have to make sure we keep them sitting in their seats.”

Or, if you play better football, keeping them out of those seats in the first place.

Now, if you'll allow us ... onto actual football.

THE BIG LEAD: Garrett believes an "unemotional evaluation'' of the loss is the only way to go. Logically, he's right. But that doesn't stop you and us from viewing Sunday as one of those "Bench Romo,'' "Fire Garrett,'' "Trade For Manziel,'' "Activate Michael Sam,'' "Drown Jerry In A Vat Of Johnny Walker Blue'' kind of games.

Then we take a breath. And try to learn something.

"I think sometimes people on the outside overreact to it," Garrett said. "What we need to do is stay focused on the things we can control and what we need to do to get better, and that’s the mindset we’ll have regardless what the result is. If the result were reversed (Monday), you’d hear me say the same thing and I’m going to say the same thing to our team (on Tuesday).''

Where Dallas needs to get better, right away, is at quarterback, where Tony Romo is infinitely more capable than what he demonstrated in a game in which he made poor playcall decisions, threw three first-half interceptions and ended the game with a 60.8 QB rating.

So will Garrett tug the reins on his QB's ability to check out of run plays in order to throw the ball? Nope.

“If you look at the body of work and the efficiency that we’ve had and he’s had, it’s been fairly high,” Garrett said.

It's impossible to know about all the times it's worked in all the games Romo has started; sometimes "worked'' can simply mean a three-yard run or a play that isn't a football disaster. But when you look back on the second drive Sunday and you see Romo being sacked for a 9-yard loss because he saw a run-stuff defense and opted out of a after DeMarco Murray handoff ... you get to wonder if Romo's deep desire to "play Chess'' when "Checkers'' is all that is needed plays a role here.

"Sometimes when it doesn’t work out, people overreact to something like that, but you do have to look at the whole body of work,” said Garrett calmly.

But we will add this: Checking out of a run in that situation (second-and-1 from the 2, meaning not only three cracks at it but maybe seven cracks at it!) says something about Romo's DNA. And maybe Gsrrett's DNA.

And the DNA Scott Linehan, now in charge of sending in that option? Yeah, probably, though Linehan also represents the new brain and the new set of eyes who can emphasize the importance of adding to Garrett's "unemotional evaluation'' with his own push to simply play "Checkers'' when "Checkers'' will do.

"We very easily could’ve run the ball in that situation,” Garrett conceded, “and hopefully in the future we’ll handle that situation better.”

"Checkers,'' please.

ONSIDE KICKS: "There are a lot of good things in that game,'' Garrett said, and he meant it. "There are a lot of things we need to correct, and we need to be unemotional in how we evaluate it and somehow someway strive to get better during this week of practice so we can get ready for Tennessee."

OK, let's try this:

*Jason Witten didn't have a great game on Sunday, coming away with just two catches for 14 yards. However, he continued to come up when his number was called and extended his streak of consecutive games with a reception to 88. The last time No. 82 was held to zero catches was in Week 9 of the 2008 season. The Niners focused on taking him away ... and of course what should happen is that someone else steps up.

*DeMarco Murray a lost fumble early on that was returned for a touchdown. That was without a doubt a terrible mistake (though he believes he was down by contact), but aside from that, Murray continued to look like a Pro Bowl running back, rushing for 118 yards and a TD on 22 carries. In fact, Murray has arguably played his best football over the last six games. Since the Thanksgiving game against the Raiders in Week 12 last season, Murray has 751 total yards (605 rushing and 146 receiving) and seven touchdowns (six rushing and one receiving).

*DeMarco's 118 rushing yards also moved him ahead of Felix Jones for 10th all-time among Cowboys RB's. If he gains another 1,088 yards this year, he will pass Julius Jones, Herschel Walker and Walt Garrison, moving into seven in franchise history.

"We went up and down the field on a really good defense,” Garrett said.

As Garrett and staff work Monday to craft a gameplan for next week, DeMarco's numbers and effort will likely be central to it.

*A Romo bounce-back? Romo has had seven multi-INT games since 2011. In the following week, Romo has thrown 13 touchdowns and three interceptions with an average of 276 yards per game, 66.4 completion percentage and a 105.8 QB rating.

Tony's performance certainly wasn't encouraging -- and our belief that it was a product of "intellectual rust'' is shared by the staff -- but he usually plays some of his best football after he plays his worst.

*Another positive Romo tidbit: with Romo's fourth-quarter TD pass to Terrance Williams, he has now thrown a TD pass in 29 consecutive games, passing Dave Krieg of the Seahawks for seventh place all-time. T-Will is going to catch some of those ... more as he learns to rise and battle for the ball rather than being a body-snatcher.

*The defense is getting ripped in some corners, especially at corner, where a reinstatement of Orlando Scandrick would be a boost. Brandon Carr in particular seems a step slow ...

But the defense only gave up 21 points (and zero in the second half). One unit in particular that stuck out was the linebackers. Bruce Carter looked like he finally found a home switching from one side to the other. Rather than dropping back into coverage Carter was able to stay near the line and use his athleticism to rush the passer, coming away with the team's only sack of the day.

Rolando McClain was probably the most impressive defensive player out there, coming away with eight tackles and showing off his ability to lay the wood on ball carriers. McClain showed the instincts and quickness that you expect from a first-round pick. If he continues to play at his current level, it will go a long way in making this defense better than expected.

“He’s been physical since he got here,'' Garrett said of McClain. "He tackles, and he tackles hard.”

And Justin Durant did some ballhawking before sustaining a groin problem that has him listed as day-to-day.

*Does the roster churn continue? Or do a few more people just need to get fully healthy? Henry Melton played 25 snaps. That's game-shape stuff. C.J. Spillman has a groin; wait on him, he can help. Fullback Tyler Clutts, thought by some on the coaching staff to be so necessary to the run? He played one offensive snap on Sunday.

*Dan Bailey continued to prove that he is one of the most consistent, reliable kickers in the league, extending his streak of consecutive games without a missed field goal to 13. He's also made 22 consecutive field goal attempts.

*Dwayne Harris tells CowboysHQ that he'd like to do for this offense what Percy Harvin is doing in Seattle. That's a lofty goal, but as he caught one pass, got open for what could've been a TD catch and had rushing attempt, he showed big play-making ability. On the rush, he lined up in the backfield and gained nine yards, showing off his quickness and footwork. On his lone catch, he jumped up above a defender to haul in a 56-yard pass on 3rd down, setting up Murray touchdown.

Now, get the fielding of kicks all cleared up ...

THE FINAL WORD: A Cowboys staffer approached us today and said, "You have a tough job. You're going to be asked to predict an entire season's outcome based on one bad half.''

A bad half but some good news: there are still 15 games left to be played. Just like the players, fans should develop a short memory. Time to move on and look forward to the next opponent ... the Titans in Tennessee, where we assume some Cowboys fans will own seats ...

And we promise we won't make too big of a deal out of that, either.

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