When a nuclear blast occurs, the explosion and shock wave cause a tremendous amount of damage within the blast radius. There are immediate and catastrophic results here. However just as dangerous and sometimes moreso, is the nuclear fallout; the radioactive dust that enters the atmosphere and then falls back down to earth. Sometimes, due to atmospheric changes, the fallout can cover an immense landscape, far beyond the reaches of the blast itself. This might just be a fitting description of the landscape around the Dallas Cowboys fanbase, following the broken left clavicle of star quarterback Tony Romo in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Romo is expected to be sidelined 8-10 weeks with the injury, which means Dallas will have to survive the fallout for 7-9 games and hope when they emerge from their shelter to have enough of a season left to make a run to the playoffs.
The game instelf wasn’t pretty, as Dallas was already short 6 of their 22 starters on the day. WR Dez Bryant was lost to a broken foot in Week One and is out anywhere from 5-11 additional weeks. Star rookie pass rusher Randy Gregory was lost for a month in the same game due to a high ankle sprain. Ron Leary hurt his groin and was missing at least this start. Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain were just entering Game Two of identical four-game suspensions and star corner Orlando Scandrick is out for the season with a torn ACL.
In this series, we’ll examine what the Cowboys will be working with to survive their version of nuclear winter.IS THE BEST OFFENSE A GOOD DEFENSE
The Cowboys defense through the first two games, the first two division games at that, has been tremendous. They rank third in the entire league in total team defense, behind the Denver Broncos and the Washington franchise. Beyond that, though, they’ve been tremendous without a large percentage of their truly impactful players. On Sunday afternoon, they exploited every aspect of Philadelphia’s ineptness on offense, holding them to just 224 passing yards and an embarrassing 7 yards on the ground. Play after play, Cowboys Front 7 defenders were making vacation homes for themselves in the Eagles backfield.
The Eagles ran 54 plays on offense on Sunday. Dallas held them to zero yards 3 times, including a forced and recovered fumble. They pushed them back for negative yards another seven times. They forced two additional turnovers. That’s over 22% of Eagles offensive plays that ended negatively for the Eagles, and that doesn’t even include all of the “stops” where the Eagles gained yards but not enough to consider the play a success based on down/distance.
Sean Lee’s return has been incredible as he once again lays claim to being one of the league’s best off-the-ball linebackers when healthy. On Sunday, he only had 14 combined tackles, including two tackles for a loss and two pass deflections. Oh, and he only added a one-handed end-zone interception to pad his NFL-leading total of 12 from the position (despite playing 30 less games over the span than his closest counterpart).
The Cowboys run defense has been phenomenal through two games, allowing just 78 yards on the ground to opposing running backs through two games.
The pass rush hasn’t been great, with sacks and Quarterback hits on the exact same pace as the 2014 totals (31 sacks, 56 hits) with just two takedowns and 7 hits through two games. There is hope, however with how well Gregory showed in limited snaps and sack machine Hardy just a few games away. An increased pass rush is paramount to the defense being the premiere unit for this club moving forward. The surprising factor however has been the improved play of the secondary despite no discernable difference in the rush.
Yesterday, Byron Jones played excellent coverage on TE Zach Ertz. Eventually breaking up a pass that led to J.J. Wilcox’s game-sealing interception of Sam Bradford. Barry Church bounced back with a solid performance and sure-tackling. In all honesty, though, the jury must remain out as both the Giants and the Eagles have had an inordinate amount of dropped passes where the receiver had room to run. Julio Jones will be a true litmus test after the Cowboys have shut down the last three elite receivers they’ve faced (Megatron, Jordy Nelson, Odell Beckham).