© James Lang | 2015 Sep 20 | USA Today

Dallas Cowboys Nuclear Fallout Assessment 1 of 4: The Offensive Line Was Offensive

In this four-part series, we examine the fallout of Tony Romo's broken clavicle. From how it happened to how the team will look to survive and thrive without him.

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 itself 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.


On first glance, the play where Tony Romo got injured was a mistake made in the interior of the offensive line. Mackenzy Bernadeau, substituting for Ron Leary who was out with a strained groin, had a horrible day. Without the benefit of knowing the assignments. It appears that Bernadeau could have been responsible for passing off the first inside linebacker to C Travis Frederick, and then taking on rookie ILB Jordan Hicks, who was playing after Mychael Kendricks and Kiko Alonso were knocked out of the game. Bernie, who had 3 costly penalties despite splitting reps with rookie La’El Collins.

Bernadeau wasn’t the only offensive lineman that struggled, just the worst of the group. After a penalty-free performance against New York, the unit was called for 11 penalties, 10 accepted, with an additional false start on TE Jason Witten and hold on TE Geoff Swaim.

The Eagles have always given Dallas’ protectors trouble, and it cost them their franchise quarterback for at least half a season. Everything seemed out of sync, including the club being called for two delay of game penalties.

Here’s the offensive line miscue ledger:

QtrClock TimePlayerINCIDENTYardsDeclinedFirst DownNullified YardsStalled Drive
1 14:24 Mackenzy Bernadeau False Start 5 0 0 0 1
2 12:04 Zack Martin **SACK** 6 N/A N/A N/A 1
2 11:26 Travis Frederick Delay of Game 5 0 0 0 1
2 9:10 Mackenzy Bernadeau False Start 5 0 0 0 1
2 8:16 Tyron Smith Illegal Formation 5 0 0 14 1
2 3:16 Zack Martin Ineligible Downfield Pass 5 0 0 6 0
2 1:31 Jason Witten False Start 5 0 0 0 0
2 0:11 Doug Free False Start 5 0 0 0 0
3 11:41 Zack Martin Offensive Holding 10 0 0 0 0
3 9:54 Mackenzy Bernadeau **SACK** 8 N/A N/A N/A 1
3 4:42 Tyron Smith False Start 5 0 0 0 0
4 8:38 Geoff Swaim Offensive Holding 10 0 0 3 1
4 7:15 Mackenzy Bernadeau Offensive Holding 10 0 0 1 1
4 5:23 Zack Martin Offensive Holding 0 1 0 0 0
4 4:29 Doug Free False Start 5 0 0 0 0

We often talk about how sacks and offensive penalties are drive-killers and no game better exemplified this edict than Sunday’s. If the Cowboys have any hope of surviving Nuclear Winter until Romo returns, it is imperative they get this straightened out. An offense led by Brandon Weeden is unlikely to overcome in-drive setbacks with anywhere near the frequency of one led by Tony Romo.

The offensive line group never got a chance to play in a game together in the preseason, and the continuity that is so important to the unit just hasn’t been there for the much ballyhooed group. The Giants lack of anything resembling a pass rush may have elicited a false sense of security. Could losing Bill Callahan to Washington have this much impact on the group? Whatever the reasoning is, Dallas needs to fix this quick fast and in a hurry.






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