A post-Packers loss Cowboys preamble from Fish (and the dark side) ... and then a 10 Takes search for any evidence of sunshine in rainy Green Bay.
First, the Fish Cowboys preamble, as heard on 105.3 The Fan:
If you can occasionally make a 50-yard run, but cannot consistently make a third-and-one run, you cannot run.
The Cowboys’ 28-7 loss on Sunday at Green Bay — the place where Dez Bryant and company sought to seek revenge for last year’s “The Catch That Wasn’t But Was’’ playoff loss — is marked by an inability to run the football, no matter the stats … not to mention an inability to catch it and throw it … oh, and Dallas isn’t very good at blocking, covering or tackling, either.
“We have to continue to keep on fighting,’’ Dez Bryant said after a game full of his non-catches. “We have to. We can’t just throw it in the bag.’'
Matt Cassel, the temp in place of the injured Tony Romo, couldn’t “throw it in the bag’’ in Green Bay if the bag was as big as Lake Michigan. But this wasn’t just about his foibles, or about how Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett are “football idiots’’ or whatever analysis the media creates to pacify their lowest-common-denominator offense.
This is about what happens in an 8-8 league when you perform without your best player while getting no bounces … and doing too little to create the bounces you need to bob above .500.
Or in Dallas’ case, to bob above its present 4-9.
This is a 4-9 owner, a 4-9 coach, a 4-9 backup QB, a 4-9 Dez Bryant, a 4-9 Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain and Sean Lee and Barry Church and Brandon Carr and Tyrone Crawford, who had a chance to keep his team alive before the margin got fat … but Packers QB slipped through Crawford’s fingers for a lengthy third-and-long run for conversion.
“I messed up,’’ Crawford told me. “I missed the tackle. I’m not going to say any different.’’
They all messed up … and yet there is no bigger mess than in the NFC East standings, where incompetence allows Dallas to remain mathematically in the playoff “chase’’ … if you can call “jogging in place’’ a “chase.’’
“We’ve just got to keep fighting,’’ Dez said. “Our mindset is never going to change. … There can’t be no quit.’’
Oh, the Cowboys will keep trying … so they will “organically tank’’ as the 2016 Draft now cannot arrive quickly enough. They will try to tackle and pass and cover and block and catch and run … but if you can only do those things on occasion, you cannot really do those things.
Now my Top 10 Takes ... and trust me, it's hard to find any sunshine in the rain and the clouds and the cold in Green Bay 28, Dallas 7 ...
10. Brandon Carr did a nice job in coverage on Sunday. He had the only PBU of the game for the Cowboys - which happened to come on the first pass of the day for the Packers. Carr also chased down Rodgers on what looked like a designed QB run near the goal line early in the game. He nearly made the tackle for a loss but Rodgers was able to get the ball off at the very last second. Carr has been playing much better and with more confidence lately. He has 4 pass breakups in the last 5 games. To put that into perspective, he had 4 pass breakups in the previous 18 games.
The DB who didn't play well? That would apparently be Tyler Patmon, released on Tuesday. Fish is reporting on The Fan that Terrence Mitchell will be bumped up to the active roster and will be the new slot corner.
9. Demarcus Lawrence had another good game on Sunday. He recorded his 5th sack in the last 5 games - increasing his team-leading total to 6. He was able to get some nice pressure throughout the game and gave both Packers OT's some trouble. After suffering a setback in his rookie season due to injury, Lawrence is finally catching up and becoming the player we all hoped he would be when the Cowboys traded up to get him.
Lawrence has a chest injury but did practice on Tuesday.
8. Randy Gregory made some nice plays in this game. He had a big QB hit and a tackle for a loss within a few plays of each other. He also had a QB pressure that forced a holding penalty in the 4th. The penalty was declined because his pressure forced an incompletion. The rookie hasn't gotten home yet but he's still making his presence felt. It's only a matter of time before he finally gets his first sack.
7. Sean Lee and Rolando McClain have been playing at a consistently high level over the last few weeks. Each of them has 10+ tackles in each of the last 3 games. In that span they have a combined 68 tackles, 2 pass breakups, 1 sack, 7 tackles for a loss and 4 run stuffs. Sean Lee also set a new career high with his 105th tackle of the season vs the Packers.
McClain is now going through concussion protocol and did not practice on Tuesday.
6. Tyrone Crawford had a solid game - recording a tackle for a loss, a run stuff and a some QB pressures, but his most impactful play helped the Packers more than it helped the Cowboys. The deciding play of the game may very well have been the missed tackle by Crawford on 3rd and 9 in the 4th quarter. Crawford had Rodgers in his grasp. If he makes that stop, he ends Green Bay's drive and forced a punt, giving the Cowboys a shot to tie it up.
Props to Tyrone for being a stand-up guy with Fish on the subject.
5. This was one of the worst games I've ever seen Dez Bryant play - and I think he'd agree with that statement. Dez Bryant has made a career of making jaw-dropping catches but he was unable to haul in anything on Sunday. Dez had 3 drops and caught one ball for just 9 yards. Granted, his QB wasn't helping him out much. Better ball placement certainly would've helped. However, Dez has shown in the past that he's capable of catching not-so-perfect passes. The thing that bothers me are the fans I saw on social media saying that Dez "has no heart" and "he's giving up". Dez is one of the fiercest competitors in the NFL. He lives and breathes football. I can assure you that Dez has plenty of heart and that he wasn't giving up. This was a highly uncharacteristic game for Dez. He knows he's better than his performance vs the Packers and he'll return to form.
So they'll keep plowing away?
4. Friendly reminder: Matt Cassel is bad at football. I don't know when the last time I saw an NFL QB stare down his WR's so badly. He has to be more aware of the other guys on the field. He also has terrible pocket presence and is bad at sensing pressure, giving up too many avoidable sacks. He's inaccurate with most throws but more-so when throwing deep. On deep throws, it doesn't seem like he even bothers with aiming. He just tosses them up and hopes his guy runs under the ball and catches it. One such play was his deep incomplete pass to Terrance Williams on Sunday. If he threw with some accuracy, that could've been a touchdown. Instead, he overthrew him by about 15 yards. It won't happen, but I wouldn't be at all opposed to seeing Kellen Moore start these final 3 games to see whether or not he's worth keeping around beyond 2015.
3. Darren McFadden had a couple of big runs, which shouldn't be ignored, but he was mediocre on his other attempts. (Back to Fish's point up-top.) Take away those 2 big rushes and McFadden had 7 carries for 16 yards. Even when he did break away, he looked like he was running in slow motion. La'el Collins was running nearly as fast as him. Granted, Collins is an athletic offensive lineman but even the most athletic lineman in the world shouldn't run as fast as your starting running back. McFadden has definitely lost a step.
2. Meanwhile, Robert Turbin was very impressive. He scored the first rushing TD of his career - breaking the longest streak without a rushing TD to start a RB's career in NFL history. I was once again impressed with Turbin's ability to grind out some tough yards after contact. He's always moving forward. When McFadden is hit at/behind the line of scrimmage, that's all he gets most of the time. However, Turbin is usually able to drive forward and pick up a couple of hard-fought yards. Another thing I'd like to see but is unlikely to happen: Give Turbin the bulk of the carries over these last 3 games and let McFadden be the backup.
1. Lucky Whitehead didn't have any big returns but he did a good job of holding onto the ball. Whitehead didn't get much blocking in front of him and without calling for a fair catch he took several big shots but was able to protect the ball. I imagine he gave the coaches some confidence regarding his ball security but he definitely needs to learn when to fair catch.