Behind Enemy Lines: Cowboys Edition

Dallas writer Mark Lane delves into the world of his Cowboys, from Tony Romo to DeMarco Murray to the team's playoff odds.

1. Where did Tony Romo go wrong on Thanksgiving?

Romo went wrong on Thanksgiving by being a broke-back warrior who needed a back surgery for each of the past two off-seasons. We hear about how the Cowboys weren't well-rested coming into Thanksgiving. Even at the concession that the Eagles weren't either, the fact remains that the 34-year-old quarterback needed more time to repair. In Dallas-Fort Worth, we have what's called "Romo Wednesdays." It's where Romo takes the first day of practice off. Is he sitting at home with Candice and the boys playing a Parker Brothers board game? No, he's still at Valley Ranch strengthening his core with specific workouts. He didn't get a chance for any of that prior to Thanksgiving, not even a chance to rest. Before the game, he didn't even take a Toradol shot, and it showed. He looked as gimpy as he did on Opening Day. So goes Romo, so goes America's Team.

2. Is DeMarco Murray's tremendous year a product of the revamped offensive line? How much credit goes to each?

The credit certainly goes to the offensive line in that they are opening holes that allow Murray to get to the second level. The credit also goes to Murray because he has the vision to see the holes and get to the second level. Murray has had the best season of his entire NFL career, partly because he has played in every game and missed not one due to injury. Even in Murray's rookie season, the Cowboys had a winning record if Murray had 20 carries or exceeded 100 yards or was able to score a rushing touchdown. Well, with the offensive line enabling all of those variables to occur virtually every game, it's what propelled Dallas to a 6-1 start and a 9-4 position.

3. After watching Dez Bryant and Jason Witten blow a gasket on the sidelines on Thanksgiving, how combustible is this team when pushed hard enough?

Dez was blowing up on the sideline in Chicago up 21 points when the team settled for a field goal. Dez blowing up is different than, say, shared Cowboys/Eagles receiver Terrell Owens blowing up. Dez loves the Dallas Cowboys as much as the fans do. He's the first one to celebrate with another player who scores a touchdown. Dez wasn't mad in Chicago that Romo looked elsewhere on that third down that culminated in a settled field goal. He was upset the offense failed to convert. Even if the converting play would have been a hook-and-ladder to fullback Tyler Clutts, Dez would have been elated. Dez and Witten want to win, and they knew the team wasn't playing as itself on Thanksgiving. They knew they could do better.

4. Where is Dallas' defense at its absolute weakest?

The Cowboys defense is weak at generating a pass rush. Check it out: Connor Barwin, Vinny Curry, Trent Cole, and Brandon Graham would lead the Cowboys in sacks if they played for Dallas. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is all about sending those "rush men" up field to harass the passer and hogtie him if at all possible. When that doesn't happen and reasonably effective quarterbacks are allowed time to play Words with Friends before pass attempts, it makes for a long day for the defense. Part of the reason why running the ball and the offensive line's production is so critical for the Cowboys on offense is it helps hide this weakness of the Cowboys defense.

5. If the Eagles win Sunday night, what are the prospects of Dallas still making the playoffs?

On Dec. 19, 2010, two 9-4 NFC East teams met in MetLife Stadium with one already having a win over the other. These teams were the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. DeSean Jackson's incredible punt return touchdown as time expired propelled the Eagles to 10-4 with a sweep of the Giants, who went 1-1 down the stretch to finish 10-6. On Thursday night, the Cardinals improved to 11 wins while Seattle and Detroit are also 9-4. A loss Sunday night effectively ends Dallas' playoff chances. Detroit isn't going to go 1-2 or 0-3 down the stretch despite being 1-9 in their last 10 December games. Seattle will more than likely go 2-1. To make the playoffs, because Seattle and Detroit are still that good, Dallas needs to win out.

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