Why have the Dallas Cowboys struggled to be better than mediocre? Why has this team gone 8-8 in back to back seasons?
Perhaps we will have even more answers later this year, as the Cowboys look very much like an 8-8 team thus far. Most good teams at some point build some momentum. Perhaps the momentum comes from a big win over a rival. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a come-from-behind win. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a blowout win.
The Cowboys got one of those three in the season opener last Sunday. Of course, saying the team has momentum suggests that the momentum carries over to the next game.
Dallas managed to pull out a big win last year at New York, only to fall flat at Seattle.
This year—like most years—was supposed to be different. The Cowboys took what momentum they had from the Giants game and took a 13-7 lead at Kansas City.
Of course, it might have been a bigger lead. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the Kansas City 9 early in the third quarter, the Cowboys lined up in a bunch formation while lining up Dez Bryant to the left. He had one man covering him. Most 11-year-olds who don’t even watch football were yelling at Tony Romo to get the ball to Bryant.
Romo instead threw a bubble screen to Terrance Williams, who lost three yards on what was called a lateral. Dallas settled for a field goal to go up 13-7.
The defense had been tough up to that point but could not slow down the Chiefs offense on their next possession. Kansas City scored with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, and the Cowboys did not lead again.
On the next drive, Lance Dunbar fumbled near midfield. The Chiefs scored another field goal on their ensuing drive to increase their lead to 17-13.
The Cowboys spent the fourth quarter trying to come back. On the first drive of that quarter, Romo fumbled after being hit on a throw.
For the final 9:12 of the game, while the Cowboys were trailing, Romo only completed four passes. On back-to-back drives, the Cowboys faced 3rd-and-10 situations while needing a touchdown to take the lead. On both plays, Romo tried to hit Jason Witten on short passes that would come nowhere close to picking up first downs.
Dallas managed to cut the lead to 17-16 thanks to a 53-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 3:50 remaining.
The Cowboys defense needed a big stop but instead gave up some big runs by Jamaal Charles. By the time Romo got the ball back, the Cowboys had the ball on their own 4 with 16 seconds left.
Bryant looked unstoppable in the first quarter, catching 5 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
He was not great for the final three quarters. He was called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter, negating a 22-yard reception. He was active early in the third quarter, but he largely disappeared after that.
One of the worst plays of the game came with less than nine minutes left. Romo found Bryant on a long pass down the right side of the field. However, Bryant let the ball go through his hands on what would have been a long gain into Kansas City territory. Instead, the Cowboys punted two plays later.
Romo did not help matters. His passes were sailing on him for much of the second half. He was lucky the Chiefs did not intercept him in the fourth quarter—though, of course, it did not end up mattering.
As a team, the Cowboys ran the ball 16 times for 37 yards. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith ran the ball 8 times for 57 yards. And yes, he ran the ball better than DeMarco Murray.
The defense was not horrible, but the team could not stop Chiefs when it mattered the most. Perhaps the most disappointing play occurred with 2:32 remaining. The Chiefs faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Kansas City 44. Smith attempted a pass to Donnie Avery, and the referees called pass interference on Morris Claiborne. The Chiefs were able to run more time off the clock thanks to the play.
The Cowboys host the Rams next Sunday.