Sunday, December 23, 2007
A win is a win is a win, right? When you have 13 wins in an NFL season, they will certainly not all be painted by Picasso, and this one certainly was not. But, after a 20-13 win over the Carolina Panthers took the Cowboys to 13-2, you quite simply hop back on the plane and enjoy your Merry Christmas with the second best record in professional football.
One stat about Tony Romo that doesn't get enough play if you ask me is the fact that this guy never loses on the road. Or at least when he does, it is the flukiest of situations (at Washington 2006 and at Seattle 2006 playoffs). Think about it, those 2 endings are the only times in his career he has lost a road start. In 13 games! He is 7-0 in 2007, and 4-1 in 2006's regular schedule. The guy has somehow managed to avoid what no QB has ever been able to avoid; the "it's just not his day" road blowout. Those happen to everyone - especially those guys who have had careers this brief. And, if he can take his career regular season road record to 12-1 next Sunday, then he will not play another road game until September of 2008. A nice little truism of the NFL - win on the road, and then you don't have to play on the road in the playoffs.
Surely, the most disconcerting element of last night was the injury to Terrell Owens. I have said a number of times in this campaign that the difference between a team like Dallas and a team like the Green Bay Packers is simply this; You have Owens, and they don't. Otherwise, the teams might be too close to call. If you take that "difference maker" away, then it becomes difficult to project a winner in the NFC playoffs. The good news, of course, is that the playoff opener sits at least 20 days away (and 28 days from a potential rematch with the Packers). So, barring a catostrophic diagnosis that almost nobody anticipates (from their quotes, at least) he should be back on the field by then. I think we have seen how fast he heals. So, with these little tidbits in mind, let's get to the random observations from the win in Charlotte:
* Marion Barber is a joy to watch. He is in some ways the DeMarcus Ware of the offense. Not a quote machine, not a guy that the networks will focus on as they force in another Jessica Simpson thought, but just the heart of his unit. The offense is not nearly as potent with Julius Jones in there. I do find it comical when my buddy Mickey Spagnola still argues with me about Jones being the proper choice as the starter and then cites all of this data that supposedly backs up his case. I just think that if you don't have a horse in this race and let your eyes guide you, it is a shocking difference between the two. Jones seems to seldom-if-ever break tackles, and then we must wonder if his offensive line let him down when he fell for a loss. Then Barber, who seems to make something out of nothing as well as any RB since Emmitt, breaks another tackle and twists for an extra few yards. I understand the whole premise of not fixing something that isn't broken, but you wouldn't think of leaving Greg Ellis on the sideline because the team was 3-0 with Anthony Spencer starting and therefore "wasn't broke", right? This is a different team with Barber getting the ball, and while I am not comfortable saying that he has 360 carries in him next year, I am demanding that he gets 80-90% of all meaningful playoff carries.
* You certainly hate to give too much praise to the Cowboys defense considering that they will seldom play against a more docile offense than what Carolina rolls out there these days, but twice in that 2nd half the Panthers had the ball inside the Cowboys 10 and twice had to settle for 3. If they punch it in both times, they likely win, and this was the point in each drive where Dallas found its pass rush. One way of playing redzone defense is sacking the QB, and Ware, Ratliff, Ellis, and even Tank Johnson performed those honors. And yes, Tank gets to keep his sack even though he hit Matt Moore high.
* No offense to the Carolina Panthers, but who are these guys? Dante Rosario? Should I be familiar? Incidentally, if you think the Cowboys have a maddening situation at RB, how about the Panthers? DeShaun Foster has nearly twice the carries of DeAngelo Williams? I think John Fox may have to break that down for me.
* Drew Rosenhaus may be a great agent, but just his appearing on my screen is annoying. It may not be fair, but I think I have him slotted. It seems like the same situation of the high-profile wife of some of these players (David Beckham anyone?) where if you want him, you get his wife. If you want Terrell Owens, you better be ready for a huge dose of Rosenhaus.
* Terence Newman has had quite a long year. He and his wheels didn't look right early in the year, then he looked right for a while, now after his injury last night, he didn't look right when he returned.
* Tony Romo got away with a few poor decisions last night. Kind of amazing given the fact that he could have eaten a ham sandwich in the pocket as there was almost no pressure on him. Julius Peppers might have made things slightly more interesting if he had played, but his year has been a huge disappointment in Carolina anyway. Speaking of Romo, his 18th interception of the season last night places him in sole possession of 1st place in the INT race for 2007 for a few hours, with Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, and Jon Kitna all at 17, he should be caught sometime today. But, those three could not dream of catching Romo's 36 Touchdowns. As I have often said of Brett Favre, it isn't the total number of INT's, it is the TD/INT ratio. As long as Romo is around 2 TDs for every INT, he can throw as many picks as he wants. He more than makes up for it.
* Roy Williams was missed, I think.
* Matt Moore looked like a young QB should look. Erratic throws, confusion, and a few flashes of promise. Steve Smith must be going crazy this year with the inability of the Panthers to get him the rock. He is so dangerous. And pound for pound, he may be every bit the game changer Owens is.
* By the way, that Steve Smith ruling on the Hamlin hit, where the refs concluded and replay confirmed a non-catch, still confuses me. It sure looked like a clear catch to me. That and the Reeves apparent pass interference that wasn't called continue to mount evidence that it may in fact be the Cowboys year.
* How quickly injuries change everything in the NFL. Willie Parker on Thursday likely removed Pittsburgh from any chance at a deep run in the AFC, as who knows what Owens might do to the NFC. This is why no one exhales until the end of the Super Bowl in this league. Your next nightmare may be one snap away.
* If you are a Cowboys fan, today is a great day to become a Chicago Bears fan. It is supposed to be horribly cold and windy in Chicago today, and a Green Bay win is certainly not a sure thing against those Bears in any weather. You wouldn't to depend on winning in Washington next week without Owens if you can avoid it. Next week will be a great chance to see more from Witten, Crayton, and Hurd. Terry Glenn, anyone?
We (Bob and Dan) are back Thursday at 5:30 am, and back 12-3 starting on Friday. Merry Christmas.