Here are some more thoughts and observations following another frustrating loss in the desert.
* When you get a kicker in this league, the last thing you are worried about is his ability to hit a FG from 53 yards. It is a very nice trick to have, but it is not the most important characteristic to find. In my estimation, the most important characteristic that you need to find is consistency. Can you assume that anything inside 40 yards is automatic? Can you take for granted extra point attempts? At 4-7 from 30-39 yards, there is nobody who is less consistent amongst NFL kickers than David Buehler. As a kicker who has now missed 2 extra points this season, he is the only kicker in the NFL who has that distinction. So, 5 times this season, Buehler has missed from inside 40 yards. How does that measure up with the best kickers in the league? Well, Neil Rackers has missed 0 kicks inside 40 yards this season. Rob Bironas has missed 1. Phil Dawson has missed 0. Adam Vinatieri has missed 1. Kickers must be automatic inside 40 yards. They cannot give you indigestion even if the kick is from 31 yards. So, I admire Buehler's ability to nail kicks beyond 50 yards and his touchbacks. But, like a QB who can throw the ball 70 yards but cannot hit a 5 yard crossing route, I cannot go to war with a consistently inconsistent kicker. And that is what Dallas has had all season. Hard to believe he won the job virtually unopposed this season.
* At some point you almost feel sorry for Marion Barber. It is easy as fans for us to declare that a guy's career is in decline. But, as a player, you only have one career, and you are attempting to keep it alive as long as you can. We can just say "go get the next guy", but he is barely 27 years old and he did not think his career would be in doubt already. And it isn't. I suspect he will find a home next year. But, I guess I will need it explained to me why he came back from injury with 2 games to go and instantly reclaimed his spot in the depth chart where Tashard Choice had been performing rather well. And then, after a few impressive moments, he loses his emotional leash and costs the team a 15-yard penalty with an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. It was almost enough to cancel out the good. I just wish the veterans on this team had just a bit more composure when they needed it.
* No player looks less like he did in 2009 than Marc Colombo. Pre injury, he was as solid as a rock last year. But, they have either got to get him right in the offseason or they have to replace him. Once again, against quick players on that right side, Colombo struggled mightily on Saturday. In fact, the Cardinals fed him a pretty strong diet of Darnell Dockett, who is not a huge sack guy, but one of the better interior linemen in the league. He was kicked out to the edge to face Colombo and doubled his sack total for 2010 to 4 sacks, after having just 2 the entire season. Colombo on an island is just not capable to play out there without help and it is becoming a problem that is not improving. There are times when you can hide a guard who is having major issues, but you cannot hide a tackle. And I find it extremely odd that we thought it would be Doug Free who would need hiding this year.
* Am I the only person who is amazed that the Arizona Cardinals have a metal ring around the floor of their stadium which instantly makes any player fall like they are Bambi on ice? Isn't something about building a facility that we assume is a given is the attempt to minimize bodily harm? Marion Barber twice had his feet fly out from underneath him and I have to think it is rather possible that his body suffered as much there as it did in any portion of the game. That seems like extremely poor design to have a metal ring that cannot be covered while these players fly around the playing surface.
* I know this has been a disappointing season, but the 2 or 3 guys who email me about DeMarcus Ware have got to stop . The premise of their emails appear to be that Ware doesn't get big sacks for this team. It seems like the Alex Rodriguez argument when he played in Texas that he put up huge numbers, but none of them mattered. I find this argument silly when it comes to Ware, who I think has a few faults, but is as close a complete player on this defense that the Cowboys have had in a generation. So, are all of his sacks at unimportant times? Let's see: Ware has 12.5 sacks this season. That ties him for 2nd in the NFL, behind Cameron Wake's 14. He is tied with Clay Matthews and Jason Babin in 2nd place. Now, the splits. Ware has 5 sacks when the Cowboys are losing. 2 when they are tied, and 5.5 when the Cowboys are leading. He has 3 sacks in the 1st Quarter, 4 in the 2nd Quarter, 2 in the 3rd Quarter, and 3.5 in the 4th quarter. He has 6.5 sacks at home, and 6 on the road. And his sack on Saturday night was on the games final drive where he was trying to put the game away and forced the Cardinals to convert a 4th and 15. So, stop the nonsense. His sacks are in every situation and at every portion of the game. Ware is not the problem here.
* And speaking of 4th and 15, that one really smarts. I need to speak to some people on the staff before I give a full breakdown of this play, but my first reaction was that Larry Fitzgerald is a pretty good receiver which you might want to cover. Then, my second reaction was that Keith Brooking is about the last guy from my Linebacker group that I want in pass coverage on a 1-play scenario with a win on the line. Brooking was the first guy on the scene when Fitzgerald caught the ball and without knowing the availability of my nickel package, both of those items and then the complete and total lack of a pass rush doomed the Cowboys, and at that point you knew things were not looking good to get the win. It seemed to be a matter of time after that conversion.
* Bryan McCann appears to be a risk vs reward guy. We have marveled at his big plays from a month back, and I absolutely love his electric burst. But, doesn't he look like he holds the ball without a whole lot of security? His ability is awesome, but I do wonder about all of the near-disaster plays that we have seen recently (and the fumble that was charged to him in Green Bay and returned for a Touchdown). I love his game, I would just prefer that he puts that ball away a little better.
* Tomorrow, I want to break down Stephen McGee's play on video. But, a few thoughts on his pro debut. I think the Cowboys have to be delighted by a few things from his game. He does appear to be rather composed and prepared for a guy who had never stepped on the field before. He was willing to stand in and take a massive hit to make a play. He certainly showed us when he was at Texas A&M that he is tremendously tough and courageous. And, he appears to have strong leadership ability. Again, it was only 1 half of football, and we should all remember the unmitigated disaster that Tony Romo's 1st half of football looked like, but, if we can read meaning into that, we should be encouraged. His ability to march the team down the field with the game on the line was quite an accomplishment in a player's debut. Well done.
One more week and one more game. And then, 2010 can be put out of its misery. I find no need to point out what happened the last time the Cowboys finished a season in Philadelphia. But, let's just say an improvement shouldn't be too difficult.