How the Cowboys need to improve to contend

Last night’s win was a perfect example of why teams play 60 minutes to decide the outcome. Going into the 4th qtr, the score was 21-19, and the Cowboys had played 45 minutes of inconsistent football. The bottom fell out for the colts in the 4th with the turnovers.

But a win is a win, and the Cowboys certainly took advantage of the opportunities they had. Kudos to the Cowboys for having the killer instinct late.

As I look at the Cowboys with 5 regular season games left, here are the things I believe this team needs to show some improvement to go into the playoffs strong:

  • Starting games with better offensive execution. This team has a bad habit of starting games poorly on offense. Against the colts, we started with a 3 and out. Two weeks ago against the giants, our first two possessions were punt, turnover. Against GB, we started with a punt on first two possessions. Viking game was the exception. In the playoffs, coming out flat offensively can be deadly as we learned last yr vs niners.
  • Stopping the run. We’ve been vulnerable against the run all this year as well as last year. Our pass rush is top shelf but teams that can run the ball against us are still a problem. It has improved somewhat the last two weeks, but that has been against the giants and colts, not the eagles or niners. I’m still not convinced we have it figured out yet.
  • Reducing penalties. As we saw last year in our lone playoff game, sloppy play kills you in the playoffs. Through 12 games, we are currently the second most penalized team in the NFL behind the 3-9 broncos, with 86 penalties, averaging over 7 penalties per game. Compare that to KC who has 52 penalties through 12 games. We were better against the colts but we still are committing stupid penalties right and left.
  • Having a chip on their shoulders. I wish this team had a bigger chip- a killer instinct that says, “We’re going to smash you in the mouth for 60 minutes.” This team still sleep walks at times and to me too often take whole possessions off on both sides of the ball. If you want to win in the playoffs, you have to want it more than your opponent.

I’m not knocking the Cowboys for being 9-3. They have proven to be better than I thought they were after that colossal egg we laid on opening night. But as we saw last January, the playoffs require a different gear. And if we want to change the story of the last 27 years, these guys need to get even tougher and more committed. And they can- hopefully they will.

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