ARLINGTON--Tony Romo has taken the most of the blame this season for the Dallas Cowboys' poor play on offense, and who would blame anyone for doing so after the historic collapse against Detroit--I'm still not over that, never will be. Yet the majority of the blame rests on head coach Jason Garrett's shoulders.
Garrett's inability to play-call effectively in the red-zone is the leading reason why the Cowboys are 2-3 instead of 4-1. The Cowboys are 31st in the NFL in converting drives for touchdowns in the red-zone, with only six scores in 18 trips. The only team worse at doing this is on the menu this week, the 0-5 St. Louis Rams.
Another problem I blame Garrett for is Dez Bryant's second-half disappearing acts. In consecutive games, Bryant has had brilliant first-halves only to be non-existent in the third and fourth quarters. Against the Lions, Bryant had three receptions for 37 yards and two touchdowns, but his last catch of the game came with 10:58 to go in the second quarter. Against the Patriots, Bryant had four receptions for 78 yards in the first half, and again had a catch-less second half. It's evident that opposing defenses are focusing on Bryant more in the second halves of games, but Garrett should be finding ways to get him the ball, but he is obviously not trying. Last week in the 4th quarter with score tied at 13, on 3rd and goal at the five-yard line, with Bryant in single coverage to the left, the Cowboys ran a shovel pass to the right with Tashard Choice. The play lost three yards and they had to settle for a chip-shot field goal. That play call lost the game for the Cowboys.
Now would be a good time to throw DeMarco Murray in your fantasy lineup, says Vittitow.
In this week's match-up, the Cowboys face the worst team in the NFL in the Rams. Quarterback Sam Bradford expects to play even though an ankle injury has kept him out of practice for most of the week. He'll have a new weapon to throw to in Brandon Lloyd, whom was dealt from the Broncos to the Rams at the trade deadline. The Rams are dead-last in the NFL averaging less than ten points per game and having scored only four touchdowns thus far, though Bradford developed a nice rapport with slot receiver Greg Salas last week (eight catches for 77 yards).
The Rams' defense is giving up 27 points-per-game and they are the worst rushing defense in the NFL, ceding 162 yards per game. So, this match-up has come at the right time for a Cowboys offense that has struggled to score touchdowns and run the ball effectively. Starting running back Felix Jones will be out this week nursing a high ankle sprain, so Choice and rookie DeMarco Murray will be splitting carries. Choice will likely start, but Murray will play a key roll in winning this game.
The Cowboys haven't won a game by more than three points since they defeated the Lions by 16 last season, but I believe that streak comes to an end on Sunday. The Cowboys roll, 37-13.
Bold: Murray gains 110 total yards and scores two touchdowns.
Not Bold: Dan Bailey kicks at least three field goals for the fourth game in a row.
-- Hatley Vittitow