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Cowboys’ offense played poorly and will need Romo for playoffs

Giants’ defense confused Prescott and shut down Elliott, but the Dallas defense played well

I am frustrated with the oversimplification of football analysis. As a cornerback, I am familiar with being blamed by media and fans for a deep pass caught on my side despite not being responsible for the deep zone. So this season, I will be watching the coaches’ video and analyzing the impact of all 22 players on the field and the coaches’ game plan.

On Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys lost for the second time this season. And, as expected with “America’s Team,” the reactions from fans and analysts are all over the map. But none of their opinions matter to us. Let’s see what the coaches’ film shows us.

Good showing by the Cowboys’ defense

Is it possible that the Cowboys should feel better about their team today than they did before losing to the New York Giants on Sunday? As counterintuitive as that may seem, it is not crazy. So far this season, all of the credit for the Cowboys’ success has gone to their offense. We’ve seen their offensive line dominate opposing defenses. And we’ve marveled at the poise, intelligence and playmaking ability of rookie sensations Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. But so far this season, the Dallas defense has been almost as bad as the offense was good. Before Sunday’s game, the Cowboys ranked among the worst in several important defensive categories, such as yards per play, third-down conversion percentage and turnovers per drive.

But that wasn’t the case on Sunday. Of all of the NFL defenses that played that day, the Cowboys ranked near the top of the categories mentioned above. And they were second in points per drive, allowing a stingy 0.47. The raw stats are impressive, but they’re more impressive when you consider how little support they received from their offense. Going into this game, the Cowboys offense led the league in down-set conversion rate with 77.1 percent. That stat may not seem important. But it means that the Cowboys are keeping drives moving, which is a huge benefit for the defense. Those extended drives give the Cowboys’ defense the advantage of field position, time of possession and a lead on the scoreboard.

Against the Giants on Sunday, the offense’s down-set conversion rate was 50 percent, its worst showing of the season. So the defense didn’t have the advantages it’s accustomed to, but had its best showing of the season against a very talented offense. Maybe the Cowboys should be encouraged. If this disappointing offensive effort was an anomaly, and they can build on their powerful defensive performance, they will be unbeatable.

Romo Island

But, if they really want to take this team to the next level, the Cowboys should go back to Tony Romo. This is not an overreaction to one bad game from Prescott. I have been advocating for Antonio Ramiro Romo for months. I got receipts:

Check the date. I have long been a resident of Romo Island. To be clear, I am a Prescott fan, but I believe his limitations can cost the Cowboys in the playoffs. In this game, the Giants confused the Cowboys’ protections with zone blitzes, and dropped defensive linemen into the passing lanes of Prescott’s hot receivers. The blitzes weren’t particularly well-disguised. If Prescott were to ignore the pre-snap alignments of the D-line and linebackers and focus on the alignment of the secondary players, it would have been clear where the blitz was coming from. Especially as the game progressed, the cornerbacks and safeties were lining up steps behind the blitzers so they could pick up the vacated coverage responsibility. I could be wrong, but I believe that Romo, a 14-year NFL veteran quarterback, has seen every blitz that NFL defenses have to offer. In fairness to Prescott, the running game will suffer without him. On a couple of occasions during this game, I saw defenders step toward Prescott, respecting his ability to run the zone read, only to see the NFL’s leading rusher, Elliott, carry the ball into their secondary.

Prescott will be the starter again this week against the hot Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But if he has another bad showing, I would be surprised if Romo doesn’t start to get at least a few snaps.

Domonique Foxworth is a senior writer at Andscape. He is a recovering pro athlete and superficial intellectual.