Dallas Cowboys enter bye disappointed, but hopeful

Posted Sunday, Oct. 07, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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To a man the Dallas Cowboys are saying the right things about their 2-2 mark through four games.

While they are disappointed, they remain positive because the bulk of the season remains and they believe their problems are fixable.

They still have time to reach their goals of making the playoffs and having a long run in the postseason.

"Yeah. I think that's the case. Ultimately, I think we've got the right guys to get it done at a high level, to compete for a championship in all phases," tight end Jason Witten said. "Speaking specifically for the offense, it comes down to a couple of plays. A couple of plays change the game. Turnovers, it's hard to overcome that. But we're not going to quit.... We'll get it turned around."

The Cowboys' season could be determined over the next five weeks after the bye when they play four road games.

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware said the Cowboys are about to find out whether they have what it takes to make a championship run.

"These games are going to really show the character of our team," Ware said. "You've got a big stretch of games coming to find out if you really want it or not. Are you going to weather the storm through this stuff that's about to brew up in these games that are coming up? We will see."

Return of the Rat pack

The Cowboys are ranked sixth in the league in defense despite playing the first four games without Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff (sprained ankle). His return after the bye should be a boost, as it gives the Cowboys a physical presence up front to go along with linebacker DeMarcus Ware. The return of linebacker Anthony Spencer, who missed the loss to the Bears with a pectoral injury, and defensive end Kenyon Coleman, out the past two games with a knee injury, are also welcome.

A healthy Jason Witten

The Cowboys will have Jason Witten to rely on again -- the Witten that made seven Pro Bowls, not the Witten who had been injured and dropped six passes the first two games. Witten's 13-catch, 112-yard performance with a TD was one of the few bright spots to come out of the 34-18 loss to the Bears. It showed that he is finally healthy and back to normal, and thus will give Tony Romo a reliable mid-range threat to lean on again.

Wacky, tacky league

As disappointed as the Cowboys are to be 2-2, their record is tempered by the fact that a number of teams are stuck at .500. Nine teams are 2-2, including fellow NFC East members New York and Washington. The Eagles are just one game up on the pack with a 3-1 record, so all is not lost with the Cowboys if they can get on a roll.

Daunting schedule

The Cowboys' hopes of turning around the season center on their ability to navigate arguably the toughest stretch of the season. Four of the next five games are on the road, including games at the first-place Ravens, the undefeated Falcons and the first-place Eagles. They also have a home game against the defending Super Bowl champion Giants, who have never lost at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys need to go at least 3-2, if not 4-1, during the stretch to make sure they have something to play for later.

Falling down line

The struggles of the offensive line have been fingered as the biggest reason for the Cowboys' failures on offense. Quarterback Tony Romo gets hit too much, which has affected his play. And there are no holes being opened and too much penetration in the running game, as DeMarco Murray has been dropped for losses 11 times the past two games. Coach Jason Garrett said there will be no personnel changes up front, so the Cowboys will have to try to improve with the same group.

Offensive futility

The Cowboys' offense has been an abomination. It is ranked 31st in scoring. It is ranked 29th in rushing. The Cowboys have gone three straight games without scoring at least 20 points for the first time since Jason Garrett has been coach. Tony Romo is coming off three straight games with passer ratings of 75.0 or below for the first time in his career.

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