Mac Engel

The Dallas Cowboys offense is worse than we feared

Neither owner Jerry Jones, nor offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, stopped to chat with the media on Sunday evening, because the only thing either of them could have possibly said would have been, “Scoreboard.”

The scoreboard at Too Big Too Fail Bank Stadium read, “Panthers 16, Cowboys 8.”

Eight points.

How the Cowboys scored eight was the work of the Almighty on His day.

Our greatest fears about the ‘18 Dallas Cowboys played out on a rainy Sunday afternoon as Dak could not throw it, Zeke could not run it, and the offense was at, best, barftacular.

Eight points.

For the rational crowd, it’s only one game after a preseason where the Cowboys deliberately didn’t do a thing to prepare for this day other than intentionally rest their best players. That decision had consequences, beginning on Sunday.

For the rest of us, this offense lacks talent on the outside, and at tight end, and it showed against a Carolina team with a decent defense.

Carolina’s defensive front routinely pushed and abused the “best offensive line in the NFL” on Sunday to the tune of six Dak sacks. Unlike last year, the team can’t blame Chaz Green for half of them.

Poor rookie guard Connor Williams had his butt pushed into Dak so much that it could be named the NFC’s Defensive Player of the Week.

Dak finished with 170 passing yards, and a passer rating of 81.1 For the non-analytics crowd, those numbers stink.

Was it all because the loss of cut kicker Dan Bailey, retired tight end Jason Witten, and current Twitter junkie Dez Bryant?

Bailey’s replacement, Brett Maher, missed his one kick, a 47-yarder in the third quarter that would have made the score 10-3.

“I know my role on this team and that’s to put points on the board and I didn’t do that,” Maher said.

It’s OK, Brett. Neither did anyone else.

Eight points.

Forget Bailey, if you can: Sunday was the eighth time in Dak’s last 11 games he failed to pass for more than 200 yards. Even when he had Dez and Witten, he wasn’t slinging it all over the yard.

The one play Dak had a shot to make something happen deep, he missed. With three minutes remaining in the first half, he evaded the rush and had tight end Blake Jarwin all alone deep down the left side for what would have been a large gain.

Dak short-armed the pass, and it wound up at Jarwin’s feet.

But the Cowboys are a rushing-based team, built on running back and a “newly focused” Zeke Elliott. Against Carolina, and a defense designed to take him away, he ran for 69 yards on 15 carries.

For the non-analytics crowd, those numbers stink.

“We had the (defense) on the field too long,” Zeke said after the game, “we couldn’t get first downs, we couldn’t keep our drives going.”

Even on the NBC’s NFL preview show, analysts Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison took aim at the Cowboys.

“Dallas has always dominated with the offensive line. That’s how they’ve won games,” Dungy said on NBC’s Sunday Night in America. “It’s been hard to stop them and that sets everything up. They don’t have that now.”

Thanks for the good news, Coach.

“They don’t have a No. 1 receiver, they struggle running the ball, and that’s what they’re supposed to do best,” Harrison said.

The interior combination of new center Joe Looney and Williams was routinely exploited by the Panthers. Don’t let tackles La’el Collins and Tyron Smith slide out the back door without a, “The teacher wants to see you, too” memo. Neither of those guys had good days.

No one on the offense has a good day when you score eight points.

The offense didn’t cross midfield until after halftime, and didn’t start to actually move the ball until Carolina went up 16-0 early in the fourth quarter.

Then the Panthers softened up and allowed the Cowboys to convert some shorter plays, all underneath.

The Cowboys had their chances for a game-tying touchdown, but they never did so much as reach the Panthers’ 20-yard line in their final two possessions.

“It’s just timing right now,” receiver Tavon Austin said after the game. “The second half was a whole, completely different ballgame. We opened it up more. We’re definitely about to get better.”

Now, for some much needed levity: To open the 2014 season, coach Jason Garrett adamantly tried to calm everyone that his team looked much better than the 28-17 final score against the San Francisco 49ers would indicate.

His quarterback, Tony Romo, had terrible game and his running back, DeMarco Murray, was a fumbling machine. In the end, Garrett was right as the Cowboys went on to finish 12-4 and reached the second round of the NFC playoffs.

Sunday was just one game, but it was an awful start because it is everything we all feared about the team: The offense doesn’t have enough talent to be as good as the team needs to reach the second round of the playoffs and beyond.

That’s the natural conclusion when your team scores eight points.

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