Mac Engel

Falcons expose Cowboys D, and confirm our Romo-less fears

Our greatest fears were validated on Sunday afternoon at Jerry’s back yard — the Dallas Cowboys are dead without Tony Romo. It is one thing to suspect it, and know it, but it is quite another to actually witness it.

The best-case scenario of the Dallas Cowboys going 4-3 without the injured Antonio Romo now looks like a Keystone Light-fueled fantasy after their 39-28 loss against the Atlanta Falcons.

Never to fear, the fearless leader is not worried.

I asked The Man, Jerry Jones, if he was worried after watching his team roll over and wait to be tickled by Matt Ryan and Julio Jones to its death in the second half on Sunday.

“Worried? No, not at all,” he answered.

As a rule of thumb, being the sole owner of a franchise worth an estimated $4 billion by Forbes should help ease the concern of most people.

“I wish we had all of our players, but that’s dreaming,” he said. “I liked what we did out there today. I think [Brandon Weeden] played within himself; he made a bad decision on his interception. In general, when we look at it I bet he stayed within himself the whole game. He’s probably capable of getting downfield some, too, if they asked him to. In answer to your question, no, I’m not worried.”

Put Jerry in the minority. The Cowboys handed their backup QB a 14-0 lead and they couldn’t hold it.

What started out as a blowout win and a wonderful sign of brilliance to come Sunday turned into a disgusting display of bad defense and an overmatched backup quarterback who is a No. 2 for a reason.

It is but one game in a season where every team routinely can look like a dog, but the signs Sunday were less than encouraging.

Once the Falcons made one small adjustment to their defensive front, an offense that was humming in the first 20 or so minutes looked like a broken-down pickup.

The Cowboys might be able to get by with one, but they won’t win a game with both.

That defense that looked so good in Weeks 1 and 2? Exposed by the Atlanta Falcons with the best wide receiver in the game, and a backup running back you can’t name unless you went to Florida State.

Into the third quarter, the Cowboys were actually containing Julio Jones to the point where he looked like a human being. Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw at Jones 12 times to just four catches and no scores.

After that, however, was a bloody mess. Mr. Julio finished with 12 receptions for 164 yards.

You can live with Julio Jones kicking your butt because he does that to everybody.

But who is Devonta Freeman? Before Sunday’s game, the second year stiff out of Florida State had gained a total of 291 yards in the NFL. Had rookie running back Tevin Coleman not been inactive from the lineup, Freeman would not have seen so many carries.

Against the Cowboys’ new and improved Doomsday Defense, Freeman ran for 141 yards on 30 carries with three touchdowns.

Sunday’s mess is not just on the defense, although it was awful.

After the first two drives, the offense slowly evaporated. Literally. How does a running game that pounded out 131 yards in the first half manage to produce minus-4 yards in the second half? Behind the best offensive line in the history of the NFL?

Start with the quarterback.

The Falcons adjusted to Weeden’s inability to pose as a threat to the outside, and simply packed it in and dared him to beat them. Don’t let his efficient stats fool you — he was not a threat.

I asked Randle if he felt like the Falcons put more people “in the box” to stop the run.

“It felt like they had everybody in the box,” he said.

It felt that way because they did. And that’s the way it’s going to be unless Weeden can beat somebody deep.

Terrance Williams didn’t have a catch, and I have no idea what Devin Street is doing, or if he is still on the team. Gavin Escobar is in his third season, and is the same lost guy he was as a rookie. He should be a matchup nightmare, but instead he’s a migraine for this staff that must keep him on the roster because he was a high draft pick.

All of Weeden’s throws were, predictably, safe and underneath. The only wide receiver Weeden completed a pass to was Cole Beasley, and those were in the slot. Weeden never took a shot, and he didn’t stretch a soul. The wide receivers are getting no separation.

No one on this roster needs Dez Bryant more than Brandon Weeden; there is no one he can just throw it up to and say, “Go get it” the way he could with Dez.

Once the Cowboys fell behind, they didn’t have a chance. Either Weeden is too spooked to make the scary throws, or his staff has no faith in those calls.

As good as this offensive line is, it can’t be expected to block eight or nine guys.

The Falcons are good, but if the Cowboys follow this formula they are dead until Romo returns.

But don’t worry — the owner isn’t worried.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

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