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Auping: Second Half Deficits Have Defined Cowboys’ Season

Posted Dec 3, 2012

The Dallas Cowboys just finished playing three consecutive games against teams that were starting a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back. All of them were played at home. One might think these are the types of games that a veteran team with a strong offense could jump out to an early lead and discourage its young opponents. This was not the case.

The Cleveland Browns struck first on the Cowboys and held a 13-0 lead at halftime over the Cowboys.

The Washington Redskins held a 28-3 lead over the Cowboys at the break, which Dallas could not recover from.

The Eagles scored the first touchdown of the game on Sunday and led 17-10 after two quarters.

Falling into early deficits has been an issue that extends far beyond the last three contests. The Cowboys have trailed in the first half of every single game that they have played in. The story has been the same in most losses: The offense is shaky to start the game, they put the defense in tough situations early and then, facing a large deficit at halftime, they mount a comeback that just falls short.

Against teams like Philadelphia, Carolina and Cleveland, the Cowboys fell into a hole early but was able to execute enough plays in the second half to recover and win. However, all three of those teams have losing records. The Cowboys’ comeback attempts were not quite as successful against Washington, New York or Baltimore.

The Cowboys’ ability to rally late is impressive in its own right. You always want a team that plays better as the game goes along, but they have come into the majority of their outings this season like they just weren’t ready to play.

Their second half performances in a few of these defeats are just proof that they are a club that can at least compete with the opponents that they are losing to. In their loss to the Ravens, they outscored them 19-14 in the second half. In their loss to the Giants, they outscored them 14-6 in the second half. They outscored the Redskins 28-10 in the second half and still lost the game.

If the Cowboys could have just gone into most of their games tied or within six points, they would have one of the league’s best records. But good teams play good football for four quarters.

The question is why do the Cowboys get off to such slow starts?

Without DeMarco Murray in the lineup it seemed like the offense was too insistent on rushing the ball early despite not having the personnel to run successfully, and once Tony Romo was forced to air it out, the team started to move the ball. But last Sunday marked Murray’s return and his first two carries of the game accounted for 22 quick yards. It finally seemed like the Cowboys’ offense would have some balance. 

After Sunday night’s game, Romo claimed that sometimes he doesn’t know what defenses are playing early in the game and he usually figures it out as the game goes on, and that’s when he starts heating up.

That’s a least a somewhat logical explanation, but then why are rookie quarterbacks like Brandon Weeden and Robert Griffin III able to so quickly figure out the Cowboys’ defense, which is orchestrated by the supposedly unpredictable Rob Ryan?

This Cowboys’ season has been defined by trying to climb back from deficits, both on the scoreboard and in the win column. Dallas has four games remaining against Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Washington. It’s honestly not crazy to say that if they play like they have typically played in the second half of games for all four quarters then they will win all four of them. But it might be crazy to suggest that they will do that.

The second half comeback to beat the Eagles was a nice win to put them at .500. But if you will be looking toward this Sunday’s game against the Bengals to see if the Cowboys have turned some sort of corner, then just look to see if they can get off to a hot start. If not, then you might as well call them the “same old Cowboys.”

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