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Eatman: Hard To Argue With These Growing Perceptions

Posted Dec 10, 2013


CHICAGO – For the last few years, we’ve heard Jason Garrett talk about good teams that find a way to overcome adversity. That it doesn’t matter if you play on the road, at home in the parking lot or the moon, the best teams find a way to win.

He never said anything about the North Pole. And that’s where the Cowboys played Monday night, although it was disguised as Soldier Field. The Cowboys played the coldest regular-season game in franchise history and plain and simple … they weren’t up to the challenge. 

Perception isn’t always reality. But it was Monday night.

The perception of this team is that it’s not good in December. It’s not tough enough when it matters most. When it gets really cold like this, the team can’t handle it. That when the chips are really, really down, this team will falter.

In the last two years, it’s been a reality in the final game, of course. And the Cowboys definitely looked like that team against the Bears here at Soldier Field.

The national pundits love to say all of those things about the Cowboys. And it’s games like this one Monday night that keeps adding fuel to the fire. The Bears have issues of their own but you wouldn’t have ever guessed they were a struggling, average team fighting to keep their heads above water. The Cowboys have a way of bringing the best out in teams and they did so Monday as the Bears dismantled the Cowboys, 45-28 to drop them to 7-6 and into second place in the NFC East behind the Eagles (8-5).

Every team has injuries, so throw that out the window. The Bears play with a complete journeyman quarterback. Guys like Landon Cohen play considerable snaps on a defense decimated by injuries, too. But yet they find a way to save their season with a huge win.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, simply rolled over.

I know it was cold – as the temperature at kickoff was 8 degrees with a wind chill of -9. At the end of the game, it was 5 degrees. But the Cowboys played like a team that just couldn’t handle it.

You don’t want to think a team isn’t tough enough. But it’s a claim that continues to get tossed around. And if the Cowboys don’t like it they can change it. But injury after injury after injury just keeps killing this team and its effectiveness.

I’ve never seen a team as “hamstrung” as this one. Seriously, who’s hamstring isn’t hurting on this team? Bruce Carter and Dwayne Harris both left the game with hamstring issues. This is a major, major problem that has to be addressed, maybe even sooner than later.

I think Sean Lee is one of the best linebackers in the NFL, when healthy. But he just can’t stay healthy. And he knows it. The Cowboys know it. Here is why this talented player who was the 16th player on the Cowboys’ draft board in 2010 was sitting there late in the second round. He wasn’t healthy in college and he hasn’t been here. And that’s extremely frustrating because as hard as he works and has smart as he is to play the position, you’d love to see him play a full season. If he ever did, his season would end in Hawaii. But he just can’t shed the injury-bug and now we’ll find out if this latest neck injury will keep him out any longer.

But really, enough about injuries. The guys who did play on Monday night weren’t good enough.

Brandon Carr gave up the second-most receiving yards to a receiver in NFL history a few weeks ago in Detroit, and that won’t be his worst game of the season. He missed too many tackles and didn’t get off blocks. He obviously didn’t win any battles in the jump-ball area. Neither did Orlando Scandrick, who not only admitted he didn’t know Bears quarterback Josh McCown’s name, but said the team didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. I thought 10 days after Thanksgiving was like a mini bye week.

We knew Carr and Scandrick would have issues with the Bears’ “power forwards” as Monte Kiffin called them last week. And man did they ever have issues.

But really, who played well on defense? No one. They didn’t stop the Bears from scoring one time. Not a single punt. In a game that was played with these frigid temperatures, the Bears made it look like a 7-on-7 tournament with McCown going for 348 yards and four touchdowns with no picks.

I mean, we’ve seen Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Peyton Manning light up this defense. But now that McCown had a field day, it’s not just the elite guys having fun. I mean, we’ve been monitoring the Packers’ situation the last few weeks because Green Bay seems like a much different team without Aaron Rodgers. And with the Packers coming into town this week and Rodgers uncertain to return because of a collarbone injury, it will be a huge factor in next Sunday’s game.

Or will it? Will Matt Flynn have a career day against this Cowboys’ defense that can’t get any pass rush? They can’t make plays on the ball in the secondary. They can’t stay healthy at linebacker, with both Lee and Carter banged up.

Whatever they do against the Packers, the Cowboys have to find ways to give the offense more help.

Against the Bears, the offense wasn’t really the problem. No, they couldn’t keep pace and that’s always an issue.

But if you would’ve told me before this game the Cowboys would do the following:

  • Score 28 points
  • Rush for 198 yards with a 7.1 yard average
  • DeMarco Murray would go 18 for 146 yards
  • Tony Romo would have 3 TDs, no picks and a 109.2 QB rating
  • The Cowboys would not turn the ball over
  • The offense would convert 50 percent on third downs (5 of 10)

If I knew all of those things, there’s no way I would’ve ever thought the Cowboys would’ve been blown out of this game. In fact, the way they marched the ball down the field to start the game and score like that, I had this thought it might be a blowout the other way.

Wow, what a turnaround.

I just don’t get how the Cowboys can win two games without Sean Lee and shut down the Raiders’ running game like they did and then get Lee back and have 10 days to prepare for the Bears and get shellacked like that.

But then again, it’s the Cowboys. We’re starting to understand that we don’t understand them at all.

Everyone wants them to be more consistent. But trust me, they’re the most consistent team in the NFL. Consistently, they’re going to hover around the .500 mark of averageness.

It’s the root of these perceptions that hang over the Cowboys’ head. And it’s ugly games like Monday that are turning them into reality.

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