Critical State

Big Ugly
Eagles Gag On Cupcake.
Rock Bottomless.

teams. It's one thing to beat those previously winless teams.

Yet, it's more reflective of who you are when you begin playing teams considered to be of your own ilk, like this Sunday's game at Cowboys Stadium against the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are 4-1. They are good, but really not yet great, having lost to New England and nearly losing at home to the Bears who left Atlanta last night with bullet holes all in their hind paws.

The Cowboys have the NFL's No. 2 offense going into the Monday night game and the 22nd defense. The Falcons have the No. 18 offense and 23rd defense. The Cowboys have scored 122 points, the Falcons 123. The Cowboys have given up 98 points, the Falcons 77 - in other words, 19.6 a game to 15.4 a game for the Cowboys, so not all that significantly different.

This my friends is one of those barometer games, where you find out just what you are now and what you might be the rest of the season. Not a game you must win, but one you sure would like to win. Quality wins build confidence, and certainly the Cowboys could stand to win back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 23 and 27 of last year, a nine-game stretch without consecutive wins.

"We need to get an identity for ourselves," Cowboys running back Tashard Choice said. "Put on a push to play a complete game . . . we got to focus on this week and not kill ourselves."

That right there would be a good start - a goal of sorts - to play a complete game, meaning not shoot themselves in the foot as much as they have over the first five games. Because even in victory, the Cowboys have yet to play a complete game, allowing Tampa Bay back in the game at one point, getting shut out the first half by Carolina and, of course, not only allowing Kansas City to get off to a 13-3 lead, but then allowing them to recover at the end to force overtime.

Plus, the Cowboys have to quit all this benevolence stuff. Leave that to Jerry Jones with The Salvation Army. There is no room for charity in actual games. By my count, turnovers in three of the five games have directly led to 34 opposition points, and by directly I mean either a turnover returned for a touchdown, or giving the opponent possession in automatic scoring position.

By no surprise, those 34 points came in the two games the Cowboys lost and the one they won in overtime.

"This is a big game for us, to go in the win column at 4-2 rather than 3-3," Phillips said. "You are kind of spinning your wheels when you're even, so to get two games up on .500, this can be important at the end of the year."

But it's more than that. The result starts revealing just who you are, a team leaching off the bottom feeders, or one capable of holding its own swimming with the blood-thirsty sharks.

And we are about to find out which over this next month with Atlanta, Seattle, Philadelphia and Green Bay all lined up in a row, their combined record 12-9 and winning percentage of .571 right their with the Cowboys' .600.

So if Wade's right and every play indeed is a crisis in this NFL of ours, then the Cowboys now are entering a critical stretch of this season, needing to win more than they lose in these four games if they are going to be for real.

Wonder what they got.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.
Advertising