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Eatman: First-Half Nap Dooms Cowboys Again


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – And here we are again.

You can say it's been three straight games now, but it's really six if you're scoring at home.

Six straight games the Cowboys have come out and been outplayed in the first quarter and/or the entire first half.

The first three games it wasn't a problem. The last three it's been costly.

Not sure how many times the Cowboys are going to allow this to happen, but this troubling trend is not something that is going to eventually cost them.

No, it's costing them right now.

Six games – and six times the Cowboys are not executing. And Sunday was yet another example of falling behind too far and not being able to recover.

Hey, I don't know what the Cowboys are right now – other than a banged up team that has an average record. Is this an above-average team when healthy? Who knows, and who knows if they'll ever get back to full strength after suffering even more costly setbacks on Sunday.

I think it's a bit early to call them a bad team, based on the fact that several key players have been missing. But I know this: The Cowboys just lost to a bad team. And coming into this game, the talk around the league was this team could only beat bad teams.

Well, not true anymore. They didn't beat the Jets, and I don't think anyone believes this win is the jumpstart New York needs to turn things around.

The fact is, the Cowboys simply aren't good enough to win if they don't execute. I'm not sure how many teams in this league can do that, but the Cowboys definitely cannot.

The optimistic Cowboys apologists will tell you that both Tyron Smith and La'el Collins were out and that made a difference. They're probably right. They'll also say that losing Amari Cooper on the third play when Randall Cobb was already out made a big difference, too. Again, probably right.

The negative Cowboys haters will probably come out and say that every team has injuries and it shouldn't be an excuse. Again, they're probably right as well as the Saints just won their fourth straight game without Drew Brees.

So what gives? Yeah, it's probably somewhere right in the middle.

No, the injuries aren't excuses to lean on, but they are a reality. The tough part about this is that I thought turnovers came in bunches, not injuries at the same position. Think about that: Not just one offensive tackle who makes $10 million per season was out, but both of them.

Not just one veteran receiver was out of the game, but two. And during the game, it wasn't just Byron Jones out with a hamstring issues, but Anthony Brown as well, losing two cornerbacks for part of the second half.

Again, we're not giving excuses, just the facts.

But I think it's only fair to point out another fact – the Cowboys just don't have the depth we thought they did. And I'm not talking about the direct backups to Smith, Collins, Cooper and Cobb. I'm talking about the talent across the board that is supposed to pick up the slack.

Yeah, the tackles are banged up, but the middle of the line, loaded with high draft picks and Pro Bowlers, had some troubles down in the red zone when just 1 yard was needed.

Michael Gallup is going to be a good receiver in this league, but on this day, when the Cowboys really needed him to be the guy, he didn't perform to that level. He even so far as to put the loss on his shoulders because of early drops, which I think is a stretch. But they needed Gallup to step up, needed Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to make more plays.

Just didn't happen.

On defense, you've got talented pass-rushers like DeMarcus Lawrence, or linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch who aren't making enough plays. Not calling them out – just saying that as leaders of this defense, they have to play better. And they know that. Same goes in the secondary where no one seemed to play well on Sunday.

I think last year should've taught us all how things can turn around, as the Cowboys went from 3-5 to 10-6. So I think it's early to say it can't or won't happen again.

But one thing seems pretty clear: If they don't find a way to play better in the first half, they won't get to where they want to go.

Maybe there are some teams in this league that can win games despite playing well for a quarter or two. But the Cowboys certainly aren't one of them.