ARLINGTON, Texas – In the week leading up to the Redskins game about 10 days ago, the main topic of our online show, Lunch Break, centered on the value of this team's star players.
The question was posed, just which player could the Cowboys least afford to lose?
My answer was Tony Romo, although I did value players like DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant, and Tyron Smith's name was mentioned as the anchor of the offensive line.
All of them were good answers.
But the right answer was Romo, and that couldn't have been clearer after Sunday's game with the Cardinals.
And the reason is very simple: When you don't have Romo, you don't have any of the other guys, either. At least that's how it transpired here Sunday at AT&T Stadium. The Cardinals won this game 28-17, and it certainly wasn't as close as the final score.
Like with all games, many stats are uttered to try and paint a picture. Some of them are important, others really don't have a great impact.
To me, the fact that Tyler Patmon – a rookie cornerback who is the team's fourth corner – had more catches than Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams combined for the first 55 minutes of the game is rather telling.
No catches from your two starting receivers when the game mattered most. Sure, they both got a few trash-time receptions and Dez even scored to make this game look closer on the scoreboard. Truth be told, though, the Cardinals' cornerbacks had them on lockdown all day. The duo of Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie was just better than the Cowboys' starters.
How about up front? The Cardinals controlled the line of scrimmage all afternoon and kept Brandon Weeden in a lot of passing situations.
And more importantly, Arizona did what no team has done all season and that's hold DeMarco Murray under 100 yards. Murray had just 79 yards on 19 carries and no fumbles. You know, maybe he should fumble more because he seems to have better days.
Hope the sarcasm was caught there, but honestly, Murray really didn't have a bad day. Against that aggressive defense and with the lack of a passing game, he still averaged 4.2 yards per carry and had some really nice runs where he got tough yards.
But yet, it wasn't the Murray that we've seen this year.
So let's add it up. The receivers didn't play anywhere close to what we've seen all year. Murray was far less productive than in any of the first eight games. The offensive line didn't have that same push up front. Heck, even the kicking game wasn't the same as Dan Bailey had one blocked before halftime. Now does that have anything to do with Romo being out? Not really, but I was on a roll there.
My point is when Romo is out, the team is off – dramatically.
Maybe it has something to do with the quality of his replacement. Weeden's record as a starter is now 5-16, so maybe, just maybe, it wasn't just Cleveland. And before you throw the Kyle Orton mess at me, just remember the guy had no desire to be here. He wasn't going to be the backup quarterback here in Dallas. It sounded like retirement was a better option than backing up here. So the guy you see making plays in Buffalo wasn't going to do that here. Of course, the Cowboys could've made sure he didn't do that in Buffalo, but that's between Jerry and his pocketbook.
Back to this game, the Cowboys just didn't look like a team that was 6-2 at the break and now 6-3 as they head to London. The Cardinals certainly look every bit the team that is now 7-1 at their halfway point.[embeddedad0]
Maybe Arizona is simply that much better than the Cowboys. Maybe they were the just the worst opponent imaginable for Weeden to face in his first start.
Who knows, the Cowboys could find themselves playing the Cards again, but after this beat-down here today, it'll likely take place in Arizona, assuming the Cowboys can stop the bleeding.
Then again, forget getting the Band-Aids out. Fixing some small fractures in one's lower back could be a nice start.