DETROIT- The staff gives their initial reactions following the 31-30 loss to the Lions.
We called the Kansas City and San Diego losses missed opportunities at the time, but they pale in comparison to this. I could talk about the turnover margin or the inability to stop Calvin Johnson. But my biggest impression is that the Cowboys had the ball and the lead at the end of the game and couldn't seal the deal. The play calling was incredibly conservative for a team whose defense surrendered a record day to Megatron, and I think it was the difference. As soon as the Cowboys put the game on their defense, I figured it would end poorly. Now it's back to .500.
It took until the fourth quarter for it to be the shootout we all expected, but it came in a massive way late in Sunday's loss. The Cowboys benefitted from the long ball tremendously, with Terrance Williams still defying at least my expectations by scoring in his fourth straight game. Otherwise, it was Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson trading blows with two touchdowns for the former and an unreal 329 receiving yards for the latter. I thought they'd both surpass the 100-yard mark, though only Johnson did. In the end, the Cowboys did settle for more field goals than the Lions, whose last-minute touchdown sealed the deal. Never before this year have the Cowboys let one slip like this, and all the talk of mediocrity and .500 football will be back on the table again as they dropped to 4-4.
Without looking at the film, I thought that Jeff Heath held up well. There were a couple of angles on some routes that he could have taken better and in the 4th quarter in a ball down the middle of the field, to Calvin Johnson, I thought he was in good position to make the play but didn't. With Heath, you are going to get a player that is always around the ball and will be a physical tackler. I thought he was that today even causing a fumble on Reggie Bush in the open field. He showed some burst and range on the play which is all you can ask from your safety. [embedded_ad]
I thought the Cowboys would win this game earlier in the week. Once it started, it was clear to me Detroit was better. You can say the Lions stole a game here but I think it would've been miraculous for Dallas to pull that out. Of course they had no answer for Calvin Johnson but you didn't think it'd be a 329-yard day. Then again if you had told me BW Webb, Jeff Heath and Jakar Hamilton would play most of the game, we might have predicted this. Tony Romo wasn't bad but he wasn't good. And if your defense is average against the pass and you have no running game, your quarterback can't be average. Speaking of, that's your team once again - sitting at 4-4. Halfway home to consistency.
Here we're the gut feelings for staff writers Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Rowan Kavner, posted Saturday afternoon.
Like I'm sure the other guys have, I've been back and forth with this one. You see Calvin Johnson highlights and remember plays Reggie Bush has made in the past, and know how tough Ndamukong Suh can be in the middle and it's hard to think the Cowboys can win on the road. And it will be hard. But ultimately, I just think (or want to think) this Dallas team will turn the corner and move away from averageville. Something tells me it's going to happen this week. I think the Cowboys will have to score a lot of points, but against this defense it's possible. Jason Witten had a big day the last time they played here and I see it happening again. This game will have a lot of fireworks and big plays, but I think the Cowboys will make a few more, including a defensive touchdown, probably from one of the former Lions - Ernie Sims or Justin Durant. Give me Dallas in a fourth-quarter win.
As well as J.J. Wilcox has been playing the last couple of weeks and at times during his rookie year, I feel that Jeff Heath will play well as his replacement this week against the Lions. I am not worried about Heath being prepared or the stage being too big for him. He will be aware of his assignments and he will be physical when he is asked to make a play. Where this game will be tough for him is that he plays on the majority of special teams and will be asked to play an entire game. The coaches have confidence in his ability and so should you.
The shootout most people predicted the last two weeks never came to fruition. That finally changes this weekend in Detroit. I expect the teams to total more than 60 combined points this week, with Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson giving everyone the offensive back-and-forth they hoped they'd see. That means both of those players go for at least 100 yards and both get in the end zone. The Cowboys should be more prepared for a back like Reggie Bush after seeing LeSean McCoy, but I think Bush still does more damage in the passing game. I also think Terrance Williams' three-game scoring streak ends there, but he does come up with a couple momentum-shifting plays. The Cowboys have been great recently in the red zone, but they haven't proven they can get out of the .500 funk or put together a streak on the road. They end up settling for too many field goals, which makes the difference in a game decided by three points or fewer.
This game feels like a carbon copy of last week's. The Cowboys are going on the road to face an average team with a good quarterback, an elite wide receiver, a dynamic, game-changing running back and a lousy defense. Last week against the Eagles, I predicted the Eagles' offensive weapons would make up for their bad defense, and they'd get the win. So have I learned my lesson? Not yet. This is a game the Cowboys should win if they're serious about making the playoffs, but they haven't done enough to dispel my misgivings. The Lions are good but not great, as they've shown in several games this year, but they have home field advantage and the ability to score points. I see Dallas dropping this one largely because of mistakes – maybe a fumble by one of the running backs? If they prove me wrong and grab the win, I'll be ready to believe they could grab a playoff spot.