IRVING, Texas – The injuries on defense far surpass those on the offensive side.
While leading tacklers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter's seasons are kaput, it almost feels like DeMarco Murray's is just beginning as he makes his way back to practice for the first time in six weeks.
Throughout the season, regardless of which offensive players were healthy, the Cowboys relied on their defense to keep the team within striking distance for a late comeback. The slow offensive starts haven't come sparingly; they've arrived every single week, many times in abominably poor fashion with turnovers and penalties running amok.
Never has the offense scored more than 10 points entering the second half of a game. The lack of offensive production's forced the defense to play perfect football or let the game slip away.
Sometimes, the defense came through, as it did the last time the Cowboys played the Eagles. It's easy to forget what ended as a 38-23 Cowboys victory in Philadelphia began as a 17-17 game entering the fourth quarter prior to two defensive scores and a special teams touchdown.
Other times, it hasn't gone as planned. The Cowboys allowed their opponents to drive the length of the field late in games against Atlanta and Washington, both ending in losses.
But every week, it seems the defense is asked to make a late hold to seal a victory or keep the game close enough for the offense to chip away. Now that their top two inside linebackers and a starting defensive lineman are on injured reserve, though, the offense needs to be able to carry the team through a game.
"As a competitor, I constantly analyze what our team needs or what can help our football team and what we may need to change to help what it is and what this team needs to do to get better," said Tony Romo. "That's always in my brain. That's constantly in the evaluation process. How can I do it? How can I help others? There're a lot of different things that go into it. It's there. You think about it constantly."
Those thoughts need to come to fruition this week, or it will be too late for the "must-win" talk that's permeated the team since Week 9.
With two starting offensive linemen likely returning, a relatively healthy wide receiving corps and their top rusher likely suiting back up against an Eagles team in disarray, there's no better time than now for the Cowboys' offense to come together.