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Mailbag: Expectations For The Offense The Next Two Games; Grading The Defense

CHRIS RAMOSSAN BERNARDINO, CA

Question:I understand the pressure every Cowboys player and fan might be feeling right now after losing five straight. Coach Linehan has done what he can with backup quarterbacks and it seems the luck always tilts away from the Cowboys. But I cannot stop thinking back on how the Cardinals last year managed to win three out of seven games with backup quarterbacks and get to the playoffs. What do you think our offense can do these next two games without Tony Romo?

Rob:That's a bit of a misconception I've seen more than once. Yeah, the Cardinals started 8-1 last year before Carson Palmer got hurt and finished 11-5 without him. But their scoring average plummeted from 24.7 to 12.4. You lose your franchise quarterback for a stretch of games, and your offense will suffer. As I wrote Wednesday, the Cowboys' passing game can't be too aggressive or too conservative without Tony Romo. We've seen both ends of the spectrum from Matt Cassel in two games – three interceptions against the Giants, no picks but only 97 passing yards against the Seahawks. Yes, some of that was based on defensive scheme, but there were some missed opportunities downfield, too. The ideal description is "opportunistic." The hope is another week of practice with Dez Bryant will help both find a rhythm together.

Bryan: It's too simple to say but Matt Cassel needs to make plays. The line is doing their part in the running game and protection, McFadden and Michael are running tough and there have been snaps where receivers have been open. Now I will say they have had some stupid penalties and made some dumb decisions with the ball but it really comes down to just executing the play that's called and getting the result it deserves.  

CHANDLER BODUCHDENVER, CO

Question: Is this defense not getting enough credit for the job they have been doing, trying to carry this offense? They are eighth in total defense with an offense that struggles to maintain drives. Yet, we only seem to find negatives with this team. Let's give some credit where credit is due.

Rob:They've been good enough to win these last two games. The Cowboys have to feel they let two games get away. Yes, the defense didn't close out Seattle on the final drive. They also allowed 13 points in each of the last two weeks, and a few minutes earlier they gave the offense the ball at the Seahawks' 16-yard line. The result: three points, again. The biggest thing to point to is takeaways – the defense still needs more of them to help out Cassel as much as possible. At some point, you hope shorter fields will lead to touchdowns.

Bryan:That's a fair point and I totally agree with you to an extent, but there also comes a point in time where you need to make one last stop – and that didn't get done. Seattle is an outstanding defense and you saw what their defense did to win that game on that final drive – there is your credit.

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