FRISCO, Texas – There are only so many times you can kick a dog when it's down.
We know all about the Cowboys' turnover problems.
We know all about their problems stopping the run.
We know all about the deficiencies at the offensive tackle position.
We know all about the Cowboys' 1-3 start to the season, and the Mike McCarthy era here in 2020. And this won't make you feel any better since in this the 61st-season of Cowboys football, this is only the seventh time they have started off a schedule at 1-3, along with a 1-2-1 record in 1962 after four games.
But only twice has a Cowboys team starting 1-3 finished with a winning record: 8-6 in 1974 and 10-6 in 1996. That's it.
So the Cowboys will be trying to defy the odds.
But, what you say we take a few shots at why the Cowboys can possibly recover from this disappointing start.
- Still Time: No one is happy with this 1-3 start, for sure. But there are 12 games to go, enough time to right the ship. And if we look at this realistically, after four games, most folks probably figured the Cowboys would be no better than 2-2. Likely losing at the L.A. Rams and at Seattle, then winning home games over Atlanta and Cleveland. So while 1-3 looks really bad, and bad because of having given up 146 points in three games, a 36.5-point average, the Cowboys realistically are just one game off what probably was a reasonable pace – that loss to the Browns, comparable to last year's loss to the Jets. There's time.
- No Beast: Not like the old days in the NFC East. This year the division is the least so far, with no team even .500. Small consolation the Cowboys at 1-3 are tied for second with Washington, just a half-game behind the division-leading 1-2-1 Eagles. That means the NFC East's four teams have a combined 3-12-1 record, predictably the only division in the NFL with no team even at least .500. But that also means the Cowboys will play six games against teams currently a combined 2-9-1, starting Sunday at AT&T Stadium against the 0-4 Giants. Gives them a fighting chance.
- Cavalry Charging: There were a couple of reasons for Dallas' 1-3 start in 1996 that turned into a 10-6, division-winning season. First, the Cowboys were suffering from a Super Bowel hangover and the loss of several starters in free agency, including Larry Brown, Russell Maryland, Robert Jones, Dixon Edwards and Ron Stone, that on the heels of losing 11 players in free agency in 1995, the likes of Alvin Harper, Jim Jeffcoat, Mark Stepnoski, James Washington and Kenny Gant. On top of that, Michael Irvin began the season serving a five-game suspension. Well, this year there is help on the horizon. Starting cornerback Anthony Brown, along with Leighton Vander Esch, Cam Erving and Ventell Bryant, are all eligible to come off injured reserve and began their allotted 21-day practice window to see if they are ready to return. And the Cowboys must believe Brown will be ready to come off IR, the reason why veteran defensive back Brandon Carr was waived on Tuesday. So, yes, help is on the way. LVE sure ramped up his rehab and conditioning on Wednesday.
- No. 94 Sighting: In case you need a reminder, No. 94 in blue is Randy Gregory, and while he has been attending meetings and doing conditioning work on the side since the start of the season, Wednesday was the first day he's been eligible to actually practice with the team. Part of his conditional reinstatement from indefinite suspension was to miss the first six games of the season, but being allowed to begin actual practice with the team after the first four games. His return would be highly welcomed if ready for the Oct. 25 game at Washington since the defensive line can use all the help it can get, especially rushing the quarterback. Gregory last had a helmet on for a game or practice on Jan. 12, 2019, in that playoff loss to the Rams, and in his final 2018 regular-season game, Dec. 30 against the Giants, he recorded five tackles, one tackle for a loss and one QB hit. In 14 games that 2018 season, Gregory finished with six sacks, 15 QB hits, 25 tackles, seven tackles for a loss and two forced fumbles. The Cowboys can only hope his return from suspension is as successful as Aldon Smith's has been over the first four games of the season.
- We're No. 1: That would be the Cowboys, the NFL's No. 1 total offense, the No. 1 passing offense, No. 1 in first downs and Dak Prescott No. 1 in completions, attempts and passing yards with 1,690. That means he's on a 16-game pace after four games to throw for 6,760 yards, smashing Tony Romo's single-season franchise mark of 4,903 yards and Peyton Manning's NFL mark of 5,477 yards in 2013 with Denver, 414 of those coming against the Cowboys in a 51-48 win. Heck, maybe the Cowboys end up with three, 2,000-yard receivers. OK, probably a tad carried away there.
- 30-For-30: No, not a TV series, but potentially what the Cowboys might continue doing, as in scoring 30 points a game. So far, after four games, the Cowboys are averaging 31.5 points a game, only the Rams in the season opener holding the Cowboys to less than 31 points. That would seem the only way to date to out-distance their opponents averaging 36.5 a game. The Cowboys rank third in points per game, behind just Green Bay (38.0) and Seattle (35.5). Now, asking an offense to score at least 30 a game is a lot, but at this rate that's what it's going to take for the Cowboys to win, and even at that they have lost two of their three games when scoring 31 and 38.
- Bright Shots: Tyron Smith and Tyrone Crawford did not practice on Wednesday, the Cowboys likely trying to nurse them along to be ready for Sunday. But hey, DeMarcus Lawrence (knee) fully practiced for the first time in two weeks … Oh, and the Cowboys haven't immediately placed center Joe Looney (MCL sprain) on IR, so maybe they are hopeful he's out the shorter side of two-to-three weeks. Or, maybe just waiting to do so at the end of the week to make room on the 53-man roster if Brown shows he's ready to come off IR … Great Tyler Biadasz starts in place of Looney on Sunday after the way he's played in 133 snaps the past two games, but who will be Sunday's backup center? Maybe calling up Marcus Henry from the practice squad since no one else has really taken any snaps of note at center … Stat of stats – of the Cowboys' 309 offensive snaps, they've only had the lead for seven of those, and all seven came in the season opener against the Rams … Here is a stat you don't like. Dak has been sacked nine times, 17th fewest in the league, with the Cowboys sacking opponent quarterbacks just eight times, in a four-way tie for 18th most.
Last word today goes to Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy when asked about how much the club is emphasizing COVID-19 precautions to the players when leaving the facility in light of positive tests starting to crop up among other teams in the league, most notably Tennessee, Vegas and New England: "It's been the focus from Day One here. Like anything during these times, there is an education. There also is now experience. I think clearly the protocols in place are working. I think the components of wearing a mask, contact tracing, the tracking, the daily collection (of tests), if you adhere to the protocols it gives us a great opportunity to succeed. With that, the education we are able to go through here at work and at home, it's really more about the network of the football operation, including the families, the people they are around. I see it when my family was in town, my youngest daughter asked me when I was going to take my mask off. It's part of the climate that we live in."
And with that, there probably is some serious knocking on wood around here to keep up the good work.
The Cowboys are back at AT&T Stadium next Sunday, October 11th to take on their rivals, the New York Giants. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
Details on all of the health and safety procedures you can expect at AT&T Stadium this season can be viewed at www.DallasCowboys.com/safestadium.