The Cowboys have a second-half problem. There's no debating that. As many times as people like to say, "The numbers speak for themselves," they seldom do. There's almost always nuance. But it only takes simple math (the only kind your Humble Correspondent is allowed near) to see that in the games they've lost, the Cowboys have been wide-eyed spectators in the second half.
Against Denver, the most inexplicable game of this bizarre season, they trailed at halftime 21-10 and were outscored in the second half 21-7. But throw that one out. Please, for the love of Pete, throw that one out.
They led the Rams at halftime 24-16, and were outscored in the second half 19-6. Against the Packers, led 21-12, lost the second half 23-10. Atlanta: trailed 10-7, lost the second half 17-0. Eagles, 9-7, and lost the second half 30-0.
And in case you're wondering, yes, in all five games they've won, they won the second half. Never trailed at halftime in those games, tied only 7-7 with Arizona.
So yes, clearly, the Cowboys have a second-half problem. This is bad and it is perilous to their football health, and it cannot continue if they hope to even be seen as a decent, competitive team. They have a second-half problem.
May we suggest what they do NOT have? They do not have a problem with Halftime Adjustments. They don't have trouble making them, and they're not being beaten by them. This doesn't mean they are not often being outcoached. It obviously can't be suggested they're not being outplayed in those games.
But in the name of everything that's holy and for which we are thankful, can we PLEASE stop bellowing about halftime adjustments? The government says I'm a senior citizen, so this senior citizen is begging you. Please stop with the halftime adjustments.
Halftime adjustments are more overrated than time of possession, which is the most potentially overrated statistic in the sport. Can we just for a moment realistically look at what happens at halftime?
The usual NFL halftime is 12 minutes. There's no band to get into formation and on and off the field. The Networks (which must by law be capitalized) have decided 12 minutes works for them in their studio shows and commercial rotations. So 12 minutes. Now work with me here.
The 12 minutes begin when the clock hits 0:00 to end the first half. Not when you're back from the bathroom. Not after the first commercial. Triple zeros, bang, start the clock again at 12:00. Let's be generous and say it takes two minutes to get both teams off the field and into the locker room. That would make it reasonable to assume it takes two minutes to get them back. We're even going to fudge in the halftime adjustments favor and say that the last two minutes includes re-stretching and warm-up time. It's probably more, but Your Humble Correspondent is no time thief. So four minutes to get off the field and back out of the locker room.
Again, only simple math for moi, but that leaves eight. Now, you may want some of the middle-school kids to leave the room on this note, but the first thing that has to happen is 53 players and 25 coaches have to go to the bathroom.
I know. You're laughing. But you went TWICE in the first half. They didn't. That's not what that blue pop-up tent is for. (Not saying it's never used in an emergency, but it's rare.)
Then most players want to change some article of clothing. T-shirt, whatever. Pads off, pads on. Next, snacks. Yes, snacks. Forget the inactive and practice squad guys. They get hot dogs and pizza. (Not making any of this up.) For the men who have expended energy, there are peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, oranges, power bars. Can we reasonably agree that going to the potty, changing your T-shirt, grabbing a snack, that can take five minutes total?
We're down to three minutes. Three. Coaches now will gather to go over the first half. The position coach will get with his men. Then the coordinator gets the unit together. The head coach might have 30 seconds to a minute to talk to the troops. Where exactly do you think these system-altering, plan-shattering halftime adjustments are going?
But don't believe me. Listen to my broadcast partner on the Cowboys Radio Network, Babe Laufenberg. He played eight years in the NFL, just so you know.
"Halftime usually consists of going to the bathroom as the coaching staff goes into a different room to talk adjustments," he says. "You then meet with your position coach for about two minutes before the head coach gives a 30-second speech and you head back to the field. I have yet to see a new offense or defense installed at halftime.
"Anyone who talks about a coach's ability or inability to make halftime adjustments needs to explain exactly what they were. Otherwise, you are merely going by results and attributing it to halftime adjustments.
"Ninety percent of the time, you are talking about merely executing the game plan that you have better. Teams believe in their schemes, both offensively and defensively, so you typically get what you have already seen on film all week."
Personally, the argument would be made here that each of these five losses has had a distinct second-half theme, and last week, water simply sought its level. The Cowboys had first-half chances they needed to cash in and didn't. When that happened, the better team won.
You can make the case the game turned on two plays: the Eagles' third-and-1 throwback pass to Brent Celek that was a huge gamble but hit, and the 71-yard run by Jay Ajayi on their next possession. Hate if you want, but this year the Eagles are the better team. When the Cowboys failed to make the most of their opportunities, that difference finally showed up. Won't be that way forever, but it's how it is now.
But be clear: The Eagles didn't make any magical halftime adjustments and the Cowboys didn't fail to. They just didn't play well.
The truth is adjustments start when the game does. Everyone has these tablets now to review everything immediately. You see pictures of players looking at still photos on the bench all the time. Heck, 20 years ago they were taking Polaroids and running them from booth to sideline on a rope pulley. That's the adjustments. It doesn't happen at halftime. So can we please stop saying that's the issue?
Except for this week. On Thanksgiving the Cowboys get a 20-minute halftime for the show benefitting The Salvation Army. This week, the red kettle better not be the only thing being adjusted. Just sayin'.