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Spagnola: A 10 Has Nothing To Do With Perfection For This Cowboys Offense

ARLINGTON, Texas – Someone should have screamed Tim-Berrr here on Thanksgiving Day.

         For those were the Dallas Cowboys falling, and falling hard. And this wasn't in the forest with no one watching. This was in front of 91,379 at The AT&T as well as a national television holiday audience, Eagles 33, Cowboys 10.


         Falling to 8-4.

         Falling right out of that first-place tie they earned this past Sunday with that come-from-behind victory over the New York Giants.

Falling a full game behind the Eagles (9-3) with four games remaining, but still with a chance to even up the head-to-head NFC East matchup with Philadelphia, where they are scheduled to meet again in 17 days.

         Still a lot of football to be played, four games to be exact, starting Thursday at Chicago, and with these road-warrior Cowboys that might be a good thing that the next two are on the road since they are the only NFL team without a loss away from home (5-0) and can't seem to find their groove out here, where they are 3-4.

         Go figure.

         But this, this one is easy to figure, as easy as reciting those grade-school multiplication tables, you know, 3 x 5 = 15.

         And I know what everyone will be screaming. That this defense isn't worth spit, that the Cowboys gave up 33 points, the most this season, along with a season-high 464 yards, a season-high 256 yards rushing – including an opponent-season high 159 of those to LeSean McCoy – had only one sack and a measly one quarterback hurry.

         Hey, not sure what you were expecting from this defense, the same one we worried about in the offseason, the same one we worried about before training camp, during training camp, after training camp and basically the same one you've been praying could remain average against the NFL's fourth-ranked offense.

         That, my friends, was a pipedream going up against an Eagles team averaging 31 points a game, 411 yards a game and 293 yards a game passing.

         That part didn't fool me. For what it's worth, I predicted a 35-31 Cowboys victory. So I missed the Eagles total by two points. Not bad.

         But here is what you should be screaming about: 10! That might be a perfect score judging diving or Bo Derek, but in the NFL, when dealing with these 2014 Cowboys, that's just plain lousy, and they know it.

         "With us not being able to make stops on defense, us not being able to sustain drives on offense, when you put those things together against a good team, that game is going to get away from you," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said.

         Then later, when taping The Jason Garrett Show, he reiterated the same theme, saying, "How they were playing on offense and our inability to sustain drives, you get 33-10."

         Or this from Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo: "When they are scoring like that we need to be perfect in certain areas and we just weren't …

         "We didn't do the fundamental things of football well. We didn't throw, catch, block, and that's what this game is about."

         See, this needed to be like a tennis game: The Cowboys had to hold serve. Instead they turned in one of their worst offensive performances in quite some time.

         Ten points? Please. That's the fewest the Cowboys have scored in the past 42 games. Why, the last time they won a game scoring no more than 10 points was Nov. 9, 2003, when they defeated Buffalo, 10-6. That was 180 games ago. That means the Cowboys now are 0-24 since then when scoring no more than 10 points.

         And it wasn't just the 10 points. They weren't moving the football, either. The Cowboys gained a mere 267 yards, second fewest (by one yard) since gaining only 193 yards last year against New Orleans. That was 19 games ago.

         Really didn't run the ball well, just 93 yards, one more than the season low of 92 against Arizona. Murray ran for a season-low 73, and maybe now we can bury this ridiculous stat that when Murray carries the ball 20 times the Cowboys never lose. He had 20 carries.

         And on top of that, the hottest quarterback in the NFL was not. Nor was the hottest offensive line. Romo was held to 199 passing yards, but 41 of those on a meaningless late-game drive. That means he really only had 158 passing yards, which would have been his season low (176 vs. Tennessee) and fewest since the 104 last year in Game 14 at Chicago.

         Romo came into the game with the NFL's second highest passer rating, 111.4. He finished this game at 53.7, the lowest of the season. Lower than even his three-interception game in the opener against San Francisco, and his lowest in a game when throwing more than two passes since 29.6 in the second game of the 2009 season, so in the past 80 games.

         Oh, and the franchise-record streak of 38 consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass came crashing to a halt, having to go back to the third game of the 2012 season when he was shut down by Tampa Bay.

         And let me throw one more depreciating stat: Third-down conversions. The Cowboys had converted at least 50 percent of their third-down opportunities in the first seven games, leading the league with a 57.4 percentage. Well, in the past four games, beginning with the loss to Washington, their third-down conversions have been 32.6 percent, 27.3, 30.8, 40.0 and on Thanksgiving Day, 33 percent, converting just four of 12.

         That's what Garrett is talking about, and the reason the Cowboys had this inability to sustain drives.

         Consider third-and-3 on the Dallas 27, first drive of the second quarter. Romo not on the same page with Jason Witten, missing the wide open tight end by a mile.

         Next drive, third-and-3 on the Dallas 23, Romo is sacked, minus-8 when center Travis Frederick early-snapped, the ball hitting Romo in the gut and his offensive linemates stuck in their stances.

         Then next drive, trailing just 20-7, with 1:35 left in the first half, first play, Romo to Cole Beasley for 9 yards, but fumbles, losing the ball to gift-wrap the third of four Eagles field goals.

         First drive of the third quarter, again third-and-3 at the Dallas 47, Lance Dunbar gets just 1 yard, cutting in when he should have gone around the corner.

         Next drive, third-and-2 at the Philadelphia 5 after recovering a Philly fumble at the Eagles 13, Romo sacked, one of four times, matching the second-most sacks this season (five in the Washington loss).

         That's four very manageable third downs the Cowboys couldn't convert, and as bad as not converting or scoring points, is handing the ball back to the Eagles' fast-break offense, which by the way ran off 75 plays.

         And on top of all that, the Cowboys couldn't even convert on a fourth-and-1 at the Philly 43, Murray dropped for, of all things, a 6-yard loss.

Philly speed the problem or the Cowboys' inability to extend drives?

Then throw in Romo's two interceptions, one Terrance Williams went to sleep on, his first interception in four games and in 98 attempts. In fact, this was his first multiple-interception game since the opener when San Francisco picked off three in the first half.

Put that all together, and the Cowboys had an offensive blackout, something they never could afford, not with this defense, not Thanksgiving Day and definitely not going forward.

"That offense has got to get some points," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lamented after the team's brief two-game winning streak ended.

Otherwise, with this defense, dum-dee-dum-dum.[embeddedad0]

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