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Spagnola: More Offense Will Create 'A Mess'


FRISCO, Texas – In the spirit of Halloween, it's time to unleash the beast.

The offense. Let's go.

Enough of this cozy football, banking that running a lot and playing stout defense will get the Cowboys successfully by while averaging no more than the 19 points they are over the first seven games of the season.

To me, they are darn fortunate to be 5-2 with that sort of point total, and don't care if scoring is down in the NFL this year. There are only so many games teams can win by just squeaking by. See losing 26-17 to the Eagles. There is just so long a team can continue in this league scoring no more than that seven-game high of 25 points while winning those five games.

You play that type of football when trying to survive with the backup quarterback starting for five consecutive weeks. Just do enough on offense, rely on your defense and get something special out of your special teams, like your kicker making 15 of 17 field goal attempts, the two misses from 59 yards out. Can you continue to count on your kicker going 100 percent on kicks less than 59 yards? What are the odds?

There is a reason Dak Prescott is your quarterback. There is a reason the Cowboys are paying him an average of $40 million a year. Heck, if you are not expecting a more potent offense than that, just go talk some FitzMagic out of retirement and off the _Thursday Night Football_ pre- and postgame show sets to run the offense for far less dinero.

Plus, you know the owner expects more out of this offense, now a young one at that, especially on the offensive line, the inexperience behind Dalton Schultz at tight end and the overall inexperience at the wide receiver position.

As a reminder, owner Jerry Jones had this to say a few weeks back when asked, _What do you think Dak's return will add to the offense_? And this prior to the loss at Philadelphia. Here is what he had to say:

"When you've got an elite or if you've got a highly skilled, as we do, quarterback by all measurements – and make no mistake about it, Dak Prescott has had a good supporting cast during his career – but on the other hand, Dak Prescott does measurable things that are really unique. And, of course, the leadership thing is off the charts. And having said that, we'll take advantage (of his return).

"Do we need that extra spurt in being able to make a game-winning play, one of the big plays over 20 yards? Do we need that at quarterback? Yes we do. And thank goodness we're in a situation where we're successful, really not having had that dimension. When we get him back that will be a real additive. We'll be a mess if we can keep playing defense like this."

Key words here: A real additive.

And then these: We'll be a mess.

Interpretation of the Southern dialect, equipped with 41 years of experience, Jerry means darn dan-ger-ous.

Now let's go. Starting Sunday against a 3-4 Chicago team not to be taken lightly by any means. Certainly not the Bears defense, only twice this season giving up more than 20 points, losing to the Packers, 27-10, and to the Vikings, 29-22, and over seven games giving up no more points a game than the Cowboys are currently scoring per game, 19.

For the Cowboys and Dak to do this, they don't need to play wide open more. They don't need to become more exotic. They don't need to throw the ball 40 times a game, though who knows what the approach might be if a "doubtful" Ezekiel Elliott can't go Sunday?

And Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said Zeke must practice on Saturday – something he hasn't done so far nursing that knee injury Wednesday, Thursday and during Friday's walk-through – if he's to play on Sunday. Let's remember, Tony Pollard, the presumed starter then, has never carried the ball in his career more than the 14 times he did against Washington (2019) and the Giants (2021). And the presumed backup, Malik Davis, has yet to take an NFL offensive snap, let alone a carry. But looking at his background, sure would like to see what that might look like.

Now Dak, whose second half against Detroit was infinitely better than the first playing in his first game in six weeks, which is understandable. And he definitely is the good soldier, saying when asked about the offensive approach:

"I want to win, I want to win. If that means going out there throwing it 20 times, 200 yards, touchdown, no touchdowns, I'll do that – 400, five touchdowns – whatever's asked of me, that's all that really matters. I just care about the final score at the end of the game."

What must be asked of this offense is to improve the third down conversion rate. After seven games, the percentage stands at 32.2, ranking 30th in the NFL. And this has been consistently poor so far, no better than a 33.3 percent conversion rate in five of the seven games, with a 40-percent high against Philly (four of 10) and 38.5 percent (five of 13) against the Giants.

Usually, a 40-percent conversion rate is considered good. Last year the Cowboys' No.1-ranked offense converted 43.4 percent of third downs, ranking 11th. And for comparison, Buffalo leads the NFL this season after seven weeks at 52.8 percent with Kansas City next at 51.9.

"Our situation on offense, we need to be better on third down, particularly on third-and-2 to 5," McCarthy said. "Our numbers aren't where we'd like them to be."

McCarthy, though, has an interesting look on these offensive matters. First, the Cowboys need more plays, an offshoot of poor third-down conversion rates. They are averaging just 59.5 a game. Last year's No. 1-ranked offense averaged right at 68.

Next, McCarthy would like the number of rushing attempts and completions to reach 55 a game. Right now, the Cowboys are at 45.59. Not even close.

"We've got to do a better job of getting more first downs and getting more cracks at bat," Dak said. "Getting more plays, and with more plays, more opportunities come for everybody."

And getting more first downs means more plays. And more plays just might mean more points. And more points will increase the possibility of winning more games.

Now there is nothing wrong winning somewhat ugly the way the Cowboys have won so far, especially with Dak missing those five games. But there is something wrong with losing those two games the Cowboys have lost, scoring just three and 17 points. And let's not forget trailing the Lions 6-3 at halftime.

This Cowboys offense just needs to be better, especially ranking only 27th in passing offense.

Dak knows it, too, saying, "The passing game will get there."

That's why let's not get carried away with this notion that Dak needs to understand just how the Cowboys have won those five games by leaning heavily on running the ball, rushing for more than 100 yards in five of the seven games, and using this defense as a sturdy crutch, so far having limited opponents to no more than one touchdown in each of six of seven games, and no more than 19 points in each of six of those seven games.

As Jerry says of this so-so offense so far, "Factor in not having Dak for but two games."

Well, OK, we do. But Dak is back now, having been added to this offense. Time for this team to be "a mess" out there.

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