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Spagnola: These Cheap Fixes Will Go A Long Way


FRISCO, Texas – Here is my two cents for what it's worth to fix what's been ailing these Cowboys.

And don't fool yourself, there is always something to worry about heading into every game, no matter if you are playing the New England Patriots or the winless, 0-4 New York Jets, as the Cowboys are this Sunday at MetLife Stadium.

Let's start right there. It's a road game, 3:25 p.m. start. That can always be problematic. See New Orleans.

Then the fact the Jets indeed are winless, having been outscored 101-39. Percentages are with the Jets at least winning one game. More you lose, closer you are to winning. Cowboys know that. They were 0-8 in 1989, pretty horrible team. They had been outscored 232-106. In seven of those eight losses they scored no more than 14 points.

And what happens? They go into Washington D.C. on a Monday night to beat the Redskins 13-3. That win just fell right in their lap, even with Steve Walsh starting for the injured Troy Aikman. The Cowboys, they would not win another game the rest of the 1-15 season.

Stuff happens.

Just don't let it happen to you.

"We better have our business trip on and go up and take care of it," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan Friday morning.

So the Cowboys, 3-2, losers of those last two straight, can't take these Jets for granted, even though they have been outscored, 101-39, with their quarterbacks having been sacked 23 times, right at six a game, and are 32nd in total offense, averaging a meager 179.5 yards a game. My gosh, Dak Prescott has averaged by himself 333.3 yards passing a game.

Yep, that bad.

So here is my one of two cents, what has to happen, immediately, for the Cowboys to move to 4-2 heading into the next Sunday night game against the now 3-2 Philadelphia Eagles. They need to figure out why they continue to get run over in games they lose. And that's not just this past Sunday with the receiver-strapped Packers running for 120 yards, 107 by running back Aaron Jones and taking four of those 19 carries right into the end zone.

This is a trend to nearly every one of their last nine losses, stretching back to the 2018 season opener and including the worst performance of them all against the run, the 273 yards the Rams put on them running ball in the 30-22 playoff loss.

Start with the first loss to Carolina in the 2018 season opener: 147 yards rushing. Then Seattle, 113. Next, and this is the only exception for holding a team to fewer than 100 yards rushing in any of those losses, Houston 88, and at that, a close shave, 19-16 in OT. The Redskins got them the first time around for 130 yards rushing. Tennessee, 125. Indianapolis and Marlon Mack – remember having to look up the dude's first name – 178, with Mack totaling 139. And then, of course, the Rams, with C.J. Anderson going for 123 and two touchdowns, while Todd Gurley piled on 115 and one touchdown in the playoff game.

Now this year so far, New Orleans 117, though the Cowboys did do a decent job holding Alvin Kamara to 69 yards rushing. But what hurt most about what Jones and the Packers did running the ball this past Sunday, they compensated for only completing four passes to wide receivers without their best one, Davante Adams by in turn stopping the Cowboys' running game.

So in these last nine losses, only once have the Cowboys held the opponent to less than 100 yards rushing, that being the Texans. Still, in those last nine losses those teams have totaled 1,291 rushing yards, or an average of 143.4 a game. That's significant when considering six of the losses were no more than by nine points.

"The cool part about our guys is we have men of great character," says pass-game coordinator Kris Richard, who calls the defensive plays. "When we have an issue, we come in, we address it, and everybody has an understanding of what we need to do.

"The issues have been addressed, we know it, we see it and now we have to do everything in our power to make sure that they don't arise again."

OK, so should help one-technique defensive tackle Antwaun Woods is projected to go in this game. Need that wide body in the middle. But still, might be difficult since the Jets hand the ball to one Le'Veon Bell and also throw the ball in the flats to him, leading the Jets in receptions with 27 catches for 166 yards.

As you can see, this wouldn't be as troubling if the Packers game is a one-off. But it isn't. There has been a trend in these losses.

Now then, here comes my second cent.

Step on the gas early.

The Cowboys have outscored their five opponents in every quarter but the first, and it doesn't matter if they kick off first or receive first. Opponents have outscored the Cowboys 24-20 in the first quarter. That means the Cowboys have only scored two first-quarter touchdowns, with two first-quarter field goals. And half of those 20 points came in the first quarter against the winless Dolphins, scoring a touchdown and kicking a field goal. Meaning, they have only scored 10 first-quarter points in the other four games, uh, 2.5 average, in eight of their 10 first-quarter possessions.

And two of those 10 possessions have ended in interceptions, along with those two field goals kicked from the Miami 10 and the New Orleans 10, both of those sets of downs beginning first-and-10 at the 11. Can't keep leaving four points on the field. At some point it comes back to haunt you. See losing by two points to the Saints.

Plus, the worst thing in the loss to the Packers after having that pass intercepted in the first quarter, the second quarter also included a first-possession interception and a missed field goal, squandering the potential to score 10 points. The final score was, 34-24, uh, 10 points.

Plus, plus, if the Cowboys can get off to better starts, then they can stick with the running game, one that is averaging with the exception of the 45 yards rushing in the Saints game, 164.7 in the other four games. Evidence, they had rushed for 94 yards in the first half against the Packers on 15 carries (6.3 average). But after that, falling behind 17-0 by halftime and 31-3 late in the third quarter, the Cowboys in catchup mode only ran the ball six more times (122 yards, Zeke 62 of them and a touchdown) that second half.

As Jones said, "Let's don't shoot ourselves in the foot," against the Jets, and then added confidently, "The point is, we have the players who can do this."

Sure they do.

So, if you are asking yourself how the Cowboys fix this two-game losing streak, to me, there you have these pretty simple solutions.

And it only costs you my two cents.