Spagnola: Too Early To Be Jumping To Conclusions


IRVING, Texas – OK, look, let's cut through all the baloney that has been floating around out there all week.

You know what I mean, all the sweeping assumptions being thrown down ever since the Cowboys' 27-7 clunker last Sunday in Seattle that a whole lot want to insist has minimized their 24-17 season-opening victory over the New York Giants. Seriously? Minimized? Why, if they had not beaten the Giants the Cowboys would be going into their home-opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers noon Sunday at Cowboys Stadium at 0-2 instead of 1-1.

Let's see, there has been this entire Felix Jones brouhaha taking place. Just cut the guy because he fumbled the opening kickoff in the Seattle game, and is struggling to get any kickoffs back to the 20-yard line. Too slow. Doesn't care. Come on, this is why the Cowboys are 1-1, why they lost to Seattle?

Well, check this out. The Cowboys average starting point after 10 opponent kickoffs is the 19.7-yard line. That means they are one of 21 teams whose average starting point ranges between the 21.9 and the 15. Guess who was at 15? The undefeated Houston Texans. Guess who is right below the Cowboys at 19.6? It's the undefeated San Francisco 49ers.

Also, the Cowboys just aren't physical enough, and this just one week after the Cowboys put up 143 yards rushing against those defensive Giants of New York when many were remarking how physical the Cowboys were. Now it's, "they just let Marshawn Lynch push them all around."

Hmmm. Did you realize last year in a 23-13 victory over the Seahawks, Lynch rushed for 135 yards and the Seahawks for 162? Heck, if the Cowboys had simply executed the defense properly or had Rob Ryan not called a safety blitz coming in from the Cowboys right when the Seahawks handed off on the run going left, Lynch would not have set sail on the back-breaking 36-yard run. Take that run away, and he goes for 86 yards on 25 carries. That's not getting pushed around in my book, and far from getting punked.

Then there is this missing identity thing taking just two games to resurface. As in, who are these Cowboys? What are these Cowboys?

Again, seriously, after just who games? Other than being defending Super Bowl champions, who were the New York Giants after two games before ripping Carolina Thursday night? The team that was whupped by the Cowboys in their own stadium? The team that opened the game against Tampa Bay with three interceptions to trail 27-14 at home late in the third quarter? Or the team that ended up passing for 510 yards and recovering for a 41-34 victory over the Bucs?

Let's see, there also has been talk like Jason Witten is over the hill, same ol' Dez Bryant, no pass rush and, love this one, Cowboys just can't stand prosperity, as if winning just one game is prosperity.

Has anyone considered the Seahawks just might be pretty good? And who knows for sure, and maybe we find out a little more Monday night when they play Green Bay at CenturyLink. Look, I know the Cowboys beat the Seahawks 23-13 last year, but did you realize they finished 2011 with a 7-9 record, just one game behind the 8-8 Cowboys? And did you realize they were throwing for the end zone in the final seconds at Arizona in a 20-16 loss to the Cardinals, the same team that went to New England a week later and won?

Ya know. Goodness, hope so many don't make such knee-jerk assumptions in real life on more important matters. Let this season breathe just a little. Let's see, cuz I'm not saying any or all of these two-game assumptions are wrong, but just don't know yet that they are accurate, especially after playing the opening two games on the road, going from the Right Coast to the Left Coast. Not easy. And Tampa gets a taste of that this Sunday, getting ready to play back-to-back road games.

So really, let's not be afraid of the truth, of worrying about what needs some worrying over.

Bottom line from the Puget Sound: The Cowboys scored seven darn points, and not too many times will you win a game in the National Football League with seven darn points. Hey, they score seven Sunday and I'm guessing you'd bet the house (your house, not mine) they emerge at 3 p.m. with a 1-2 record. Don't be clouding the issue with rhetoric.

Here is the issue, first and foremost heading into the Tampa Bay game: Hold on to the darn football. You can't drop five passes, as they did against Seattle, and then on top of that fail to hang onto at least two or three other throws that would have qualified as big-time NFL catches, and expect to win.

You can't fumble the opening kickoff, and then on the one time you have a chance to return a punt, you double-dribble the ball and have to end up falling on it, forfeiting an opportunity to gain like the 15 to 20 yards that were out there ahead of Dez Bryant, and expect to win. Ball security is important.

So is securing your quarterback. While Tony Romo has been sacked just twice in two games, too many times he's being forced to improvise in the pocket because of pressure. Those spin-o-rama moves he continues to make are cute, but also out of necessity because of poor protection. To me, that was a huge cause for the loss to Seattle, in spite of spotting the Seahawks those opening 10 points.

Hey, they had recovered somewhat from the disastrous start, trailing 10-7 at one point, and then 13-7 at halftime. Still, score one touchdown, and you wipe away all the bad and lead 14-13. How'd that make Seattle feel if they think they had dominated the first half, look up early in the third and were trailing?

But no, the Cowboys, after the defense forced a half-opening punt, can only gain 13 yards that first possession and have to punt. Then, even after Seattle scores, thanks to that 36-yard Lynch run and busted coverage on the 22-yard touchdown pass to Anthony McCoy, they only gain 16 yards on the ensuing possession and have to punt again.

Had the offense at least scored those 24 points they did against the Giants, life would have been more difficult on the Seahawks. They would have forced them to play offense. But the Cowboys offense couldn't move, and too many times the pressure was coming up in the middle in Romo's face. Too many times blitzes were causing him to alter or force throws.

Remember, the offensive line was a concern heading into the season, and after two games there still should be concern. That five-some is a work in progress, but its work needs to progress at a faster rate, otherwise …

So let's just see before you start jumping overboard. Isn't there some sort of saying about better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

What if you jump into the freezing cold water below, and then the ship doesn't go down?

Patience, just a little, OK.

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