The Hardest Yards


The Cowboys, between Folk and Shawn Suisham, hit 13 of 16. Sounds OK, right? Oh no. Only four other teams hit at less than an 81.25-percent rate of their tries with the ball resting no further out than the 21-yard line. Get this, seven were good on 100-percent of those tries. Another 13 came in at better than 90 percent. 

So that's that. 

Let's continue and go right to Garrett's point: Negative plays. The Cowboys offense committed 11 penalties in the red zone, one on each of 11 drives. There were nine false starts, one hold and one facemask. When you are somewhere inside the 20, losing even five yards is huge. 

And here are the results of those 11 penalty-laced possessions: Four touchdowns, six field goals and one interception, the Cowboys having a hard time overcoming themselves. 

Then there were the total of three Tony Romo interceptions and a Marion Barber lost fumble. Now it's bad enough 36-percent of their red zone possessions ended up in field-goal attempts (18) but you just can't give away eight percent of your opportunities that should be sure points. 

And the two other times? I'm guessing I don't have to tell you: Giving the ball back on downs. First leaving the ball at the Denver 2 as time expired in a 17-10 loss after two straight incompletions followed spiking the ball to stop the clock on a six-yard completion, and then leaving the ball at the San Diego one after four Barber runs netted three yards followed by, 0, 0, 0 in what turned out to be a 20-17 loss. 

There's two losses directly tied to red-zone inefficiency. 

Want a third, sort of? Losing 17-7 at Green Bay. First time in, facing third-and-three at the 19, Romo was sacked, losing only a yard, but then Folk followed with a miss from 38 yards. Next time in, first-and-goal at the 7, Jason Witten false starts, and even though the Cowboys, thanks to a penalty, did reach first-and-goal at the one, Romo, of all things, gets picked off . . . picked off! Come on, that's 10 points right there. 

And the fifth loss, 31-24 at New York? More inefficiency after reaching first-and-10 at the Giants 20 in a scoreless game early in the second quarter. On the second play inside the red zone, Barber loses five yards. And even after overcoming that, reaching the Giants 9, first-and-goal, Romo throws an incompletion, Tashard Choice goes for nada and on third down Romo is sacked, turning the possession into but a field goal in what turned out to be a seven-point loss. 

Now look, I know no team is perfect. Mistakes are part of football. But these efficiency percentages must improve. 

Plus, on top of all that, let me reiterate about the inability to run the ball into the end zone from afar. Of the 26 red zone touchdowns the Cowboys scored, 15 were passing and 11 running. And of those 11 red-zone rushing touchdowns, only one was more than six yards, Felix Jones from seven, and that's it. It! 

So I'm just sayin', if having to play that second playoff game in the Holleredome still eats at you, cleaning up some in the red zone, helped by a much more productive running game, might just have won that all-important one more game - if not more. 

Come on, the NFL Network's RedZone channel is not intended for horror films.    

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