ARLINGTON, Texas - Less than 24 hours have passed since the Dallas Cowboys were knocked around by the San Francisco 49ers at home to start the 2014 season, and on second glance it's not as bad as you think. It's actually a good thing.
Having covered Wade Phillips for several years, I learned it is important that when evaluating a game to merely look at the positives, and to bury your head when dealing with anything else.
Here goes ...
1. DeMarco Murray. He did run the ball 22 times for 118 yards with a touchdown. The team averaged 5 yards per carry. And they lost, but this is like winning.
2. Time of Possession. Cowboys had the ball 31:24. And they lost, but this is like winning.
3. The Cowboys had 26 first downs, and were 5 of 9 on third downs. And they lost, but this is like winning.
4. The linebacking unit of Bruce Carter, Rolando McClain and Justin Durant was actually quite effective. They were the team's top three tacklers, defended two passes and Carter had a sack. And they lost, but this is like winning.
5. Kicker Dan Bailey was 1 for 1 on field goals, and 2 for 2 on PATs. And they lost, but this is like winning.
6. Receiver Cole Beasley caught four passes for 42 yards and is developing into a solid possession, slot receiver. And they lost, but this is like winning.
7. The Cowboys outgained the 49ers 382 to 319. And they lost, but this is like winning.
And who are we kidding?
This is the game, and the Cowboys.
The Cowboys remain overly-committed to the pass, despite the presence of new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and an effective running game. Look at these four situations from each quarter on Sunday:
Cowboys 2nd & 1 from the 49ers 1: Tony Romo is sacked for a loss on a pass attempt that results in the Cowboys settling for a field goal.
Cowboys 1st & 5 from the 49ers 5: Romo pass is intecepted in the endzone by 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis. Romo missed a wide open Dwyane Harris and opted to try to force it to tight end Jason Witten, who was covered by multiple players.
Cowboys 3rd & 1 from the 49ers' 2: Romo pass incomplete.
Cowboys 4th & 1 from the 49ers' 2: DeMarco Murray touchdown run.
Cowboys 1st & 2 from the 49ers' 2: Romo pass incomplete.
Cowboys 2nd & 2 from the 49ers' 2: Romo touchdown pass to Terrance Williams.
When the Cowboys could have run it in, or tried, they chucked it and it cost them.
The Cowboys were likely not going to win this game, but against a superior opponent if they continue to shoot themselves in the face it's not going to be close. Sunday was a mismatch on paper, and played that way on the field. The 49ers, when needed, made plays whereas the Cowboys did not.
As is the case with just about any NFL game, there were positives. Tony Romo did not suffer an injury, the offensive line - despite a couple of presnap penalties - looks pretty good. It's only one game.
There is something to work with. This is a .500 league.
Most games come down to a six or eight plays that have the biggest influence on the final outcome. Between the four turnovers and poor playcalls and decisions, the first Cowboys' loss is about seven plays.
On second glance, it's not a bad thing as much as it is the same thing.
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