Great Day for Dallas Dominance

Because of shift work, distance and weekend commitments with the family, I only make it to, at most, one or two Dallas Cowboys games a year. This near-masterpiece against Arizona, fortunately, was this year’s game for me, an oasis in an otherwise schizophrenic season for America’s Team, a campaign usually characterized by microthin close games that can and do go either way. What a great day, then, to watch the Boys blast the feathers off the TweetyBirds, 34-13.

In what is becoming an annual tradition — “SPC” day at Texas Stadium — I went with Jeff and Corey, and my son David. We had a blast, enjoying a runaway Cowboys win in perfect 70s temperatures and celebrating with a Texas Land and Cattle Company steak dinner afterward. I had taken my son David to his only other Cowboys game six years ago, 3 October 1999, way back when they still had Troy, Michael and Emmitt; the Boys won big then too, 35-7. [I’m so glad David can tell his kids, and their kids, that he got to see the legendary (and hopefully, Hall of Fame) Triplets play, even if he doesn’t remember a lot of it!] Today he proudly wore a 1992-1993 Back-to-Back Champions shirt I had been saving for him for over 10 years, until he was big enough to fit.

Tailback fill-in Marion Barber busted loose for 127 yards and two TDs, running through some gaping holes but also through quite a few first-tacklers. This rookie’s got game! I’ve been waiting for one of the backups to take control of the running game, and Barber has done so, quite convincingly at that.

The local radio shows were abuzz with talk of a “running back controversy,” but that’s premature garbage. Let’s keep this in perspective. Barber ran tough against the Seahags last week and ripped the Cards out of their deck a few times today, but has a long way to go to unseat a healthy Julius Jones. Bill Parcells probably is right in saying that Marion Barber is no Gale Sayers. Still, Barber’s willingness to block and catch, as well as run hard and strong, has earned him something extraordinarily rare from the Big Tuna — high praise for a rookie.

With Julius Jones likely to return after the upcoming bye week, Barber will go back to second string, but a very strong second string. High ankle sprains take an annoyingly long time to heal and make even the best backs ineffective if hastened prematurely. [Just ask OU’s all-Universe talent, Adrian Peterson.] Expect Parcells, therefore, to spell Jones often with Barber, perhaps for a few whole series, in order to keep Julius fresh and Marion in good practice. The Barber Shop is open in Dallas and this is bad news for opposing defensive coordinators, who thought they could just tee off on Bledsoe because of the absence of Julius Jones.

It was good to see Shaun “Sushi” Suisham shake off the nerves and nail a couple of chip-shot 21-yarders, along with several extra points, but he needs to explode into his kickoffs better. They were landing between the 5- and 20-yard lines, and a good return team will eat that up. Still, for his first NFL game, the rookie kicker from near London, Ontario (thanks, Patrick, for reminding me) did fairly well. I don’t miss Jose Cortez, an obnoxious little showboat and annoying malcontent who had bad problems with consistency and with failing to take responsibility for his unreliable performance.

The defense gave up another long touchdown pass today, a 40-something yarder to Anquan Boldin on slow coverage when the corner fell down. For once, it didn’t hurt the Boys because the offense punched it in often enough that no late game nail biting was needed. TweetyBird QB Josh McCown got hammered several times on sacks, pressures and scrambles too. This included a jolting smash from Keith Davis that we could hear in the top row, and which flung McCown past the benches and into some sideline equipment. How refreshing it is to see Dallas get consistent and hard-hitting pressure on quarterbacks again, for the first time since the mid-90’s Super Bowl championship teams.

Remarkable Demarcus Ware keeps getting great penetration too. Forget his sack or tackle stats. Another rookie, he’s already excelling in his main function, rampaging through the offensive backfield and causing havoc to opponents’ play execution. He was draped all over McCown when the latter tossed up a Texas League style lob that Anthony Henry grabbed uncontested and returned for a TD, putting the game out of reach for the birdies. That play was the thrill of the game, the fans erupting when the ball floated into Henry’s waiting arms. Then the crowd really went berserk when he took it 58 yards to the house, weaving his way along the way past at least eight red jerseys, Cardinal wings flailing in futility as Henry sauntered past.

The Cowboys are a year away. They need to learn to consistently close out games defensively and to put them out of reach on offense, as they succeeded with during today’s game and against the Beagles a few weeks ago. Except at starting wideout and QB, this is a young team and will learn to deal better with the last minutes of tight games as they mature into the pro game. Barring key injuries (the usual disclaimer), this defense will become a fearsome, physical and dominant unit by early next season, and the offense should gel better with Bledsoe still capable and getting good pass protection.

This year a wild card is within reach, maybe a division title if they can pull out two of the three biggest road games remaining (Philly, Washington and NY). Next year, it looks like New York and Dallas duking it out for best team in the whole conference, maybe Seattle included in the fray, Philly fading but still dangerous, and the whole NFC north again stinking up the league.


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