Friday, December 14, 2012

Still Alive

I’m not exactly sure how the Cowboys have managed to keep themselves afloat, but they are still alive with three weeks to go in the season.  If you looked at the injuries on the defensive side of the ball it would be easy to think that the Cowboys have no shot to make the postseason.  But the Cowboys have managed to win four out of their last five games even with the injuries and the horrific car accident taking place.

I have to admit that my patience with Jason Garrett was really growing thin.  But I think the win last week was the biggest win of his coaching career.  The Cowboys went into the Bengal game with the season on the line, the defense devastated by injuries, and the news that one of their teammates was dead and another was in jail.  Jason Garrett had them ready to play despite all of the cards being stacked against them.

I’m not giving Garrett a pass on his play calling.  He has got to get the offense going earlier in the game.  I really wish he would take the handcuffs off of Romo earlier in the game.  The Cowboys have been finding ways to pull out victories in the 4th quarter with big plays by the offense.  But you can’t expect miraculous comebacks every week.  Just look back at the Redskins game and you see what I mean.  

So the Steelers come to town in a situation very similar to the Cowboys.  They are fighting for their season.  But the Steelers aren’t playing good football coming into the game.  In fact, they are really struggling recently partly due to the injury to Ben Roethlisberger and party due to injuries.  Whatever the reasons, you know the Steelers are going to do whatever they can to pull this game out.

The Cowboys are piecing together a new starting lineup on defense every week.  And this week will be no different.  Jay Ratliff is out again and probably for the rest of the season.  Josh Brent it out.  Morris Claiborne should play but is questionable with a concussion.  Demarcus Ware has a bad shoulder, a bad elbow and a bad neck but he should play.  Somehow the defense has got to find a way to contain the big play receivers of the Steelers.  It is going to have to big pressure from Hatcher, Spencer and Ware that keeps the passing game in check.

The offense has got to get off to a better start.  I’m not sure what the recipe is for a better start but something has got to change.  I would love to see a more up tempo feel out of the gates for the offense.  It doesn’t have to be a no huddle offense but the pace should be quick.  That seems to get Romo and the rest of the offense into a rhythm.  

Dez Bryant is playing with a broken finger but I really don’t think it will have any impact on his play.  I know he’ll have some pain to deal with but he has such big, strong hands that I think he’ll catch the ball without any issues.  My bigger concern is Miles Austin.  He needs to come up big in this game.  Defenses are rolling coverages to Dez’s side of the field to try to stop him so Miles needs to start making plays against one-on-one coverage to make them pay.  With the poor quality of the Steeler secondary there is no reason that Miles shouldn’t be getting open.  Now, Romo actually having a little time to survey the field and find the open receiver is another problem entirely.

I think this game is going to be a tough battle.  Neither team really has an offense that lights up the scoreboard.  And both teams are dealing with injuries on both sides of the ball.  It doesn’t make sense when you look at the makeup of the defense, but I feel like the Cowboys are going to find a way to get it done again.  Jason Garrett is starting to understand how to coach his team in late game situations and it is making a difference.  I think the Cowboys win this one 22-16 and keep the playoff hope alive for at least another week.

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