16 and 3. 10 and 7. 7 and 21. 24 and 6. Lottery numbers? Perhaps. Not lottery numbers? Also perhaps. The different amounts of points the Dallas Cowboys have scored in successive halves so far this season – definitely yes.
With the exception of the game against the Denver Broncos, which was a pantsing from starting bell to closing, the Cowboys have spent six halves of football coming out as wildly different teams. It would be one thing if it seemed like the Cowboys were usually good before or after halftime, because it would mean that either Jason Garrett or his opposing number was making bang up halftime adjustments.
But I wouldn’t want to bet against the team that started off against the New York Giants, or the one that closed against the Arizona Cardinals. The team that started the game against the Los Angeles Rams looked like a behemoth, while the team that closed against it looked like one of the worst teams in football.
The carnage is also in some ways pretty general. That is, it’s not like they’re only having offensive or defensive problems. The Cowboys had an elite-looking defense the whole Giants game and for exactly none of the Broncos game. They really shut the Cardinals out, once their pass rush got going, but let the Rams score 32 points over the last three quarters this past Sunday.
So if you’re scoring at home, the season highlights have been the second quarter against the Giants (13-0), the fourth quarter against the Cardinals (14-3), and the second quarter against the Rams (21-13? I’ll take it). Fun fact, though – those are the only quarters all season (out of sixteen) that they managed to beat the other guys by more than 7 points. In fact, with the exception of the second quarter against the Cards (7-0), and two sad little 3-0 quarters against the Giants, these are the only ones they’ve won.
That does not paint a particularly rosy picture for the future. On the one hand, you and I can acknowledge, among friends, that all three of the Cardinals, Rams, and Broncos are pretty good teams. And, from the game in Arizona, it seems like bad offensive lines are going to have a hard time the Cowboys’ rush, while the Boys’ offense is also capable of scoring against good defensive units. Given that there’s once again no other particularly good looking team in the NFC East, there’s no reason to think this season won’t go okay.
But this has been the story for a very long time. Being a little better than the rest of the NFC East is usually good for about five wins a year. Eking out three more over the course of the season, you’re knocking on the steps of the playoffs. But if you’re not actually that good – and most Cowboys playoff teams, or almost playoff teams, over the last fifteen years haven’t stacked up well against the competition – you’re not going anywhere. And so, they haven’t gone anywhere.
Whether or not they make the playoffs, if the Cowboys are going to make any noise, they’re going to have to figure out how to cover good offenses so they get the ball enough times to score some points. Whether they can do that this season is an open question, and there’s thankfully still enough time to answer it.
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