Cleveland Browns at Dallas Cowboys: Five Things We Learned
A win is a win but...
That was about as unconvincing as a win gets.
The Cowboys are trying to make a playoff push and the main reason football pundits thought they may have a shot was because of their relatively easy schedule.
Well facing 2-7 Cleveland at home was supposed to be an easy win, and yet the Cowboys managed to make it into a playoff game (a very sloppily played playoff game).
Some of it had to do with injuries on the line, but still giving up seven sacks against the Browns is pretty awful, especially with games against much better pass rushing teams Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington on the horizon.
A win's a win, but against most teams the kind of performance the Cowboys showed on Sunday won't cut it.
Brandon Weeden is not NFL starting quarterback material
The obvious defense for Weeden is, "Yeah but his receivers suck." True the Browns' receivers aren't the best in the league and they have let Weeden down on occasion, but on this particular day, it was Weeden who was the problem.
Despite having a clean pocket for most of the day, he was off-target on almost every throw down field, requiring great adjustments to the ball by his receivers. It is important for an NFL quarterback to not only make good decisions when facing heavy pressure, but also to capitalize down field when given all day to throw, which Weeden did not. Weeden may be 29, but he is certainly playing like a rookie right now.
The Dallas Cowboys have no home-field advantage at Cowboys Stadium
Going back to the theory of how the Cowboys will make the playoffs, there has been much emphasis on the Cowboys playing four of their last six games at home, which is generally an advantage. However, the Cowboys have been terrible at home, specifically on offense in the first half. Like their fans meandering into the stadium midway through the 2nd quarter, the Cowboys have consistently not showed up until late in the second quarter or in the second half.
After another 0-fer in the first quarter the Cowboys have now scored a total of seven points in the first quarter of four home games. Whether this lack of fire to start games is because of the fans or not, the Cowboys cannot rely on their fans to inspire them. It is up to the players and Jason Garrett to get the team ready for games, and to not have to battle back in the second half.
The Browns' secondary is nothing without Joe Haden
Who knows whether the Browns would have beaten the Cowboys with star cornerback Joe Haden in the lineup, but I am certain that they would have played better if not for his late scratch from the lineup. Despite a constant pressure from the line and linebackers, the Browns secondary could not stop the Cowboys' down field passing in the second half.
Aside from one pass deflection on a pass intended for Dez Bryant, every time the Cowboys threw down field they either made the catch or drew a penalty. Though Dez Bryant was the main problem for the Browns, on the Cowboys last two scoring drives it was backups Kevin Ogletree and Dwayne Harris that drew several key penalties that put the Cowboys in position to score.
Dez Bryant may finally be who we thought he was
Bryant has now put up back-to-back productive games with a touchdown, and with no major mistakes. After a string of games where Bryant made some kind of crippling mistake every game, this is a good sign. Also a good sign is the fact that Tony Romo and Bryant are on the same page finally, after several games where Romo would throw an interception or incompletion in Bryant's direction and then yell at Bryant for not being in the right spot.
However, Bryant's last two games have come against underachieving teams (the Eagles and Browns) and we cannot know whether or not he has really turned a corner until he performs at this level when the Cowboys face tougher competition.