First off, I was one who wasn't all that alarmed after last week's game. The offense obviously couldn't do much with a badly weakened offensive line that was already the team weakness, and strange things regularly happen in Cowboys-Redskins games. What I'm hearing in post-game shows is a lot of taunting of Cowboys fans who have maintained that they would be fine. I know that there are a lot of pathologically optimistic Cowboys fans out there, and I'm sure that angle makes for easy radio, but let me assure today's radio hosts that there aren't many rational folks who still think that everything will be fine after today's game.
First and foremost, if Mike Jenkins is out for the season, that's a hole that this team can't absord. Terence Newman and Orlando Scandrick are decent enough, but this defense turned a corner last season when Anthony Spencer and Jenkins turned into pro bowl caliber guys. Steps back from Jenkins to Scandrick and Scandrick to, I suppose, Mike Hamlin for now, despite his ridiculous game clinching non-coverage, are a tough pair of blows for a defense that allowed 27 points today at home.
As for actual play, this team has defined itself as terminally sloppy. Flozell Adams is gone, the starting five were all in there today, and there was still false start after false start after holding after false start. Defensive penalties sustained Bears drives, and the season turnover margin moved to -4. The Cowboys also made mistakes in coverage, as Mike Martz was able to put them in uncomfortable positions, and Newman missed the key tackle with the game on the line.
Tony Romo picked a bad day to be off target. An accurate day from him likely overcomes the sloppiness, but he never seemed to lock in. At the same time, Dallas couldn't run on Chicago. Felix Jones has been a complete non-factor through two weeks, and the backs combined for 19 carries and 37 yards.
Then there's the kicker. Jerry Jones' conviction that David Buehler is an up-and-coming field goal kicker in this league has cost the Cowboys dearly in both of their games. If Buehler makes his kick against the Redskins, Dallas ties the game late with another short FG, rather than needing the touchdown. Today, if he makes his kick, they can go on and attempt to score a TD for the tie in the last two minutes, rather than needing the onside kick.
This team now needs to go 10-4 the rest of the way. Even if Washington and Chicago are better than we realized, manageable games on the remainder of the schedule are few and far between. Adam Morris raised the question during our NFL chat today whether the Cowboys' season could end before the Rangers'. While it's almost impossible for that to literally happen, one could argue that today made it a practical reality.