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Eventually, Cowboys must run it effectively

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Posted Sept. 20, 2010 @ 5:21 p.m. ET
By Eric Edholm

The Cowboys dropped to 0-2 with a series of offensive mistakes on Sunday, falling to the Bears. Right now, panic appears to be setting in around the team, although the players and coaches have not used language beyond the word "frustration." The Cowboys face a crucial game Sunday against the 2-0 Texans, as an 0-3 start could put the playoffs out of reach.

The PFW spin

The numbers suggested that the Cowboys had a strong offensive game against the Bears: 410 yards, 374 passing, 71 plays run to the Bears' 49. Typically, when a team runs 22 more plays than its opponent, it wins. But only 20 of those plays were runs, and five runs went for lost yardage in a 36-yard output on the ground.

One reason why offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has completely skewed the game to the air is because he can't trust his rushing attack. The Cowboys have called 100 pass plays to only 42 runs in the two losses. The backs are not seeing daylight, and they are not able to break tackles after initial contact. The line hasn't done its job, even after ORT Marc Colombo and OLG Kyle Kosier returned to the lineup on Sunday.

Up next: The Texans, who have allowed the most passing yards in the NFL through two games but also the second-fewest rushing yards. And that means it will be tough for Garrett to justify spending this week honing in on the run game, when on paper it appears to be a poor matchup.

The Cowboys have to throw it more this week, but they can get their running backs involved in the screen game more, which would be an effective change of pace now that play-action has, for all intents and purposes, been eliminated from the playbook.

Miles Austin has been outstanding early. Dez Bryant has shown flashes, though he's not fully up to speed with timing and play mastery. Jason Witten is the old reliable. QB Tony Romo isn't free from blame, but both of his interceptions went off receivers' hands. He's being asked to do a lot, and for the most part he's delivering.

Right now the weaknesses in the passing game are the pass protection, the lack of balance and the inability to finish drives. Two interceptions, a fumble and a missed field goal left somewhere between 10 and 17 points on the field potentially.

The Cowboys can fix things. They have the weapons. The line has proven itself previously. Garrett was a dangerous play-caller last season and previously at times. Bryant only should get better. But there are enough concerns, centered around the ground game, that make these tense times in Dallas.

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