The big question heading into this week's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is which Dallas Cowboys team will show up: Is it Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?
Dallas fans were riding high after an impressive win over the New York Giants in week 1. Then the annual episode of getting punched in the gut by what seemed to be an inept and less-than-inspiring performance, this time against the Seattle Seahawks, demoralized the Cowboys fandom.
The best way to characterize the Sept. 16 underwhelming performance is a total collapse in all three phases of the game. Here's a few things Dallas fans should watch for against Tampa Bay:
Team responseIt seems as if head coach Jason Garrett has done a good job of getting the team to speak in unison. Win or lose, they are, for the most part, in lock step when it comes to communications.
It's almost sickening because it's hard to get a handle on the emotions of this team. What we have to go on is what is seen on gameday. Will Dallas come out inspired and focused, showing that the Seattle game was an abhoration? Who will the Cowboys be in their home opener - the Giants slayers of week 1 or the inconsistent team of week 2?
Return of the receiversIt's been well chronicled this week how sure-handed receivers Dez Bryant and Jason Witten were disappointments against the Seahawks. Quarterback Tony Romo has said the right things about the pair, not entirely dismissing their performance but pretty much excusing it.
I expect Dallas to work hard to prove all the drops were isolated to one game and not becoming a trend, especially against one of the worst pass defenses in the league. Romo and the boys should be able to exploit the Bucs weakest link with what is supposed to be the strength of Dallas.
Pressing defenseThe Cowboys defensive unit, for the most part, has been solid. Their own mental mistakes and the comical calls by the replacement refs certainly cost them. But, Seattle had two very long drives in the second half and had very little push in the middle.
Granted, the Cowboys have not had the services of All-Pro defensive tackle Jay Ratliff, but Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore, Josh Brent and Marcus Spears have got to pick it up. With the improved secondary - third best in the league giving up 160 yards per game thus far - that should allow more time for the front seven to get pressure on the opposing QB.
John Ingle is a graduate of the Midwestern State University Mass Communication program with an emphasis in journalism. He is a lifelong Dallas Cowboys and football fan dating back to the late 1970s and covered the Cowboys as a journalism intern during two training camps at MSU. Follow him on Twitter @inglejohn1973.
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