The Dallas Cowboys have remained in California all week for a matchup with another losing team from the Bay Area.
Dallas trailed San Francisco by as many as 15 points and was still down 12 entering the fourth quarter last Sunday, yet came away with a 34-31 victory. The Cowboys took the lead for the first time on a touchdown by Keyshawn Johnson with 1:51 left, then protected it with an interception by linebacker Dat Nguyen with 54 seconds remaining.
Instead of flying home after the game, coach Bill Parcells opted to keep the Cowboys in the Bay Area. The team took a bus back to its hotel off Interstate 880 in Fremont, about halfway between Oakland and San Jose.
While San Francisco’s record is slightly better than Oakland’s, the Raiders have the potential to turn their season around and should be a good test for a Cowboys team that has had its first three games decided by a total of eight points.
“If you’re involved in too many of those, the laws of averages does catch up with you,” Parcells said of the tight contests. “The teams that end up playing for the championship will have departed from that and be something else. They may be involved in a few (close) games, but it won’t be the essence of what they are.”
Dallas’ offense may be better than expected, and the defense really is the work-in-progress that Parcells said it would be after allowing 69 points thus far.
Dallas has put up 28 and 34 points in its two victories. Last season, the Cowboys scored more than 25 points only twice.
Drew Bledsoe threw for 363 yards, the most by a Dallas quarterback since Troy Aikman in 1996, and led the Cowboys to two fourth-quarter touchdowns last week. He set up the first with a 58-yard pass to Terry Glenn, then hit Glenn for 44 yards to set up the second score.
Oakland has the personnel to be one of the league’s best offenses, but it’s gotten off to an 0-3 start. Only three teams have made the playoffs since 1990 after losing their first three games.
The Raiders, coming off a 23-20 loss to the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles, are trying to avoid the fourth 0-4 start in franchise history.
“As I keep saying we have to put this thing behind us,” Oakland coach Norv Turner said. “We lost Sunday. We’ve got to start getting ready Wednesday to go win a game on Sunday. Obviously, what we have to do is win a game, and then you win one, and you try to put your own streak together.”
Oakland’s offense has yet to live up to its potential, mostly because of its inability to run the ball.
But Oakland gained 21 yards on 22 carries last week with Jordan, who signed a five-year, $27.5 million contract, being held to zero or negative yards on half of his 16 carries.
After averaging 4.9 yards per carry in four seasons as a backup to Curtis Martin for the New York Jets, Jordan is averaging 3.0 yards this season. Oakland’s average as a team has dropped from 3.9 yards last year, when Amos Zereoue and Tyrone Wheatley were the top two backs, to 3.0 this season.
“What we have to do is eliminate the self-inflicted wounds,” Turner said. “The ones where the play is there … to get 5 yards, to get 7 yards. That’s where we’re not getting it done right now.”