The inability to execute late in the game has left the Dallas Cowboys in last place in the NFC East instead of first.
Dallas again tries to put together four strong quarters of football as it plays the Arizona Cardinals.
An optimist can argue the Cowboys are just five plays from being 7-0.
The defense allowed two long touchdown passes in the final 3:46 of a 14-13 loss to the Washington Redskins. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe failed to see wide-open tight end Jason Witten on a 4th-and-goal in the final minute of a 19-14 defeat to the Oakland Raiders. Most recently, Bledsoe and former kicker Jose Cortez made critical errors in last Sunday’s 13-10 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Bledsoe was intercepted by Jordan Babineaux with 14 seconds to play, and his return set up Seattle’s game-winning field goal as time expired. The three-point difference was glaring because Cortez missed a 29-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, and the miss eventually resulted in Parcells waiving him.
“There were just too many erratic things,” Parcells said of Cortez. “There were too many problems.”
Consistently generating points has been the biggest issue for the Cowboys, who are sixth in the league in total offense at 359.1 yards per game but 17th in scoring at 21 points per game. The inability to score those last few points have put stress on the defense to play a near-flawless game.
“Maybe we’re not good enough to get separation,” Parcells said. “I don’t know that. We’ve been in a lot of close games. … If you let a team like Seattle (hang around), who I think is pretty good overall, I think it’s hard to hold them forever.”
A win last week would have put the Cowboys alone atop the NFC East, but instead, they fell a half-game behind Washington, Philadelphia and New York.
Starting running back Julius Jones likely will miss his third straight game with a sprained ankle. Rookie backup Marion Barber III had 95 rushing yards last week and will lead a backfield committee that also has Tyson Thompson and Anthony Thomas.
The Cardinals are working through offensive issues of their own despite beating the Tennessee Titans 20-10 last Sunday.
Arizona had only 173 total yards but took advantage of three turnovers. Cornerback David Macklin returned an interception 60 yards for a touchdown, and a sack and fumble recovery by linebacker Karlos Dansby set up a 34-yard TD pass from Josh McCown to Larry Fitzgerald.
The lack of a running game for Arizona has caused huge problems for coach Dennis Green. The Cardinals have had 47 of 123 rushing plays result in no gain or negative yardage and are second-to-last in rushing at 71.2 yards per game.
“I’m disappointed in not being able to run the ball better second only to the fact that I’m disappointed that we’re 2-4,” Green said Monday.
Two key factors have contributed to the Cardinals’ weak rushing game. The right side of the offensive line features rookie Elton Brown at guard and converted defensive end Fred Wakefield playing tackle. Opposing defenses are placing as many as eight men on the line of scrimmage, daring McCown and Kurt Warner to beat them over the top by passing.
“The way teams are shooting gaps and penetrating and stunting, I think there’s a certain amount of percentage going on,” Green said.
J.J. Arrington’s 32-yard run last week was Arizona’s first this season of more than 20 yards.
Green announced McCown will make his fourth straight start over Kurt Warner, who had lost the job because of a groin injury which has healed.
“Josh has been pretty successful when he’s been in there, so hopefully he can do the same thing this week,” wide receiver Anquan Boldin said.
The Cowboys have won 13 straight home games against the Cardinals since a 19-10 defeat on Oct. 29, 1989, and are 27-5 at home against their former NFC East rivals since 1970.