While a loss by Dallas this week would certainly be less embarrassing, it could be much more disastrous.
The Cowboys look to avoid going into their bye week with an 0-3 record as they visit a Texans team boasting the league’s best offense and bidding for its first 3-0 start Sunday.
The expectations were high entering the 2010 campaign for Dallas (0-2), which went 11-5 to win the NFC East last year and earned its first playoff victory in 13 years.
The Super Bowl will be held in Cowboys Stadium this year - the 50th anniversary of the franchise - and Dallas was considered a prime contender to get there.
Instead, the Cowboys are among the league’s biggest disappointments. Their offense has produced two touchdowns, their defense has two sacks and has forced no turnovers, and their special teams have faltered with new kicker David Buehler(notes) missing two of four field-goal attempts.
“I don’t even want to hear nobody talking about the Super Bowl. Really, can we just talk about the next game?”
The next game won’t be easy since Houston (2-0) has posted league highs of 64 points and 881 yards of total offense. The Texans have shown they can be potent through the air and on the ground, with Matt Schaub’s(notes) 497 passing yards being tops in the league in Week 2 and Arian Foster’s(notes) 231 rushing yards being the most from Week 1.
They’re brimming with confidence after rallying from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit in last week’s 30-27 overtime win at Washington.
“We’ve matured, we’ve grown up,” coach Gary Kubiak said. “We’ve come to expect to play in great football games, and get in them, and be willing to make the play and be the difference maker.”
Kubiak doesn’t expect to see a Dallas team feeling sorry for itself entering Reliant Stadium. The Texans sacked Tony Romo(notes) twice and forced him to fumble in a 23-7 win in the preseason, but Houston believes it will see a better effort now that it counts.
“I mean, they’re two plays away from being 2-0,” Kubiak said. “That’s typical of the National Football League. They’re the same football team that’s loaded with talent that was starting the season and obviously they’re in a situation right now.”
Dallas last opened 0-3 in 2001 - the first year after Troy Aikman retired - and the following season didn’t get off to a much better start as it lost 19-10 at Houston in the Texans’ inaugural regular-season game.
Those Cowboys teams didn’t face the high expectations this one does, although owner Jerry Jones has insisted that coach Wade Phillips and assistant head coach Jason Garrett will not be fired.
“Everything in me is about being optimistic,” Jones said. “These losses can be mitigated.”
Phillips is claiming that he’s not worried about his job or about his team.
“It’s a 16-round fight, and we’ve been knocked down twice,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to come back fighting.”
One issue offensively has been the lack of production from the rushing game. The Cowboys ran for 38 yards in last week’s 27-20 loss to Chicago, and they’re averaging 69.5 after a 131.4 mark last year.
That has put pressure on Romo, whose 98 pass attempts are the most in the NFL. Romo threw his first two interceptions against the Bears, and his 656 passing yards - 288 to Miles Austin(notes) - have come mostly after Dallas has been trailing.
The Cowboys got offensive linemen Marc Colombo(notes) and Kyle Kosier(notes) back last week after both missed the opener. Colombo will likely be tasked with trying to slow down defensive end Mario Williams(notes), who has an AFC-high four sacks.
On the other side of the ball, Houston received a blow Tuesday when left tackle Duane Brown(notes) was suspended four games without pay for violating the NFL’s policy on performance enhancing drugs, joining linebacker Brian Cushing(notes) on the sideline for the same infraction.
“You never want to have to deal with this too much,” right tackle Eric Winston(notes) said. “But that’s the adversity we’re dealt right now, and we’re just going to have to keep moving forward as a team. Everyone is going to have to play better and just pick up the leftovers.”
Blog Coverage from SB Nation
Tyrone Crawford DE, Ryan Cook C, Matt Johnson S, Jeff Olson T, Ben Bass DE, Anthony Spencer DE, Brian Waters G, Lance Dunbar RB, Justin Durant LB, Jason Hatcher DT, George Selvie DE, Brandon Carr CB, DeMarcus Ware DE, Bruce Carter LB, Terrance Williams WR, Jarius Wynn DE, Morris Claiborne CB, Ernie Sims LB, Dwayne Harris WR, Sean Lee LB
Evan Frierson LB, Alec Lemon WR, Trevardo Williams LB, Alan Bonner WR, Brennan Williams T, David Quessenberry T, Owen Daniels TE, A.J. Bouye CB, Danieal Manning S, Brian Cushing LB, Arian Foster RB, Ben Tate RB, Justin Tuggle LB, Johnathan Joseph CB, T.J. Yates QB, Antonio Smith DE, DeAndre Hopkins WR, Josh Victorian CB, Joe Mays LB, Wade Smith G, Andre Johnson WR, J.J. Watt DE, Derek Newton T, D.J. Swearinger S, Greg Jones RB, Jon Weeks C, Darryl Sharpton LB, Garrett Graham TE, Brad Smelley TE, Case Keenum QB, DeVier Posey WR