Cowboys dining on empty calories

The Dallas Cowboys are going into their bye week having squeaked by the Kansas City Chiefs, 26-20 in overtime after being down as much as 13-3 halfway through the third quarter. Picking on (and just barely beating) Todd Haley's winless squad may not be all that impressive, but it's how the 'Boys have been putting up wins this year.

When the Panthers beat the Redskins yesterday, it was the first and only time that any team Dallas has beaten this year won a game. The Buccaneers, Panthers, and Chiefs are a combined 1-13. That win over Kansas City might be enough to save Wade Phillips' job another couple of weeks, but it's not indicative of any level of success. Between the penalties (13 for 90 yards, and the offensive line was particularly jumpy), the fumbles (the Tony Romo(notes) botched snap and the Patrick Crayton(notes) muffed punt return), and the drops (three dropped TD passes in the first half alone), this Cowboys team looks more like a replacement-level squad feasting on lesser opponents. Which is exactly what they are at this point.

The problems are everywhere. Romo has been neither efficient nor consistent, and the running game has had to bail the offense out as never before. The defense that led the league in sacks last year with 59 has only 10 through four games. DeMarcus Ware(notes) had 20 quarterback takedowns last season -- this year, he has two. The front five misses Greg Ellis(notes), as Anthony Spencer(notes) hasn't been the same kind of disruptive presence on the edge, allowing opposing offenses to plan more for Ware on the other side. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, once the hottest property in the league, was rightfully slammed for his gameplanning against the Broncos -- especially late in the game, when Jason Witten(notes) was left in to block and Romo had two square-in reads to a receiver covered by Champ Bailey(notes).

The Cowboys had best use their bye to take care of business -- on October 25, they start a four-game stretch against teams (the Falcons, Seahawks, Eagles and Packers) with offenses more than capable of dropping 40-burgers on unsuspecting defenses, and defenses primed to give Romo a case of the shakes. Dallas' exhibition season is officially over; the "fun" begins in two weeks.

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