FISH: Does 4-1 Stink?
by Mike Fisher    Sun, Oct 5, 2008, 08:27 PM

I scribbled out the following three-step preview of the Bengals-at-Cowboys game for Scout.com, which I said if followed by Dallas would lead to a 12-point win for the good guys. A review of what I thought could happen Sunday. … and what actually transpired:

 

 

I suppose when you’re good – Dallas Cowboys-good, Super Bowl-talk good – every game is a “trap’’ game. Every game features the quicksand of “distractions.’’ Every game is about “defending the star’’ and “keeping T.O. happy’’ and, of course, simply making certain you have at least one point more than the other guy.

With those thoughts in mind, my Top Three Keys To Dallas 35, Cincinnati 17 on Sunday:

1  EMBRACE THE DISTRACTIONS: If the Cowboys are a “circus,’’ the Bengals are an assortment of broke-down carnies stumbling drunkenly down the midway. Between Dallas receiver Terrell Owens and Bengals receiver Chad Johnson, the NFL will on Sunday have a huge percentage of the league’s loon factor caged in one loony bin.

So why fight it? Ocho Cinco says he’s going to “kiss the star.’’ Last week, the Redskins’ Rock Cartwright took claim of it. The opponent who celebrated on foreign soil most infamously was then-49er Terrell Owens himself.

This is part of the show. Embrace it – while all along understanding that such celebrations are actually honorable tip-of-caps. Do you think if the Cowboys ever played at Cincinnati that, say, Patrick Crayton would ever say, “I’m going to score a touchdown and then go kiss the Halloween stripes?’’

Note one other thing Chad Johnson said in his week-long monologue: “This week, to show my respect for Dallas and its owner, Jerry Jones, I'm going to score and I'm going to kiss the star. … Tell Jerry Jones I said hello, and give me a call some time.’’

You think that’s DISrespecting the star? I’ll tell you what it is: One of the NFL’s premier stars (having an admittedly awful season) auditioning for a future job interview, that’s what it is.

Enjoy it. Embrace it. Get TWO bags of popcorn ready.

HOW THAT WORKED OUT FOR ME: The only highlight for Chad Johnson (three catches, 43 yards) was the opportunity to pose for a pregame photo with the man he likely hopes is his future employer, Jerry Jones. T.O. did his thing, with a 57-yard catch-and-run for a huge TD and some reported sideline tears of frustration during the team’s occasional struggles. The broadcasting network, NBC, certainly embraced the circus, highlighting the week-long comments of Chad and Terrell. And admit it: While you sweat this thing out, you kind of enjoyed it, too, didn’t you?

2  WHO’LL STOP THE RUN?: It still comes down to ball control, to Dallas attempting to continue to average 4.9 yards per rush, to what Bengals coach and his defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, -- who spent more than a decade with the Cowboys as an assistant coach and coordinator – can conjure up to chase down and keep up with MB3 and Felix Jones.

The first time Felix touches the ball as a running back this week, it will be the first time he’s done so in 13 days. That’s ridiculous. The first time MB3 carries the ball this week, it will be the ninth time he’s done so in 13 days. Again, ridiculous.

Again, there are only so many balls to go around, and Terrell Owens – especially when attempting to wrestle the klieg lights back from Chad – will want his. But amid all the potential showboating and selfishness, the team that runs the ball wins this game. You can say I’m oversimplifying, but. … if it’s so simple, why didn’t Dallas do it last week?

While Dallas is at 4.9 per, Cincy is averaging 3.5 yards per rush. The 0-4 Bengals are reliant on running back Chris Perry, who at 2.9 yards per rush hasn’t yet gotten into a groove – and has already fumbled the ball four times this year.

Two teams that need to control the ball. One team averaging a full yard-and-a-half more per rush than the other. A Cowboys defense starved for turnovers against a Bengals team with butterfingers. Something’s gotta give.

HOW THAT WORKED OUT FOR ME: Before the viewer could blink, MB3 had registered eight early carries on the way to 23 carries for 84 yards. In a half-blink, Felix was given a perimeter carry and took it 33 for the score – on his very first carry of the game. Barber got those carries (plus two more touches on receptions), but there was still enough room for Felix to tote it nine times for 96 yards (plus one catch for seven yards) … and on each and every one of his sweep opportunities, we were on the verge of a leap-to-your-feet moment.

The Cowboys averaged 5.2 per carry, and struck quickly there. They also inaugurated this game agains the winless visitors by finally getting that first pick – and Greg Ellis did the honors on the very first Bengals pass of the game.

Are there enough balls to go around? Owens will have to be satisfied with his two catches, his one carry, his one score and his one win. Witten caught eight. Barber got 25 touches. Felix had 10 touches.

Despite all the hand-wringing – and with continued efforts to pacify Owens -- that seems about right to me.

3  PASS PROTECTION: Veteran QB star Carson Palmer wants to be ready and the Bengals line must provide top-notch protection. Cincinnati is on pace to yield 48 sacks this year – especially notable because in 2007, despite Cincy’s drop from contention, the Bengals line allowed just 17 in 2007.

Beat up Palmer. Put DeMarcus Ware in position to succeed. Blitz Cowboys defenders in order to help the battered secondary. Coach Wade Phillips’ playbook included long chapters on the advantage of taking calculated gambles. It’s time for that.  Force turnovers. Make an early statement that you know to avoid the trap. Make an early statement that deflates the visitors’ slim hopes – essentially putting the Bengals out of their misery.

HOW THAT WORKED OUT FOR ME: I feel pretty good about it.

Oh, I know the pre-game hand-wringing will increase in some circles, to the point where some OCD media types might rub the skin clean off their hands. (Funny aside: When one reporter asked Phillips a question that included an assessment that the Cowboys smelled bad, Wade mumbled back, “I think you stink.’’) And I am starting to wonder if something at least minor is bothering Tony Romo physically; he threw for three TDs, but the two turnovers just somehow looked wrong.

Nevertheless, wins are difficult to come by. Did you expect Dallas to win by 17? Or is nine enough? And will getting out to a 17-0 lead before needing a fluky carom pass off the hands of Miles Austin and into the hands of Crayton have any negative effect on a Super Bowl run in February?

Ware recorded a sack for the eighth consecutive game. Dallas ran almost at will, and Cincy managed to rush for just 2.7 per. The Cowboys won the time-of-possession battle. And then won the game.

Yes, I feel pretty good about predicting that the Cowboys would dominate and win 35-17 … when in fact they were too often less than dominant but still won 31-22. I feel pretty good about it – and while preparing for a season of trap games and quicksand and circus freakiness, you should feel pretty good about the 4-1 Cowboys, too.

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written by john k. , October 06, 2008

This is the biggest bunch of "Bull Crap" I have ever seen written in Dallasblog. I cuss myself for taking time to read it.



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