Browns 49, Cowboys 38: 'Is There A Doctor In The House?'
ARLINGTON - The Dallas Cowboys on Sunday bumbled their way to another loss at the hands of an underdog, this time in a 49-38 Week 4 debacle against the visiting Cleveland Browns.
Injuries play a central role in Dallas' woeful 1-3 start; the last thing this organization did before it went to bed on Saturday was determine that one starting O-lineman, La'el Collins, should undergo season-ending hip surgery, and the first thing it did Sunday was watch another starting O-lineman, Joe Looney, hobble off to the locker room after the initial play of the day. (He'll undergo an MRI this week.)
Additionally, the NFL is dealing with another medical crisis in the form of COVID-19, which in select cities is causing entire games to be postponed.
But Dallas' most ominous "Is There A Doctor In The House?'' issue, I think, is about definition.
I don't think the Dallas Cowboys know the difference between a "placebo'' and a "panacea.''
"We need to do a better job of bringing our preparation (to the game) and that starts with me,'' new coach Mike McCarthy said in an obtuse statement to issue to any listener aware of the fact that NFL teams that start 1-3 have a 14-percent chance of rebounding to qualify for the NFL Playoffs. ... and that "bringing our preparation to the game'' presumes that there is any quality preparation to bring.
I wrote last week that by the numbers, Dallas had "an historically bad defense.'' That was based on this franchise having never before allowed this many points in the first three weeks of any seasons' start, and on this franchise never before allowing 77 points in back-to-back games.
I wrote that, obviously, before they met the Browns and allowed 31 points and 333 yards in the first half against a Cleveland team who had never before in the NFL's modern age scored 30 in three straight games.
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Cleveland - with undeniable standouts like QB Baker Mayfield, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and runners Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt leading the way - ended up with the important stats on the way to getting ahead, 41-14, before Dallas' surge.
But aren't Dallas' "undeniable standouts'' like QB Dak Prescott, receivers Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, and runner Ezekiel Elliott supposed to be able to counter that?
Yes, we're aware of Dak's numbers (41-of-58, 502 yards, four TDs). He's just become the first player in NFL history to pass for at least 450 yards in three consecutive games.
But 58 passes attempts in a game is not how a team wins. Virtually ever. It - and the rest of the Cowboys' boxscore - is how you win in Fantasy Football.
And "fantasy'' is the right description of any thoughts that this team is on the verge of both-sides-of-the-ball greatness.
"Outrageous,'' said McCarthy about his team's deficits in points, time of possession and (minus-7) turnover ratio. "Not a winning formula.”
It is quite conceivable that this year's NFC East is so uniformly sickly that a poor team can avoid being "just poor enough'' to get healthy in the standings. In Dallas' case, the schedule all but demands it; this loss to a now 3-1 Browns club is the first of three straight home games at AT&T Stadium, where before this outing the Prescott-led Cowboys were 22-10.
A "panacea'' is a pill that offers a real relief, a real cure, a real solution.
A "placebo'' is a sugar pill given to a patient who is fooled into believing it's a magic elixir.
"We need to play better complementary football,'' McCarthy said, and that's a placebo - it's meaningless.
"We're a come-from-behind team as I stand in front of you," he also said, and while recognition of that could lead to a panacea, the whole truth is Dallas is a terrible come-from-behind team. Because it only "comes from behind to win 25 percent of its games.
There are many things wrong right now with the NFL's health, and with the Dallas Cowboys', too. But Jerry and Stephen Jones, along with McCarthy's coaching staff, needs to get in the lab to discover cures.
Because four weeks of sugar pills is not fixing this ill patient.