Diner morning news: Are Cowboys real deal?

QUOTE: “The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.” -- Niels Behr

The question I have after watching the Dallas Cowboys dominate the Saints is: Where has that been all year? Where has that speed, that explosion, that power been on both sides of the ball that we witnessed in the Superdome on Saturday night? Could it be they’re peaking at the right time? Could it be they’ve finally gotten their act together and are ready to explode into the playoffs? Yes, the win was impressive, and yes, it does make me feel like they’ve found their stride -- but are they a real Super Bowl threat? I’m not sold that they can maintain their excellence, their execution and their concentration, but one more solid road win could go a long way to convince me they’re for real.

The reality of the situation is that the Cowboys are a very talented team. Both their offensive and defensive lines are big and strong and are capable of controlling the line of scrimmage. They have talent at the skill positions, and quarterback Tony Romo has been solid the last month of the season. The December swoon before the Saints game was not Romo’s fault. Their defensive line features two blue-chip players in Jay Ratliff and DeMarcus Ware who are tough to block with just one person. Their secondary, especially at safety, is not the strongest, but this weakness can be hidden when their front controls the game, as it did against the Saints.

So have the two losses in December awakened this sleeping giant? Quite possibly – but it will take a solid win on the road in Washington to prove they’re for real. The Cowboys can’t get comfortable. This time of year, the biggest win is the next win — and being comfortable has never allowed the ‘Boys to perform their best.

For the Saints, they will benefit greatly from the loss. This will allow head coach Sean Payton to refocus, re-energize and retool his team. The fact that the loss came at home also will benefit them. Now there will be greater attention to detail, especially at home. When teams have a dominating home venue based on environment and noise, they get comfortable and think they’ll win at home. But with that comfort comes a lack of attention to detail, a lack of pure preparation and a taking of granted that the home field will somehow pull you through. Payton should be rejoicing at the loss at home because now he can use this game as a motivating tool for the first playoff game. He can remind his team that winning at home requires precise preparation and execution. There can’t be any letdowns or a feeling that because they’re home, they’re going to win. Winning lies in the execution, not in the venue.

Being comfortable as team is a bad sign — now the Saints have lost their sense of comfort and will be primed for a playoff run.


1. Cowboys running Marion Barber ran harder than I’ve seen him run all season. He was carrying Saints tacklers on almost every play. But if Nick Folk kicks again this week, something is wrong. They don’t have to cut him, just don’t let him kick any more this season. The team has no faith in him, and a kicker is useless if the team doesn’t believe in him. Did you see his pregame kicks? Wow, I would never let him attempt one after I saw those.

2. I never got the sense from watching Drew Brees on Saturday night that he was comfortable in the pocket. His eye level was down, which happens to all quarterbacks when they call a seven-man protection and get killed because the back forgets to block. He never found his rhythm, in large part because of his teammates’ mental mistakes and the Cowboys’ rush.

3. My vote for MVP is now official: Josh Cribbs of the Browns. As bad as they are, where would they be without him? He broke and then extended the NFL record for kick returns, and why anyone would kick the ball to him is beyond me. His 316 return yards were all fun to watch.

4. Cleveland’s Jerome Harrison was out of his mind, rushing for 286 yards against the Chiefs. It’s a shame the Titans don’t play Kansas City this year because Chris Johnson might’ve gone for 500 yards.

5. I know the Chiefs are bad on defense, but they were not this bad last year. For all the changes in K.C., things have gotten worse, much worse – on both sides of the ball. If there’s been progress toward a brighter future, I’m not seeing it.

6. Sorry, Yahoo Dave. The Jets had their chances to beat the Falcons, but when your team goes 0 for 3 in the red zone (missed FG, blocked FG, fumbled snapped on FG), it doesn’t deserve to win. There’s always next year, Dave.

7. I know Richie Incognito is a dirty player, but he’s also a bad player. He can’t block anyone and is a liability from a performance and emotional standpoint. He was penalized again for a personal foul Sunday in his first start for the Bills.

8. Buffalo desperately needs a quarterback. Could this be the landing spot for Michael Vick? The Bills showed interest last summer and should show a lot of interest next March.

9. I guess we won’t be hearing talk this week about Randy Moss quitting. The win wasn’t pretty for the Patriots, but they were in complete control for most of the game — which was impressive considering they were missing two key defensive lineman, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren.

10. Miami has great heart as team. Rallying from 15 points down in the fourth quarter and sending the game into overtime was impressive. I know the Dolphins hurt their playoff chances with the loss, but next year they’ll be very good — the foundation has been built.

More today in the Taven.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

To find out if the Minnesota Vikings have peaked, check out this article from Bleacher Report.

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