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On Tuesday the NFL announced its latest Pro Bowl Rosters, and five members of the Dallas Cowboys are Hawaii-bound (although the real goal is to give it a pass in favor of Houston). Many members of Cowboys Nation were upset that Linebacker Sean Lee didn't get this recognition, but just as much outrage was felt over Kicker Dan Bailey not having a roster spot either.
Dan Bailey is a lot of things: really cool, an incredible football player, and the second-most accurate kicker in NFL History. That last little bit is currently worth its weight in silver - not gold - due to the golden foot of Dan Bailey erring twice in Sunday Night's victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
We are at a point where Dan Bailey has missed three field goals in two games, this is so rare that it has only happened once before - December 4th and 11th of 2011 (including the infamous icing of Bailey in Arizona). Considering this, we can see that both times this has happened in his career have involved a game happening on December 11th (2011 and 2016). Freaky, right?
Are we worried about Dan Bailey? Of course not, the dude is the second-most accurate kicker in NFL History. We're good here, but this is seemingly a conversation worth having... is there something going on here besides Dan being human and therefore prone to error like the rest of us mortals?
The robotic nature of Dan Bailey's accuracy was on full display during Week 14's contest in New York. NBC's Michelle Tafoya reported just before Dan Bailey attempted a 55-yard field goal that he told her during the pregame his maximum distance at MetLife that night was 53 yards, and that in the direction the Cowboys were currently facing he could potentially get an extra yard out of it.
As fate would have it, Bailey's attempt hit the bottom crossbar landing it literally one yard short of being a successful field goal... proving that Dan Bailey is incredible even in misses. He is a football-kicking machine, knowing his maximum distance in all sorts of environments.
When you look across the incredible career of Dan Bailey - by the way, how crazy that this is being said about a sixth-year player? - the data supports that those longer distances are his kryptonite.
|Dan Bailey Career Field Goals||0-49 Yards||50+ Yards||Total|
|Completion Percentage||145/154 (94%)||24/35 (69%)||169/189 (89%)|
It's glaringly obvious that Dan's poorer percentage from beyond the 50-arc weighs down his otherwise stellar accuracy, the Buccaneers game is a microcosm of that effort. Against Tampa Bay Dan Bailey attempted six field goals. He converted attempts of 27, 40, 38, and 33... he missed from 56 and 52.
Prior to this two week stretch, Dan Bailey had only missed two other field goals on the season... both from 47 yards out. It's worth noting that these two misses came against Chicago and in San Francisco and that this was a time when Dan was battling a back injury. It seems that those two misses are attributable to that injury, but what about these most recent three?
Jason Garrett talked to Rob Thompson and I on ESPN San Antonio's The Blitz about this on Monday, and he said that it was an aggressive decision to kick it from 56 yards out. Considering the acknowledgment from the Head Coach that it is indeed risky, was it the wisest decision?
The field goal Dan Bailey missed in New York was an end-of-the-half Hail Mary of sorts, so it's justifiable from a risk perspective. On the two field goals that Bailey missed against Tampa Bay the Cowboys were in some interesting positions.
The first Bailey miss against the Bucs came on the game's first possession. It was 4th and 11 on the Tampa Bay 38-yard line. The question becomes whether or not you want to punt from that close since 11 yards is obviously too far to go for it, so aggressive is the perfect word to describe this choice.
The second Bailey miss on Sunday Night happened very similarly to the miss in New York. With 13 seconds left in the half the Cowboys found themselves facing 4th and 14 on the Tampa Bay 34-yard line. While the previous two "aggressive" attempts obviously didn't work out, considering the circumstances it made sense again.
Dan Bailey entered Sunday Night as the most accurate kicker in NFL History and saw that legend slip a spot behind Baltimore's Justin Tucker. While on the superficial layer it seems like there's cause for concern... there really isn't.
It is somewhat apparent that Dan Bailey struggles from attempts hovering around 52 yards out, but the positions he's had to attempt those in have been totally and completely warranted. This distance is difficult for all kickers, including the most accurate one in NFL History - Justin Tucker.
The next time someone says "Dan Bailey's recent struggles are cause for concern" drop some knowledge on them. Yes, Dan Bailey has missed three field goals in two games; however, they were very isolated attempts as far as the situation they came in.
Dan Bailey is, and always will be, incredible. Nothing has changed.
Was Sunday A “Wake Up Call,” Or Were Cowboys Exposed?
Entering last Sunday's game in Indianapolis, the Dallas Cowboys were riding high. Having won five straight games, including key victories over the top seeded Saints and division rival Eagles, everything seemed to be breaking right for the Cowboys heading into the home stretch.
Their defense was playing like one of the best in football, and after firing Paul Alexander and trading for Amari Cooper their offense was clicking just as they'd hoped. They needed (and still need) just one win to officially close out the division and clinch a home playoff game in January.
Instead, the Cowboys got absolutely demolished by the Indianapolis Colts. Of course, there's no shame in losing a road game to an 8-6 team in the NFL, but the way in which they lost certainly deserves some shame. Not even the 23-0 score can encapsulate the complete butt-kicking Dallas received at the hands of the Colts, and it was the type of loss that can sometimes make you question the blueprint.
The Cowboys, however, are not looking at it that way. Multiple leaders in the locker room have spoke this week about how they "needed" to lose like that. Running back Ezekiel Elliott called the loss embarrassing, but also said it is better for Dallas in the "grand scheme of the season."
Clearly, the leaders and coaches are calling the putrid performance a wake up call, something that will galvanize them and reset their win streak heading into the postseason. But is this really the case, or was the shutout defeat more of a sign of things to come?
Obviously it's too early to say for sure, but I do think it can be a little bit of both.
No, the Cowboys are not the class of the NFC, despite beating what can be called the best team in the same conference a couple weeks ago. There probably will prove to be some drop-off from the top 3 seeds in the conference and the Cowboys, if for no other reason than Dallas will have to go on the road to play those teams in the playoffs. It's really hard to win on the road in the NFL, especially with the increased wackiness of 2018.
The Cowboys offense is far from perfect or prolific, though if clicking they now have the skill talent to drop 30+ points any given Sunday. Their defense is talented, has a high ceiling, but is still very young and inexperienced. Though they've played elite level games before, they've also had some stinkers against the Colts and Titans during the same season.
All of this can be true. The Cowboys can be a team deserving of the playoffs, a team we should not be panicking over, but still a very flawed football team. They can be a team that if "hot" could make a run through the postseason, but also will have to answer some tough questions about coaches and players during the next two offseasons.
After all, who isn't greatly flawed in today's NFL? Hell, we just saw the beloved Rams lose two straight games.
Is it Too Late For Dallas to Fire OC Scott Linehan?
Grab your pitchforks and your torches, it's time to run the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan out of town. His playcalling has been absolutely atrocious season and it's time for him to hit the road, even if there are only two regular-season games left on the schedule.
It's completely unorthodox for an NFL team to fire an offensive coordinator this late in the season, but just last week we saw the Minnesota Vikings do just that when they parted ways with John DeFilippo. It was definitely a bold move to make considering the Vikings are still in playoff contention, but it was something they believed was in the best interest of their team.
I believe if the Dallas Cowboys want to do what's best for their team right now and not later, then they should go ahead and cut ties with Scott Linehan. His predictability and un-creativeness as a play caller is holding back a talented offense, which is hurting the overall team as a result. He's been given every opportunity to turn things around, but enough is enough.
I'd personally be on board with Jason Garrett taking over the playcalling duties. He has the experience and held the position with the Cowboys from 2007 until Linehan was hired. I'd even consider giving Kellen Moore a shot as the OC. He knows the system and has worked closely with Quarterback Dak Prescott. Regardless, the Cowboys need to find some way to increase their offensive productivity.
Right now the Cowboys offense is the 26th scoring offense in the NFL and are averaging just 19.7 points per game. To make matters worse they are the 31st ranked Red Zone offense in the league. I don't know about you, but I think that is completely unacceptable with the talent they have on the offensive side of the ball.
Firing Linehan has been a long time coming. The Cowboys flirted with the idea earlier this season during the bye week and should've pulled the trigger then, but for some reason or another decided to let him stick around. They are definitely still paying for that mistake now.
The Cowboys mistake not to replace Linehan could mean yet another early exit in the playoffs, something we have unfortunately become accustomed to. Scoring just 19 points a game isn't going to get them very far, which is truly unfortunate considering the talent they've acquired this season.
Unfortunately, as much as we would love to see Scott Linehan tarred and feathered and run out of town, I just don't see the Cowboys doing that before their season is officially over. But, in no way should he be allowed to retain his position beyond this season. He clearly isn't the answer any longer.
Do you think the Dallas Cowboys should fire Scott Linehan?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
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