Cowboys Face `Identity Crisis' as 0-3 Start to Season Looms, Sanders Says

The Dallas Cowboys are off to their worst start in nine years and will try to avoid falling to 0-3, a record that’s never led to a Super Bowl championship.

After beginning the season tied as the second-favorite among Las Vegas oddsmakers to win the National Football League title, Dallas has totaled two offensive touchdowns in losses to the Washington Redskins and Chicago Bears. The Cowboys are three-point underdogs for their Sept. 26 game in Houston against the 2-0 Texans.

“They’re having an identity crisis right now and offensively they’re not in sync whatsoever,” Deion Sanders, a first-year Pro Football Hall of Fame candidate who spent five seasons in Dallas, said in a Bloomberg Radio interview airing today. “They could very easily be 0-3 after this weekend.”

No team has won a Super Bowl title following an 0-3 start. Since the NFL playoffs expanded to the current 12-team format in 1990, three of 103 teams to open 0-3 have made the postseason.

This season’s Super Bowl will be played in the Cowboys’ $1.2 billion stadium built by owner Jerry Jones.

No team has played for the Super Bowl at home, and Dallas is seeking to become only the sixth host to make the postseason. The Cowboys reached the playoffs three of the past four years.

“When you lose two games, everything is a problem,” Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears told reporters two days ago. “People start feeling like the mountain is falling, so they run and duck for cover. But sometimes you have to stand there and take the heat until you dig your way out.”

0-2 Start

While the Cowboys are one of eight 0-2 teams in the NFL, the Texans are among eight to win two straight games.

Houston won for the second time in 17 tries against the Indianapolis Colts in its season-opener and rallied from a 17- point second-half deficit against Washington last week before winning on a field goal in overtime.

“The attitude around here is totally different,” Texans receiver Andre Johnson said. “But at the same time, we were in this position before. We were 2-0 (in 2007) and ended up losing five games in a row. So we’ll just focus on this job that we have to get done on Sunday.”

The Texans have won a franchise-record six straight games dating back to last season, and their offense -- led by Johnson, quarterback Matt Schaub and running back Arian Foster -- leads the NFL this year in total yards and scoring.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo leads the NFL with 98 passing attempts, 13 more than any other player. Sanders said that statistic is an indication that the Cowboys aren’t well-balanced offensively and are forced to throw the ball so much because they’re constantly playing from behind.

‘Inept Offense’

“The ineptness of the (Dallas) offense is putting a lot of pressure on the defense,” Sanders said. “And now they’re facing a Houston Texans team that’s on fire. They’re going to Houston and facing one of the most prolific passing games and receiving corps in the league. It’s a tough one.”

In 44 previous Super Bowls, three teams have rebounded from 0-2 starts to win the title: the 1993 Cowboys, 2001 New England Patriots and 2007 New York Giants.

“There’s a great sense of urgency,” Romo told reporters after practice this week. “This is not where you want to be after two games. We understand that you are only afforded so many opportunities. It’s disappointing and frustrating, but the only way to get out of this hole is to go out, play well and win.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Erik Matuszewski in New York at matuszewski@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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