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Linebacker D.D. Lewis, the team's defensive co-captain, agrees with Schramm. "Sometimes it seems like we're just complacent as hell," he says. "We've got to get meaner on the field and not take any crap off other teams." Lewis cited the L.A. game in which he says Ram Linebacker Isiah Robertson repeatedly spit on Cowboy players, without retaliation. "That showed us where we were mentally," says Lewis. "If we'd wanted that game badly, we'd have been so fired up we'd have attacked Robertson."
?"THOSE SUPER BOWL RINGS ARE BREAKING UP THAT OLD GANG OF MINE." The Cowboys are not yet riddled with dissension, but the combination of complacency and losses has brought tension. Running Back Preston Pearson, for one, has pointed a finger at his teammates. "This team is too passive," he says. "People are intimidating us physically and jawboning at us, and we're not responding. If they want to continue to take all this and play passive football, then I don't want to be part of this team."
Other Cowboys, mostly veterans, bristled when some of their younger teammates turned charter flights home from the Washington and Los Angeles losses into disco parties with loud music from their cassette players. On each flight the pilot had to tell the players over the PA system that he couldn't land until they stopped socializing and took their seats. As one old Cowboy said, "It used to be pretty quiet coming home from a loss."
?"GIVE ME YOUR TIRED, YOUR POOR, YOUR CRIPPLED AND YOUR RETIRED ALL-PROS." Miraculously, last year the Cowboys didn't make a single roster change because of an injury after the start of the season. This year they have already lost Running Back Doug Dennison and Tight End Jay Saldi for the year. Center John Fitzgerald sat out two games with a bad back, and cornerbacks Benny Barnes and Mark Washington have lost playing time with assorted leg miseries. So has All-Pro Defensive End Harvey Martin, while Linebacker Thomas Henderson, who had hepatitis in the offseason and missed most of training camp, seldom plays on special teams, where he used to be a standout, because of ankle and hamstring injuries. The Cowboys also miss All-Pro Tackle Ralph Neely, who retired after last season.
The Dallas special teams have been the hardest hit. Their chief Kamikazes—Saldi, Barnes and Henderson—are all useless or ineffective as a result of their ailments. When Dennison, a kickoff return man, damaged a knee, he was replaced by Larry Brinson. Brinson promptly fumbled the opening kickoff in the Minnesota game, setting up the Vikings' first touchdown and giving them a lead they never relinquished.
?"THIS OFFENSIVE LINE CAN'T BLOCK A HAT." The offensive linemen take exception, pointing out that Dallas leads the NFC in rushing while averaging more yards per rush and yielding fewer sacks than it did in 1977. Nevertheless, if the Cowboys have an Achilles' heel, it is their offensive line. Dallas is averaging 155 yards per game on the ground, but it has averaged less than 100 in its four losses. Against Miami the Cowboys had just 89 yards rushing, their poorest output of the season. The inconsistency of the running attack—Dorsett averaged 112.5 yards rushing in Dallas' first four games but has averaged just 33.8 yards for the last four—has forced Staubach to go to the air all too frequently, often with disastrous consequences.
Before the season started, the Cowboys were predicting All-Pro status for Tackle Pat Donovan, 25, and Guard Tom Rafferty, 24. Then Landry stopped shuttling plays with his wide receivers and put Rafferty and Burton Lawless to work as messenger guards. Rafferty's play has suffered. Meanwhile, Donovan was moved to the more difficult left side as Neely's replacement, and he has not been as effective as he was a year ago. Donovan's old spot was taken by Andy Frederick, 24, but he couldn't do the job and had to be replaced by Rayfield Wright, 33, once an All-Pro but now gamely trying to recover from knee surgery.
?"THERE'S A LEAGUE-WIDE CONSPIRACY TO GET THE COWBOYS." This is the favorite of the Xs and Os crowd, which likes to argue that the rule change prohibiting the bumping of a receiver once he is more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage has hurt the Cowboys more than any other team. "The philosophy here has always been to stop the run," says Defensive Backfield Coach Gene Stallings. "That means we have played our cornerbacks and safeties in close to the line. In the past we could get away with this because we bumped the receivers as much as any team in the league."
Statistics reveal that so far this season the Cowboys have given up almost twice as much passing yardage as they did over the same period last season, and they have intercepted six fewer passes. On Sunday, Miami quarterback Bob Griese completed nine of 11 first-quarter passes for 159 yards.
?"OOPS, WE FORGOT THE 22 TRAP." This is the favorite of the Dallas computer, which promised to find an answer to the Cowboys' woes when Landry, apparently in a moment of self-doubt, ordered a revaluation of his offense and defense after the Viking loss. The Cowboys spliced together film of certain plays and certain defenses in an attempt to determine why they weren't working. This project was headed up by Special Assistant Ermal Allen, who also has the job of evaluating Landry's play-calling. Critics claim that the conservative Landry has been ultraconservative this season. Asked to assess his boss' performance, Allen pleaded the Fifth.