Same Story, Different Season In Dallas
by Taylor Williams
Dec 18, 2013 3:07 PM EST
As time expired in the Dallas Cowboys’ 37-36 loss to the Green Bay Packers, I got a text from a college buddy who’s a lifelong ‘Boys fan. It read, “literally the worst loss I’ve ever seen in 20-plus years of Cowboys games.” That sentiment doesn’t stem from the team squandering a chance to retake the division lead. Nor, for once, is it owed to a defensive implosion. It’s because the Cowboys blew their crucial Week 15 matchup through all-too-familiar culprits: poor game management and late-game turnovers. It’s the ultimate proof that nothing’s changed in Dallas. After three quarters of success using a simple formula — feeding DeMarco Murray, running heavy play-action, taking vertical shots — the Cowboys’ play-calling collapsed. Green Bay cut the lead to 29-17 with a minute remaining in the third quarter. On the ensuing drive, Dallas called pass plays on first and second down — both went incomplete, and Romo was sacked on third down inside his own 5-yard-line. Green Bay got an extremely short field, scored three plays later, making it a one-possession game with a full quarter to go. Through 45 minutes, Murray had 110 yards on 15 carries. He was threading holes in the Packers’ run defense, exploding in the open field and taking the brutal carries on short down-and-distances, and he was doing it well. Green Bay had to commit more defenders to the run, leaving the secondary to play man coverage. Dez Bryant was torching them, amassing 135 yards on nine catches at that point. The offense was far from broke, but they tried to fix it anyway — and without taking time off the clock. As for Romo’s two picks inside four minutes, the first was a forced throw on a busted play, and Packer CB Sam Shields made a great play on the ball; the second was just an inaccurate pass. Yes, it’s familiar; yes it’s a perfect entry in the narrative of “Romo the Choker”; and yes, it’s evidence of the same problems gone unchecked in Dallas. Between these two familiar issues resurfacing in Week 15, the Cowboys shot their season (mathematical odds aside). This team hasn’t played well enough to earn or capitalize on a playoff spot. The odds of an 8-8 finish for the third straight year have shifted from entirely possible to highly probable. With every failure to beat a winning team comes a sense of malaise with the coaching staff and an entrenching perception of the Cowboys as a team whose talent is grossly under-utilized (not to mention straight rage at Jerry Jones). The Cowboys’ defense was a tale of two halves. The unit held second-stringer Matt Flynn and the Packer offense to six first downs and three points in the first half; in the second it allowed nearly 300 total yards, including three drives of 80-plus yards. But one outstanding half is more than the ‘Boys normally get from their defense. In the end, the Cowboys’ playoff ambitions were, once again, undermined and derailed by coaching blunders and ill-timed turnovers. Same story, different season.