CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WORST KIND: Jason Garrett is smart, so why don’t Cowboys play that way?

Ray Rice wipes Jacoby Jones' face after Jones returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown - The Boys Are Back blog

BALTIMORE — Safety Gerald Sensabaugh sat in his locker putting on his socks and said to himself, "Man, we are so close."

That is what the Dallas Cowboys do so very well — close.

They do so in the most stupefying, maddening fashion that can be authored.

Not too far from the same neighborhood where one of the world’s most celebrated authors of fiction — Mr. Edgar Allen Poe — once penned his brilliance, the Cowboys once again created their own version of real-time hell.

The author of the Ravens’ 31-29 win against the Cowboys? Start with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

The Dallas Cowboys amassed 481 total yards and did not win the game. That is odd.

The Cowboys ran for 227 yards and did not win the game. That is hard.

The Cowboys had the ball at their own 46-yard line with 32 seconds remaining, one timeout, and ran but two offensive plays before settling for a 51-yard field goal attempt. That is inexcusable.

The Ravens defeated the Cowboys when they were clearly not the better team but managed to win because they simply were not the dumber team.

To show how the Cowboys played on Sunday, their smartest player was Dez Bryant. (In fairness to Dez, other than having to miss one drive because he was receiving an IV for dehydration, he played arguably the best game of his career.)

"What do you want? I believe in my guys," Cowboys defensive back Orlando Scandrick said. "It’s not an exact science. It’s football. It’s not mathematics."

Exactly. No one expects the Dallas Cowboys to be NASA.

The Cowboys are coached by a Princeton grad, but his team plays sometimes as if it barely finished the seventh grade. As much as his Ivy League education should be a reflection of his own intellect, the way his team plays says something about Jason Garrett. Which is why it does not add up.

The Cowboys had 13 penalties for 82 yards on Sunday, one turnover, allowed a special teams touchdown, and made a series of self-inflicted wounds in the red zone that killed or hurt scoring chances.

"Three of the five games we’ve had a lot of penalties," Garrett said. "The officials were certainly involved in this game and you have to overcome that stuff."

And the clock management after the Cowboys recovered the onside kick with 32 seconds to play suggests nothing was learned from the nightmare in Arizona last season.

Garrett did the same thing at San Francisco last year — played for a long field goal — and got away with it when Dan Bailey nailed a long kick to send into overtime a game the Cowboys eventually won.

But he got burned on it in Arizona last season, and a little bit against the Giants in Arlington last December.

You cannot bank on making a 51-yard field goal. You always get closer.

"I felt like I could knock it through from there," Bailey said of his potential game-winning kick that sailed wide left with two seconds remaining.

In the Cowboys’ locker room after the game, at least two players were overheard talking about that 2011 loss in Arizona.

Coach Process looks smart. He acts smart. He is organized. His rhetoric sounds sharp, and yet his team plays the opposite.

The Cowboys under Garrett sometimes play not too much different than they did under Uncle Wade Phillips.

I asked Garrett if he thought he has a smart team. His response was some long-winded verbiage about pre-snap penalties, etc.

Garrett is not going to pull a Bill Callahan, who is on his staff now, and go on some long-winded diatribe about being the "dumbest team in America".

If effort is not the problem, and the coaches and front office people insist this is not a talent issue, then IQ is having its say, too.

The environment, as well as the Ravens, had a role in why the Cowboys did what they did. Perhaps the players are taking the cue from their leader and are trying to do too much.

Unlike the Cowboys’ losses against the Seahawks and Bears, which were blowouts, they were competitive throughout in Baltimore. They gave themselves a chance.

On the road that’s all you can ask.

"It wasn’t a perfect game, but we showed fight," tight end Jason Witten said. "You don’t walk away from this saying, ‘Hey, we played a good team close.’ We have to look at the tape and be better."

Because we have not heard that before.

The Cowboys should have won this game, and they know it.

"We should have had this," Bryant said.

Instead, the Cowboys do what they do so well — they get close.

Courtesy: Mac Engel | Ft Worth Star-Telegram

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