HORSESHOES AND HAND GRENADES: Dallas Cowboys close, but no cigar

Horseshoes and Hand Grenades - Dallas Cowboys close, but no cigar - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas – For three minutes of real time, I had already figured out what I wanted to say about this game.

And as long as that remarkable play was upheld and the Cowboys were awarded a touchdown, this one was going to go down as the all-timer of all-time games.

Maybe the first game I ever covered, the 1999 comeback against the Redskins with the overtime ending, would’ve been better, but this game, would’ve probably beaten that out if, and only if, Dez Bryant’s hand hadn’t touched the back of the end zone.

But it did. Bryant was out of bounds. The Cowboys drop this heartbreaker game that had more twists and turns than any ride Six Flags could’ve ever produced.

Giants 29, Cowboys 24.

Dallas obviously couldn’t complete the comeback, although the scoreboard did read 30-29 Cowboys for about three long minutes while the officials looked at Bryant’s catch. And whether or not it counted, it was still an amazing catch by a player who also had an up-and-down game.

If you’re reading this, there’s probably a great chance that you hated the outcome of this game. The great comeback, the records that were broken in the process, all of that means nothing in the end. The Cowboys couldn’t do enough to win this one, and now they’re 3-4 and three games behind the Giants in the win column.

But mark this one down as a classic.

It had everything the average football fan wants to see: great plays, great performances in the clutch, big stats, back-and-forth play where the lead changes hands, and the drama in the end.

I know it was a sickening feeling when the announcement was made that Bryant didn’t get his hand in bounds. The only real question was how injured he was when he landed straight on his backside.

For me, what I keep thinking about is how much this game mirrored the careers of both Bryant and Tony Romo. And actually, it’s also a good example just how the Cowboys are as a team right now.

At 3-4, it’s competitive. It’s got some good, but just a little more of the bad. There are times when it looks like the Cowboys are left for dead, and then they make it seem like they’re going to turn the corner. In the end, it’s just not good enough.

That’s exactly what occurred Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. And, that’s probably what this team will be when it’s all said and done.

Of course, this one started out completely disastrous with the Cowboys turning it over four times in the first half, trailing 23-0.

Forget boo-birds. This was like a flock of pigeons that invaded the stadium. And they were ruthless toward Romo, owner Jerry Jones even head coach Jason Garrett. They were hounding the Cowboys and for good reason.

It looked like this was going to be a long day, long week and a long season. (Actually, it might be in all three cases).

But then, the Cowboys begin what proved to be the ultimate tease. They unlocked the coffin they had been placed in, dug out of the dirt that had been poured, and rose from the dead, not just to make this respectable, but to take the lead.

Just as shocking to see a 23-0 deficit was a 24-23 Cowboys lead.

But no one thought Eli Manning and his group would go away and they didn’t. They are champions for a reason because they know how to handle adversity. Manning wasn’t great at all, but he drove the offense a couple of times and got his team in position to take the lead and then pad it.

On the other side, Romo was on his way to pulling off the greatest comeback in Cowboys history. After that awful start, it looked like his confidence was shot. Who knew he was about to have a career-high in passing yards (437) and attempts (62). In fact, if Bryant is ruled in bounds, Romo would’ve set the single-game passing record with 474 yards.

Yet, that’s his career. He allllmooossstt pulled it off.

He was almost spectacular. Isn’t that the biggest knock on Romo – is that he can be great and he can be awful? Usually, it’s week to week.

On Sunday, it was a matter of hours. Romo’s best performance came after his worst performance. And that’s why this guy drives people crazy.

He’s the guy that gives it up, but he’s the guy that brings them back. He was bad enough to get booed and probably have his coach consider pulling him. He was good enough to rally his team back and had the ball in a spot to win the game and pull off the greatest comeback in franchise history.

Good enough and bad enough in a matter of hours. That’s Romo’s career.

And it’s about the same with Bryant. When you look at the reasons he was drafted in the first round back in 2010, we saw them all here in this game.

He had top-10 talent, evident by his unreal catch in the most clutch of situations. Forget the yard lines. If you catch a ball like that in the backyard playing One-Mississippi, it’d be a great catch.

But he has questionable decision-making – both on and off the field. His misplay on a first-quarter punt, resulting in a muff and then fumble, got him booted as the punt returner. Yet, with the game on the line, and him making some key receptions as a receiver, the Cowboys put him back out there when they needed a huge return. And the Giants recognized that and kicked it away from him.

Even the longtime radio voice of the Cowboys, Brad Sham, said on his broadcast Sunday following Bryant’s fumble that it’s time for him to be on the bench.

There’s no way Sham really believes that, but that’s how frustrating it can be to watch this guy, cover this guy through the media, cover this guy as a defense. He’s just erratic in every way – the good can be so good and the bad can be so bad.

Sunday’s 29-24 thriller was the Cowboys’ franchise. Up and down but not good enough. It also seemed to mirror the careers of both Romo and Bryant. So much potential, but yet teased at the end.

Maybe you saw four quarters of dramatic football. I saw the careers of two key players and an entire franchise rolled into one.

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