IRVING, Texas – Some eight years ago we all received this Football 401 lecture from Professor Bill, at least giving some of us credit for having passed the lower level courses after all these years.
During his four-year reign as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Bill Parcells’ teams would get off to 5-2, 3-4, 4-3 and 4-3 starts, causing most everyone to eagerly want to know in each of those seasons if the Cowboys were a playoff-caliber team.
And each year Parcells would deliver the same lecture, cautioning over premature speculation, insisting a seven-game body of work lacked sufficient evidence.
Then, right on cue, as if some sort of edict coming down from on high scribbled on stone tablets, he would bark, “Check with me after Thanksgiving. By then you are what you are.”
Well, in this 2012-2013 season of NFL football, the 53rd for your Dallas Cowboys, Black Friday had more to do with the deafening silence following Thursday’s colossal failure than anything to do with gigantic sales.
And if we are to be black and white, though seasons are always loaded with pastels, here is what the Cowboys are:
- Tied with the Washington Redskins for second place in the NFC East.
- 1.5 games behind the division-leading New York Giants, who must play the 7-3 Green Bay Packers tonight, trying with all of their might to break a two-game losing streak that only Dez Bryant’s fingertips prevented from being three.
- Possibly just one game behind the Giants in the East if the Packers should win, or two games back with five games remaining if the Giants prevail.
- And once again facing a must-win situation next Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles, the second time in one month they have plummeted into this same pickle against the very same team.
Soooo, Prof. Bill, with 69 percent of the precincts reporting this day after the Thanksgiving line of demarcation in the 16-game schedule, your Dallas Cowboys indeed are who their record says they are:
A maddeningly inconsistent team. One capable of winning two of the first three games, losing four of the next five games, winning consecutive games for the first time since last November and then laying a big fat egg to the 4-6 Redskins with 90,000 crowded into Cowboys Stadium thoroughly convinced the team would stretch their all-time record over their hated rivals on Thanksgiving Day to 7-0.
Instead, in a historically dastardly performance, the Cowboys get skinned alive by Texas’ prodigal son, RGIII (and with his holiday performance on national television there really is no need any longer to make reference to the former Baylor quarterback’s lengthy legal name).
Redskins 38, Cowboys 31, the final score only putting gobs of mascara on ugly, simply highlighting a season seemingly on this loop of constantly going up the down staircase, eliciting this equally ugly word mediocre.
In short, a team steaming toward a .500 finish, certainly no barometer for a division title or playoff invitation. Even Mr. Optimistic, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now understands the score.
“All I can do is sit here and look at the numbers,” Jones said, understandably down in the dumps following the third home loss in five games. “I can’t enthusiastically talk about our odds because I don’t know what New York’s going to do.
“It looks like our best opportunity would be to end up with the best record in the NFC East. I don’t know if 8-8 will get it there or not, and I sure don’t know if we’re going to be 8-8. I’m not trying to be negative, but we’ve got to play these guys again.”
Jerry had just witnessed what, by all odds, figured to be a joyous Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys and The Salvation Army kicking off the annual Red Kettle Campaign with a Kenny Chesney halftime extravaganza. Their own drive toward first place in the NFC East by winning their third straight game.
Instead, halftime nearing to a merciful close, you could note:
In fact, embarrassing – embarrassing on offense and especially on defense.
There have been two Cowboys turnovers already, a lost fumble and an interception.
There have been three RGIII touchdown passes, and four total Washington touchdowns against a defense so lost in coverage I wonder if these guys will ever find the locker room at halftime. And time running out is the only reason this Washington second-quarter blitz will ever cease.
Thanksgiving? Bad for Kenny Chesney having to play the halftime show before a less than appreciative crowd …
What else would you have said after witnessing the absolute worst quarter of football in the Cowboys’ 53-season history? That’s right, absolute worst.
Only twice previously had the Cowboys given up as many as 28 points in a single quarter as they did in this second frame against the Redskins. But at least in those horrendous quarters the Cowboys actually scored some points of their own.
But on this Turkey Day, the Cowboys were shut out, those aforementioned self-inflicted wounds – two turnovers, hastening the laying of this goose egg. That’s right beaten 28-0 … in one quarter.
The last time the Cowboys gave up 28 points in a second quarter, going on to a deflating 45-7 loss in Green Bay, the defensive coordinator who happened to be the head coach was fired two days later, Jason Garrett then becoming the interim head coach as Wade Phillips unceremoniously cleared out his office.
So hail to the second half, the Cowboys picking themselves up from under the carpet to outscore the Redskins 25-10, regaining some self-respect and scoring enough points with this show of heart and fight to provoke what remained of this home-game crowd onto its feet after they drew within seven twice, first at 35-28 with 8:18 to go and then again at 38-31 with a mere 18 seconds left.
But the NFL does not accept brownie points, the Cowboys now playing the part of Jack in the Beanstalk chasing their own Giants with five games remaining and the resurgent Redskins an overly-stuff backpack on their shoulders.
“We got a long way to go and a short time to do it,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We have the right guys to do it. I think Tony did a phenomenal job keeping things alive. Dez has really come on and become a special elite player. Not only the big plays but the underneath throws as well.
“But all that means nothing if we’re not winning. It’s that time. We have to start doing it. We have to start playing well early in games so you can stay within the game plan. You can’t play football and try to win in those situations.”
Now worse than all that, winning in the NFL is even far more challenging when finishing a game, as the Cowboys did Thursday, missing 12 of your opening day starters. That’s half if you count nickel back Orlando Scandrick and punter Chris Jones. The list is exhausting: All three starting defensive linemen; both starting inside linebackers; one starting and the third wide receiver; top two centers; starting left offensive tackle; starting running back with the backup playing on two bad knees; starting safety with the backup playing on a bad hip that kept him out of practice all week, and even his backup missing practice because of concussion-like symptoms.
There was a point in the second half I thought I was watching the third quarter of the second preseason game: Lance Dunbar running; Romo throwing to the likes of Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes; Jermey Parnell at left tackle, Derrick Dockery at right guard and emergency center Mackenzy Bernadeau with his hand on the ball; backups Marcus Spears, Josh Brent and Tyrone Crawford the defensive front backed by Dan Connor and Ernie “Off My Couch” Sims at inside linebacker; with Mike Jenkins playing slot corner for the first time and equally off-the-couch Charlie Peprah at one of the safety spots.
This is no excuse, but certainly reasonable fact, especially now in no-man’s land with the status of Bruce Carter (needing surgery for dislocated elbow), Orlando Scandrick (surgery already for spiral fracture of a hand bone), Jason Hatcher (dinged), Miles Austin (hip strain), Jay Ratliff (groin), DeMarco Murray (sprained foot – still), Tyron Smith (ankle), Phil Costa (ankle), Ryan Cook(knee), Sean Lissemore (ankle) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion).
Sure the Cowboys have a lot to fix and not much time to do it, but as Danny McCray said after the game with a wry smile, having played for the first time in his career without having practiced because of injury and knowing the extent of the team’s injury predicament, “That’s one thing you can’t say we can get fixed.”
Just play on. Then see if you are more in the end as the Giants were last year than who you are the day after Thanksgiving 11/16ths pole.
Or is this really as good as it gets, right Bill?
RIVAL HEADLINE: Cowboys are ‘pageant beauties’; Dez Bryant makes his baby-sitter proud (Washington Post)
ARLINGTON, Texas — Let’s keep this in perspective. They beat a bunch of pageant beauties in the Dallas Cowboys, a team with more dimples than substance. Nevertheless, how often does a crowd at Cowboys Stadium chant for the Washington Redskins quarterback, while booing their own team off the field at halftime? How often does a team get a performance in a must-win game like we saw from Robert Griffin III, so predatory and timely?
It’s hard to believe these words are landing in hard type: The Redskins are clearly the second-best team in the NFC East. That’s now established, and the division lead is actually in sight. For all of the holes in their defense, for all of Mike Shanahan’s throw-in-the-towelness, they are alive, and not just breathing through a tube either. This was a status report game, a where-do-we-stand diagnostic. Had they lost, Shanahan’s towel would have stayed thrown. But they’ve won two division games in five days, and not by a little — by a lot. They’ve put up more than 30 points twice in a week. Pick up the towel.
"It just felt like we were out there showing not only ourselves, but the Cowboys, and everybody, what we were capable of," Griffin said. "Everybody showed up today ready to go, even with the short week. This is what we have to do: Be ready to play. I couldn’t be more proud."
Their status is now this: They are poised for a strong last third of the season. They are healthier than they have been: wide receiver Pierre Garcon’s foot was well enough for him to finally be a factor, and their offensive line is whole. They’ve put up 295 points, more than they scored all of last season (288). And there is not much separating them from the division-leading New York Giants — not much at all. The last time they met, remember, the Giants needed an on-the-money 77-yard scoring pass from quarterback Eli Manning with a 1 minute 13 seconds to go, for a 27-23 victory.
It’s not yet time to anoint the Redskins a sure playoff contender; they aren’t even a .500 team. But they are certainly a tighter, more disciplined, more self-believing and ascendant team than either the Giants or the Cowboys. And to be honest, after watching the slack, careless, profligate play of the Cowboys for most of three quarters, it’s hard to imagine them recovering from this loss. They are not a team that radiates confidence or consistency; it’s a team of flash powder.
The Cowboys had a golden opportunity to knock out the Redskins, their biggest emotional and division rival, and get to 6-5. A Thursday game at home on Thanksgiving invariably and heavily favors the host, and the Redskins hadn’t won a turkey game since 1973.
But is there a team in the league that annually squanders more talent and opportunity than the Cowboys? Quarterback Tony Romo is all ambling casualness, grinny and impossibly wasteful. Dez Bryant is so gifted it makes his baby-sitter proud. The shiny-haired Jason Garrett applied his Princeton University degree to the problem of how to attack the Redskins’ vulnerable secondary. Instead, Romo throws a bunch of short lobs over the middle. One of which resulted in that second-quarter interception by DeAngelo Hall that set the Redskins up at the Dallas 23, and led to the Redskins’ 28-point explosion.
The Cowboys always look so good, don’t they? Romo was 37 of 62 for 441 yards, numbers that are gaudy on paper. Romo’s numbers were deceptive: He started slow and played leisurely, unable to answer for long stretches while his team fell two, then three, then four scores behind. On one series in the first quarter, they took a false start, and then a delay-of-game while Romo fussed around hitching his shoulders; maybe he was trying to get the line of his jersey right. They moved 10 yards backward without even getting a snap off.
"Too many bad sequences, didn’t play well on offense and didn’t play well on defense, and didn’t do a good job in the kicking game as well," Garrett said.
That about covered it.
You want to see a good quarterback, one with flash and beauty, and substance, and urgency? Griffin, who has thrown eight touchdown passes against just nine incompletions in this week’s two games combined, has become the prettiest piece of wallpaper in the league. He is so dynamic, threatens to make so much happen on every play, that he covers up for all of the Redskins’ weaknesses. He bails them out of even the worst situations — such as Brandon Banks deciding to field a booming 67-yard punt in his end zone, after backpedaling two yards deep, to put the Redskins on their 5-yard line.
It was nothing that couldn’t be cured by Griffin’s eye and arm meeting Aldrick Robinson’s legs for a 68-yard score. Robinson jumped off the line and sprinted past Brandon Carr by 10 yards, and Griffin threw it absolutely as far as he could — fully 60 yards in the air — and at first, it looked like he put too much on it. Actually, he knew his customer. Robinson ran a 4.35 in the NFL combine, and somehow he covered enough green to run under it, and caught it, never slowing.
Among Griffin’s many, many gifts is his ability to summon his sharpest performance when he most needs to. It’s the hallmark of a great player, and it is beginning to imbue the entire organization, on both sides of the ball. One of these days, when the Redskins have become the winner that every arrow is suggesting they will be, they will look back over their shoulders to this week, when they beat two division rivals like a drum, and say it started here.
"Everything seems better when you win," Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said, "Whether it’s the food, the Thanksgiving dinner we eat, it tastes a lot better. Injuries heal up a lot faster when you win. It was a good win for us."
Source: Sally Jenkins | The Washington Post.