The Dallas Cowboys had their season ended at FedEx Field Sunday night, losing to the Washington Redskins 28-18.
Here are five thoughts on the Cowboys finishing the season at 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years.
1.) Tony Romo had two first-half interceptions and they wouldn’t have mattered if he would’ve made the big throws in the final minutes. The Cowboys had three timeouts and were only down three with a little over three minutes remaining. Romo could’ve been the hero, marching his team down the field for a victory like the NFL’s elite signal callers are known to do. But when the game and the season were on the line, Romo made a mistake that elite quarterbacks don’t make. He lofted up a weak throw to running back DeMarco Murray that was easily picked off by linebacker Rob Jackson. Game over. Romo never looked comfortable Sunday night, a shock considering the calendar still says December. Romo has been outstanding during the month in recent memory. But like Romo has done throughout his career, when it’s a win-or-go-home situation he has disappointed.
2.) Why was it so difficult to score against a Redskins defense that is not very good? Like the Cowboys, they had significant injuries on that side of the ball — safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo were all on injured reserve. The Cowboys’ offense needed to capitalize in the first half but never did, settling for a 7-7 halftime score. The offense had to carry the load on this night and Romo and Co. never did. There needed to be a sense of urgency, but for some reason the Cowboys play their best when their backs are against the wall. It’s happened all season. This time it came back to haunt them. You can’t play not to lose when the playoffs are on the line.
3.) What a game from Dwayne Harris. His returns were outstanding and his receiving game continues to improve. To go along with his 151 return yards, Harris had a 25-yard reception and a critical two-point conversion catch with 5:50 to go, pulling the Cowboys within 21-18. Not many bright spots Sunday night but he was certainly one of them.
4.) Give Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan one more year. This isn’t a popular suggestion right now but it’s the best option. Re-tooling the entire staff at this point would only make sense if there was an outstanding head-coaching candidate available. I don’t see one at this time. Put everything on the line next season: playoffs or bust. The injuries on defense changed this team, it put everything on Romo’s shoulders. That can be adjusted with healthy playmakers on defense. There is enough talent for this group to make the playoffs and make some noise, if healthy.
5.) Where do they go from here? I don’t think major changes are needed. Yes, you read that correctly. Romo’s not elite but he’s still very good. Getting healthy is most important. Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee and Brandon Carr have demonstrated that there’s enough young talent to aid some of the aging stars on the roster. In the draft, address the offensive line, add another pass rusher and select a quarterback at some point.