Monday, January 14, 2008
Jim McKay used to tell us every week about the “Thrill of Victory” and the “Agony of Defeat”. I believe many readers of this blog are familiar with the definition of the latter this morning. There is something to be said for having a lousy season, in which you finish 5-11 or something. You stink, but your hopes and dreams never get away from you, and you don’t die inside like this.
But the 2007 Dallas Cowboys season would have to be right up there with 1979. You play so well all season building and believing that this is your season. You allow yourself to imagine how it ends, and maybe even wonder what the Super Bowl will be like. And then “Thud”. As quick an ambush as you can conceive. It ends.
This is why some people go to movies on Sunday afternoon.
I wish I had a great explanation for you as to why your heroes came up so short on Sunday. Is the only difference between the game yesterday and the games at Buffalo and Detroit just the final play? If Terry Glenn can somehow come up with that final catch, isn’t all forgiven? If the answer is yes, then isn’t the explanation for yesterday simply that it came down to the Cowboys having the ball with 1:50 at the Giants 47, and they just couldn’t put it in the endzone? Penalties, Play Calling, Coaching, fatigue, and many other problems have been blamed, but the beauty of playoff football is it all comes down to one drive, and then one play. If the QB can find the open receiver (and there wasn’t an open receiver on that 4th down) then all is forgiven. But, if he doesn’t, we have 9 months to look for reasons.
Guess what? 238 days until the season starts again. Here are the notes and observations that I would like to offer you on this most bitter of mornings:
· So, what blame do you have for Tony Romo? On one hand, I would say he avoided the huge mistake on Sunday, and therefore should not be the sole piñata in the room. But, boy, missed chances in the passing game usually go back to the QB, whether fair or not. If he hits Owens who is wide open running across the field at the 5 before they have to settle for a FG, or if Crayton doesn’t drop his Jedi pass in the 3rd with all sorts of green in front of him, or if Crayton doesn’t stop his route on the 2nd to last play of the game, maybe it is all different. But, the Cowboys did not make any of those plays, so here we sit. He may have done nothing wrong in Mexico, but it looked bad and it put unnecessary pressure on his shoulders. You don’t need that in the playoffs, and for that, he has another painful lesson to learn. These lessons are pretty tough this time of year.
· So, it is 4th and 11. You have one play to save your season. What are you going to do? I realize it is easy to do Jason Garrett’s job from here, but aren’t you going to have Witten in a route? I totally understand that your pass protection needed his help all day, but for one play, you have to look around the huddle and say, “for one play, block your man. We need Witten running the exact same play we ran at Detroit. He can’t catch it if he is holding Colombo’s hand. I like the post down the middle with Witten going up and trying to catch it, not a gimpy Terry Glenn.
· And while we second guess, why would you change your lineup now? Isn’t that what the last couple games were for? Shouldn’t you have figured out Barber was better than Jones back in October, and then you are building his stamina the final weeks, and therefore he doesn’t look exhausted in your biggest game of the season. To make him the starter was an obvious move, but when you do it when all the chips are in the middle, you better hope it works. After all of those carries early, Barber had nothing left in the 2nd half.
· So in one day, Eli Manning and Norv Turner both shine through? Talk about a parallel universe! Eli was good enough. The drive before the half and the drive early in the 4th was all he needed. He didn’t kill them with the big mistake. I was shocked, and I was wrong. Eli Manning has 2 playoff wins. Tony Romo has 0. This is yet another reason why I do not gamble.
· DeMarcus Ware and the offside penalties remind me of Michael Jordan when he was young. Jordan’s coaches sent video to the league that disputed all of the times refs thought he was lifting his pivot foot. When slowed down they saw that his move was just too quick for the naked eye. I am starting to think that Ware is just too quick, and they assume he is offside. He isn’t most of the time, in my estimation.
· Penalties, Penalties, Penalties. Killer, killer penalties. And it isn’t Parcells this time.
· The bottom line to me is that this team looked to pucker when the pressure was raised. I thought Romo is as cool as they get under pressure, but yesterday he looked rattled. Andre Gurode couldn’t perform a simple snap, Flozell could not keep his man in front of him, and the receivers could not catch.
· Anthony Henry was horrible yesterday. Horrible cushion on most pass routes, ridiculous tackle attempt on Amani Toomer that Toomer took to the house. He flies under the radar usually, but yesterday, he looked like a pretty weak link.
· Do you remember how beat up the Seahawks secondary was last year? They hired Pete Hunter from his day job and had him playing against the Cowboys in Seattle, and we all wondered how the Cowboys could not take candy from the babies with the pass. What about yesterday? The Giants have 3 of their top 4 corners out of the game and you still cannot complete passes? Wow, is that frustrating.
· Someone had to make a play on defense. Where was it? Where were the plays that they made against the Packers in November? Where was the relentless pass rush? Like many other spots on the team, just not good enough.
· This needs to be written: The Giants were not handed that game. They took it. I don’t understand how the Cowboys let it happen, but let’s not take credit away from the hated Giants. I don’t like them, and I wish them nothing but the worst, but wow. From Strahan to Eli, they all played their butts off. They take a lot of guff from their public, but I would think that the Giants have earned credit around the league.
· Isn’t the truth of football this? You cannot turn it on and off like a light switch. You cannot elect when you play your best football. To those who screamed the Cowboys hadn’t played well since the first half of the Green Bay game looks smart right now, right? They appear to be right. They didn’t play well in Detroit. They sure didn’t play well at home with the Eagles. They didn’t play very well in Carolina. They didn’t even bother in Washington. So, then, they take a week vacation, and expected to arrive back and play the best football of the season. Nice theory, but it failed. Two of the top seeds played to win in Week 17, New England and Green Bay. The other two bye week recipients played to vacation in Week 17, Indianapolis and Dallas. This small sample size tells an interesting story, doesn’t it?
· Terrell Owens had a very interesting day. I think he played pretty well considering his situation, and if Romo had hit him on the deep ball where he was behind the safety, and again when he was open at the 5, I think Owens may have been the hero of the game. But, he also seemed to perhaps lack his burst, and now I wonder about the state of the receiving group given the age of Glenn and Owens. It certainly may not be the worst idea to address this with a first round pick in April. Anyway, he showed himself to be a teammate with a heart when he cried in defense of Romo yesterday. I think he has been everything the Cowboys have asked of him, and am happy to consider him a part of this team. At full strength, he is still an unstoppable force. But yesterday, didn't it seem that the Giants decided around the intermission that Owens nor Glenn were going to beat them deep, so the blitzing commenced. And boy, did it hurt.
· The first #1 seed in the NFC to go one-and-done since 1990. OUCH. And the six game losing streak matches the longest franchise playoff losing streak of All-Time. Add to that the 0-fers that Romo and Wade Phillips have around their necks and the beat goes on.
· I have a million more thoughts on this game and where the team needs to go. But, I also have to get downtown, so I will call it quits here, and write more when the chance presents itself. The fact is, this post-season could not have been set up better for Dallas. Home field throughout, with your two playoff opponents both teams that you had already beaten at home. You could not write a more friendly scenario. And yet, the entirety of the playoff run lasted roughly 3 hours. This stinks. The Mavericks now have company. #1 seeds that collapse in the opening credits. This is going to smart for a while around here.