What a disaster.
Cowboys 17, Giants 21.
And to lose at the hand of a Manning. Oh the humanity. Anyone's who had the misfortune to deal with Eli Manning in fantasy football knows what a gridiron retard he is, perpetually struggling in the shadow of his older brother, always looking confused on the field and surely one throw away from yet another inopportune fumble or interception. But not last weekend. In Texas Stadium, Manning had the poise of Joe Montana from 1989.
You have to understand that Cowboys fans aren't used to losing. Like Yankees fans, it's just not in our DNA. Football seasons are about getting to the Superbowl. Eight appearances, five wins. And this season, after so many mediocre seasons and teams led by the likes of the hapless Quincy Carter or the gruff-but-impotent Bill Parcells, it looked like we had a winner. Maybe we couldn't beat the Patriots on February 3. But then again, maybe we could. Maybe we could get a record-setting sixth Lombardi Trophy.
There's always next year.
So why did the NFC's number one seed lose? What allowed them to join fellow Metroplex losers the Dallas Mavericks as a pro team that steamrolls everyone in the regular season, racks up records and accolades, only to crumble like a termite-infested gazebo deck in the playoffs?
Here's the top ten reasons.
1. Lack of discipline - The Cowboys often look like the old Oakland Raiders in the way they continually draw stupid penalties. There's a loosey-goosey quality to this team (a facemask here, a horse collar there, hey, what's the big deal?) that surely connects right with the loosey-goosey head coach. If you played a drinking game that involved taking a shot every time Flozell Adams got a false-start penalty, your ass would be plastered by halftime.
2. Patrick Crayton's ego - He's one of the team's big smack talkers, but although he's a decent #2 receiver (you have to admire the fact that he barely wears any kind of shoulder pads), he's not yet exactly striking fear in the hearts of defensive coordinators. Players who can back up the smack are the only ones who should run it. In this game, if Crayton makes the catch on that long slant and converts a first down, odds are good the Cowboys march down and go up 24-14. But he doesn't and the Cowboys didn't. And he just got a huge contract extension.
3. No running game - Marion Barber 3 steamrolls the Giants in the first
half, so the Giants understandably stack the box to limit his yards in the second. Okay, fine. And the Cowboys counter that with... What exactly? Isn't there some other way to get Barber involved? Throw the guy a frickin' swing pass! Isn't that why offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is such a supposed genius, nay, wizard? Or was Garrett already thinking about all those head coach offers?
4. Tony Romo - You could see the confusion and frustration in Romo's
eyes at the end of the Giants game. For a guy who's always grinning and high-fiving, last weekend in the fourth quarter Romo wasn't having any fun. The Fox cameras even caught him yelling in disgust and anger at his teammates. The O-line did him no favors, but it was Romo who was making the bad decisions, failing to throw the ball away to avoid the sack on one play, then throwing deep for the home-run ball instead of looking short to get a first down.
5. Believing the hype - The Cowboys were playing an elite level back in November when they beat the Packers. And it was all downhill from there. No energy. No urgency. And despite the sudden streak of shaky games Dallas escaped by the skin of its teeth (to crappy teams, no less) and some in which they didn't escape (there is zero excuse to ever lose to Axis of Evil teams like Washington and Philadelphia), no one seemed to be bothered. Don't worry, be happy. The folks at Valley Ranch, in fact, were the only people who figured the December meltdown was just a hiccup on the road to the inevitable Superbowl appearance. Unfortunately, the Cowboys still had to, like, play the games. But the Cheese Fry's fortune cookie read,]: if they sucked in December, why should January be any different?
6. Poor clock management - It'd have been nice to have all three time outs in the waning minutes of the game, but confusion and chaos ruled the second half and the Cowboys had to burn two time outs early on to avoid a delay of game penalty. You could see the reality of the situation dawning as the game went along and panic began to set in. "Y'all, are we really going to lose this game?" Memo to the Dallas Cowboys: the NFL playoffs are single elimination. You only advance if you win.
7. The curse of Wade Phillips - No one applauded this hire last winter. Phillips is an oatmeal-headed, grandpa coach in the mold of the gratefully departed Dave Campo. But with all of those regular season wins, us Cowboys fans began to drink the Wade Kool-Aid. But like all of Wade's other teams (including last seasons #1 ranked San Diego Chargers who lost its first playoff game - sound familiar?), this one choked away a playoff game. The reason seems clear: he's too laid-back and easy-going to crank everyone up to the next level.
8. Bad luck - Not only did the Cowboys need to beat a division rival for the third time in a season, they had the bad luck to go against a division rival who'd regained its footing and found some real momentum. (Everyone always says that December momentum is critical in the NFL.) The Packers may have drawn the higher seed, but the Giants are playing much tougher football than the Seahawks.
9. Terrell Owens - Where the hell was he? All this talk about his high
ankle sprain and the hand-wringing about would he or wouldn't he play... In the second half he was a non-factor. The blame for this must go to Tony Romo (see #4) and Jason Garrett (see #3).
10. Terry Glenn - Enough is enough. He was a speedy, sure-handed player, but it's time to move on. He's old and injured. What if the Cowboys had somehow managed to land another, more able-bodied #2 WR for the season? Someone who could have contributed all season long instead of trying to mesh with the offense in the, you know, biggest game of the entire season.
You'll note that Jessica Simpson was nowhere on this list. She has nothing to do with anything. We're not even sure if she knows what a touchdown is.