Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Just win

The only thing that matters is to win the game. Style points are not at the top of the list. Will Cowboy Nation more gratified with a one point win than twenty-one? No. But if Cowboy Nation were to be offered beforehand a one point win if you do this that and the other, we'll readily accept it. Win by a point, we move on. Lose by even a point, we're just plain sick. And much sicker than last year's one point loss at Seattle. While that was dissapointing, what was really the most dissapointing to me, was how our team botched the stranglehold that we had on the NFC East division crown and backed into that playoff game. Let's go back to December of 2006. We have just done the Giants 23-20 in New York on a Martin Gramactica field goal as time expired, to win our fourth in a row and move to 8-4, two games up on the reeling 6-6 Giants. And it's set up as a "Can't Lose" for Dallas. Four games left, three of them at home, and the one remaining road game(we'd weathered the early season underachieving tag when we played so many road games early on) was against the struggling Atlanta Falcons. Two games up on the Giants. We crash and burn starting the next week, losing badly at home to the resurgent New Orleans Saints. Well, the Giants werent' the ones who would run us back down. The Eagles, left for dead at 5-6, a full two games behind Dallas, had lost McNabb for the season to the torn knee cartilage. They came back to beat Carolina to go to 6-6. tied with the Giants. The Giants would succumb to 8-8, somehow grabbing the last playoff spot still. Dallas would beat Atlanta after the Saints debacle, but noone knew at the time that would be the Cowboys last win of the 2006 season. The Eagles, now a game back of Dallas, beat the Giants that same week to set up the Christmas day showdown in Big D. If Dallas wins they've clinched the division, and the Eagles are forced to win on the final day to get a wildcard. The Eagles and Jeff Garcia come in and the Cowboys don't even show. 23-7. Eagles (who had beaten the Drew Bledsoe led Cowboys backn in October in Philly) complete an unlikely sweep of the Cowboys, who had been preseason favorites to win the division highlighted by their signing of T.O.

T.O. had had a solid year though playing most of it with a dislocated finger suffered in week two. The Cowboys limped into the regular season finale with a chance to still win the NFC East with a win against the lowly 2-13 Detroit Lions at home and then watch a later game to see if Philly could still lose to Atlanta in their season finale. Only Dallas made mistake after mistake in every phase. The Lions scored over thirty for the first time since, not sure when, and left Texas stadium posturing after embarassing the still playoff bound Cowboys 39-31. And the defense was a huge issue all of a sudden.

And then against Seattle, the Seahawks were decimated in the secondary and the Cowboys could not take enough advantage. That and other factors allowed the Seahawks to stick around in the game. The key sequence of events in this game was when it was 17-13 Dallas early in the fourth quarter, and Safety Roy Williams intercepted a pass. With the lead, the Cowboys mounted a drive that would take them all the way to first and goal. A touchdown more than likely seals the deal. The Seahawks were worn down and all but beaten. Only the Cowboys commit a costly penalty to keep them out of the end zone, have to settle for a field goal, and still only lead 20-13. And then the Seahawks were stopped on fourth down at about the Dallas 2, the Cowboys, still up by seven, have a Terry Glenn fumble in his own end zone resulting in a safety for Seattle. Seattle takes the good field position following the free kick and turn it into a big play touchdown. So now the Seahawks are up by one but hold on........Back comes Dallas, with a clock eating drive with crisp passing and running mixed. A pass to Jason Witten on third down with just over a minute left in the game appears to give Dallas a first down at the Seattle four. It was ruled a first down at first but then there was a booth review. It was determined that Witten was about six inches short of the first down, making it fourth down. The Cowboys elect to kick the chip shot field goal, to give them the lead rather risk losing on a possible failed fourth down attempt. Then the Romo botched hold and well you know............You know what though, it's not for certain whether the defense would have held with still a minute to play. Seattle has one of the game's best kickers in Josh Brown. But after the Romo botched hold, where he picked up the ball and ALMOST made it in. ALMOST. The Cowboys STILL got the ball back with seconds left but no timeouts, and no time to set up a long field goal with a completion and therefore reduced to a hail mary pass to the end zone. At any rate, game lost season over. A decade now since their last playoff win, over Minnesota in 1996. Wait till next year.

Well, Next year is here. The Cowboys roared out of the gate this year and never looked back in the division, beating the hated Giants twice along the way, along with a 13-3 record and the number one seed in the NFC. Romo is second in the NFL with 36 Touchdown passes and the fourth rated passer in the NFL. T.O. and Witten have big seasons. Solid season from receiver Patrick Crayton in place of the injured Terry Glenn. Solid productivity out of the running tandem of Barber and Jones. And even Terry Glenn is back. And it's all going to go out the window with a loss whether it's by one lousy point or seventeen. I'm sure that even a one point win on Sunday, to make it three for three against the Giants, will still qualify. Just win. We'll take it.


laiegirl18 said...

Great blog! Keep it up!

romofan said...

If Dallas chokes this Sunday(and yes, it would be a choke to lose to a team they've already beaten twice this year)it would render this year meaningless. The last time Dallas won a playoff game, their quarterback Tony Romo was sixteen. Terrell Owens was a scarcely known rookie in San Francisco but he's now 34 and assuming that he finsishes his career in Dallas, he's running out of years for a Super Bowl, the one thing that has eluded him. When he was with the 49ers' they were still a pretty good team but their Super Bowl contending days were over, and the one time he made it to the Super Bowl was in 2004 in Philadelphia, when they lost by three to the Patriots. But before he got the chance to help get the Eagles back on that stage in 2005, he had a falling out with the Coach and with quarterback McNabb. At midseason of that year, T.O. was suspended for the remainder of the year by the team, and then released, signing with Dallas in March 2006. Last year, the Cowboys were expected to be the kind of team that they have been this year but underachieved to 9-7 and then choked in the Wildcard against Seattle. But as big of a dissappointment as that was, choking this time around would be TEN times worse. Frankely, having beaten Green Bay, the likely opponent in the NFC Championship game, provided they don't choke this Sunday, anything less at this point than representing the NFC in the Super Bowl will be a major dissappointment. But if they lose this Sunday to the Giants, to remain winless in the playoffs since 1996, that would be a travesty. Big Time. There is no question that the Cowboys best beats New York's best. They've already proven that twice this year. But this playoff game is the one that matters the most. The Cowboys won the Battle(head to head and in the division) but can they win the war? It's kind of scary, knowing that they should win. It's not the easiest thing to beat a team that you know so well and vice versa three times in a span of four months time. No question Dallas is the better team than the Giants as long as they don't help them out.