Somewhere at about 8:00 last night Jeff Garcia and Donovan McNabb threw up. To watch Terrell Owens blubber about “my teammate” and “my quarterback” is nauseating at best. In the history of arrogant and selfish wideouts, nobody’s put himself over the team and undermined his own quarterback more than Owens. Whether it’s publicly questioning Garcia’s sexuality or McNabb’s leadership and guts, he’s worked to destroy teams and lockerrooms everywhere he’s been. Even teams he’s never played for have been wrecked by Owens. Remember when he jilted the Ravens at the altar? Billick’s firing this year was merely the final footnote to that catastrophe.
In the end, the Cowboys completely depended on Owens to score touchdowns. The offense was sluggish and inconsistent without him. And when he went down with the ankle three weeks ago, it changed everything. Payment always comes at the end when you sell your soul to the devil, Jerry.
Here’s what happened. The Giants went to the lockerroom at halftime in a 14-14 tie (only the Cowboys could make Eli Manning look like Joe Montana) and looked around and said, “T.O.’s not beating us deep. He’s hurt. Terry Glenn’s not getting open. He’s hurt. Even though our only corners are backups and scout team guys, we can single-cover them the rest of the game.” The Giants decided at that point to stack the line against the run and blitz Romo against the pass. And Dallas only scored three points in the final two quarters. The two hurt receivers couldn’t break free, Patrick Crayton couldn’t catch, Jason Witten had to stay in to block the extra rushers, and Romo didn’t have time to set up in the pocket. Beautiful.
Speaking of Crayton. Gutless. The biggest mouth on the team—and that’s saying something considering he lockers next to Owens—was a no-show when it came time to face reporters last night after the loss. He talked trash for two weeks leading up to this game. But after two drops, a bobbled punt, and a give-up route on the next-to-last play of the game, he was nowhere to be found. If you’re going to talk trash before the game, you need to face the music after the game. Weak. But typical.
Is anybody else questioning the decision to start Marion Barber over Julius Jones and run him like crazy in the first half? Barber was great in those first two quarters. His punishing style and his aggressive attitude and, most especially, his 101 yards were the spark this mis-firing offense needed, I guess. But Marion the Barbarian was spent at halftime. He was done. He’s been most effective all year long running with fresh legs against worn out defenses in the second half. He couldn’t do anything in the second half Sunday because by halftime, he’d already carried the ball as much as he normally does during a full game. He had no strength, no power at all. It looked like a move of desperation. Changing your whole offense for your first playoff game? Was that a reaction to his receivers being hurt? Or was it panic?
Romo’s just completed only his first full-season as an NFL starter. So it’s probably too early to ask this. But I will. Can he get better? Or has he already peaked out? His worst four games this year happened in the past six weeks. That’s probably not fair. We don’t even know if his thumb was still killing him. Nobody’s mentioned that as a possibility. Why else would he look so hesitant in the pocket? Why else would he hang onto the ball so long? How else do you explain that third-down pass across the middle inside the ten that was so far behind Owens? His thumb’s broken, right? If it’s not, then maybe the question’s not so unfair.
Coaches and players and even most of the media seemed so shocked that the Cowboys lost. Why? For a football fan to believe the Cowboys can play so horribly for six weeks and then magically turn it on at playoff time is one thing. But for reporters and writers who cover the game, for coaches and players who live the game, to believe that is crazy. But I think they did. Wade Phillips kept telling us for the past two weeks that they were 13-3. They’re a great football team. Best regular season record in the history of this storied franchise. He kept telling us everything was OK. I think the players bought into that. I think they genuinely believed they could just show up at Texas Stadium Sunday and their 13-3 record and the stars on their hats would be enough to beat New York. Just flip the switch. Just introduce our record 12 Pro Bowlers and the Giants will submit. I know every fan I talked to for the past three weeks believed it. But the players? They acted—before, during, and after the game—like they believed it, too.
Yesterday’s game did serve as a “White-Out” and it had nothing to do with the fans who wore the team color and waved the little towel. That performance yesterday totally “whited-out” that 13-3 Phillips kept talking about. That loss obliterated every part of whatever was good about the regular season. It’s meaningless. Poetically, the Cowboys fans were waving the white flag, throwing in the towel, before the game even started.
Under the current system, Dallas is now the first and only NFC team to lose in the Divisional round as a number one seed. It’s a choke job that rivals that of the Mavericks against the Heat and Golden State. Although, admittedly, we all should have seen this one coming.
And are the questions about Phillips’ abilities as a coach unfair? He’s now 0-4 in the postseason. He has as many NFL postseason victories as you do. Granted, in three of those games his teams were underdogs. But don’t forget he was also the defensive coordinator of that 14-2 San Diego team that bailed out in the first round last year.
21-17 at home as a number one seed. That’s an NFL record sixth straight playoff loss. That’s eleven years now since the Cowboys have won a postseason game.
They scored a total of three points in the second half. (Have I already mentioned that?) And that was on their first drive of the third quarter. They had their chance to win it by getting the ball at the Giant’s 47 with 1:50 to play. They got it down to the 22 with :31 left. But the loss just confirms, really, what anybody watching the Cowboys for the past month and a half already knew.