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All is Not Lost

January 17, 2010

There’s no way to sugar coat a demoralizing loss in the playoffs.  There’s nothing that can make the final score any less painful, to like anything that happened in that dome.  There was hope going into the game, but they hadn’t lost there all year.

It was one game, but don’t overlook what the Cowboys accomplished this season.

The Cowboys finished the regular season 11-5.  They got their first playoff win in years, and things seem to be on the upward swing.  There was plenty of development by young players.  Things just feel different around the team than they have in the last several years, despite the loss.

Look, this is a coach that no one wanted hired.  But he’s silencing critics.   Slowly.  It’s hard to replace one of the legendary coaches in the entire history of football.  There will be doubts.

There’s still some doubt about the quarterback, but make no mistake – this is a quarterback who can lead this team to the promised land.

The Cowboys got beaten on both sides of the ball, but they kept one of the leagues best rushers in check all day.  Things just didn’t go right.
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This blog didn’t exist in 1991, but that’s what I would have typed after the Cowboys fell to the Lions in the Divisional round of the playoffs.  It all fits again in 2009.

The next several months are going to suck, but that 1991 team turned into the 1992 team.  That team turned into the last Dynasty.

Things won’t be the same next year.  There will be different players.  Marcus Spears and Flozell Adams have probably worn the star for the last time.  Perhaps the same can be said of Roy Williams, but I doubt it.

And remember — next year, the Super Bowl comes to Big D.

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Writing History

January 1, 2010

Last year, the Cowboys traveled to Philadelphia on the last Sunday of the season needing only a win to meet one of their goals.

Philadelphia needed a lot more.  A tie had them behind three teams in the race for the final playoff spot.  But by the time the game kicked off, it had happened.  They had gotten all the help they needed.  Tampa had fallen to Oakland.  The Texans bested the Bears.

It was right in front of the Eagles.  Win and meet a goal.

This year, things have changed.  Both teams are in the playoffs, but Philly is the one only needing a win to meet a goal.  The coveted bye.

Dallas needs a lot more.  They are behind three teams in the race for the second seed and a free week to go to Cabo.  When the game kicks off, they’ll only know if they’ve gotten no help.  The Cowboys need three things to happen, the Vikings have to fall to the Giants, and the Pack must best the Cards.  The Giants face the Vikings in a game that kicks early, while the game in the Valley of the Sun will kick at the same time the Cowboys and the Eagles tee it up.

Fans will be looking for the Pack/Cards score all game long.  Whether or not they’ll find it in Beyond JerryDome is another question all together.

But things are in front of the Cowboys this year, too, without help.  With a win, they’ll clinch another NFC East title, and likely force the Eagles to make a return trip next week.  Lose, and it’ll be the final game in the House that Tony Built for the season.

For the Cowboys, a bye likely means that they don’t have to enter the playoffs without Marc Colombo or special teams ace Patrick Watkins. One or both could play the wildcard round, but that’s a much foggier mirror.

It was almost predestined to come down to this game when it was put on the schedule.  In fact, the boys in the league office were determined to give destiny a chance.  The moving parts on the schedule were massaged so that these two teams matched up to close out the season.  So that we could hear about 44-6 for a long time coming.

The players will tell you that they’re thinking about this as one game.  That they’ve put that out of their minds.  Then again, they said that about Werdergate last season.  Everyone believed them after the Giant game.  Not so much the following weeks.

One of my favorite sayings is that the victors write the history books.  History looks favorable on those who accomplish their goals.  Their motivations unquestioned.  For the Cowboys, win on Sunday, and the questions will be unasked.

*****

Yesterday, I talked about how I thought Jason Garrett was wise to go back to the well and call the same play twice in a short-yardage situation, despite the results.  In a quick follow up, I’d like to point out something that Todd Archer had on the Dallas News’ Cowboys blog.  A quote from Garrett:

“We’ve done a variety of things and have to keep doing a variety of things to be successful at it.”

Garrett knows that you have to mix it up, but he wisely knew the time to do so wasn’t last Sunday night.

*****

I live in an area populated with Saints fans, so that game was sweet.  Stopping the Colts in 2006 was awesome.  Any time you beat the Eagles, like the Cowboys did with Roy Williams interception in 2005 is nice. The Romo Show against the Giants in ‘06 was fun.  And a pair of shut outs against the ‘Skins are worthy of making the best of the decade list.

For me, however, my favorite game of the decade takes me back to a couple of my favorite games from the ‘90s.

2007 was the best year to be a Cowboy fan this decade, and it had what I hope is the defining moment heading into the next decade.  It was the first Monday night game in Buffalo in forever.  And the Cowboys looked like crap.  Tony Romo had a game that many would have put on his career gravestone, but turned into one that could one day be on his bust in Canton (mayyyyybe).

It’s certainly where I learned a good bit about him and his moxie.  In the wake of the Eagles game last year, many questioned how impacted Romo was by losses.  They said it wasn’t enough.  In the game against the Bills, however, he showed that not being phased when things are going sideways is one of his best traits.

You remember what happened that night.  Romo led the ’Boys to late scores, and in the year of Shanahanning, Nick Folk made a pair of 53-yarders to cap the comeback.

It was my favorite game of the decade.  What’s yours?

Let’s hope the next month gives us an early head start on game of this decade.

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Garrett’s Mind Games

December 31, 2009

Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. That’s the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein.

That’s exactly what the Cowboys did against the Redskins on Sunday night, but I think it was about the best play calling that we’ve seen out of Jason Garrett in a while. If he’s crazy…it’s like a fox.

Football is a series of little wins, something I talk about often. If your line wins their blocks, and the receiver beats coverage, and the quarterback steps up and finds the hole – you complete a pass. Then there’s the battle after the catch.

There’s literally thousands of battles in every football game. Formations, substitutions, play calls, audibles, coin flips. Thousands.

At the point in the game where the Redskins stopped Barber, the game wasn’t in much doubt. Really, from the opening touchdown, there wasn’t much intrigue in the game. The final score wasn’t a blow out, but there wasn’t much doubt about the outcome.

There wasn’t nothing to be gained by giving Philly any idea of tendencies or new wrinkles to analyze before the showdown on Sunday. The first stop showed them the exact same play twice. A play that Albert Haynesworth was able to crash and stop.

Philly has no Haynesworth. They have Broderick Bunkley and run-liability Trent Cole to stop that play. By showing the same play twice, Eagles DC Sean McDermott has to make a decision.

Were the Cowboys showing me nothing? Or were they developing a tendency? Were they working on a play that they think will work against our smaller players?

Does he guess that they’ll go back to the well again, or does he think that was a red herring? He’s faced with choices. A battle of wits with Garrett. He can pull the undersized Cole, which gives a play-action look a better chance of success. Combined with the Eagles’ corner’s habit of trying to jump routes, it may make a double-move possible.

Or he could leave Cole in, and likely not have the same results Washington did.

Garrett was giving the Eagles something to think about, and that is why I like going back to the well.

Not to say that the Cowboys were better off not getting the first downs. Remember, it was Haynesworth who stopped the play dead twice in a row, and he’s pretty good. Garrett also got an idea about if or when he’d like to call the same play going forward.

Lets go back and look at the plays from the previous week against New Orleans in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations where Garrett dialed up the run:

3rd and 2 at NO 7 – Choice (wildcat) left, 4 yards
1st and 3 at NO 3 – Barber left, touchdown
3rd and 1 at DAL 26 – Barber left, 2 yards
3rd and 1 at NO 6 – Barber right, 3 yards
2nd and 2 at NO 2 – Barber left end, touchdown

As you can see, the Cowboys were more successful there. Three firsts and two scores. More variety, too. Just remember it’s a game of battles, and unlike the San Diego game or the Denver goal-line stand in week 2, the game wasn’t on the line there. Don’t read too much into Haynesworth making plays, unless you’re in the Eagles film room.

Lets compare something else from the last two weeks. Against New Orleans, you saw the Cowboys find success out of the wildcat (I don’t call it “razorback” – there’s the wildcat, or when Rickey Williams runs it, the weedcat).

It was the Saints secondary that was bringing Tashard Choice down. And until the Washington game, it was the only play call you really saw out of the formation. Felix had not been used at all. There’s been no pass play called. Not. One. Pass.

The trickeration that you saw against Washington was Garrett letting Philly know that there’s other plays that they’ll run. By breaking out the reverse, the Cowboys were planting a seed. A little one, but a seed none the less. It could make the standard play where Choice goes behind a pulling guard more successful if the Eagles try to stop the fancy play, or if they stay home it could open up the first pass out of the formation.

Garrett played chess with the Eagles while facing Washington. After the Saints game before it, I have reason to think that Garrett is finally hitting his stride as a play-caller this month.

It portends good things going forward.

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New Years Resolutions

December 30, 2009

As the clock winds closer to midnight tomorrow, most people will be mailing in some columns or blog posts trying to roll early out of work and commence the dropping of balls (not you, Roy E.) and drinking of bubbly (it’s probably flat by now, Mercury).  So, being that I’m going to be at work later than I should be tomorrow, here you go:  your first “New Years resolution predictions for the Cowboys.”    Really, if someone at the FWST doesn’t have this up by 11 tonight, I’ll resolve to not call them out on their cartoon-like lack of originality for doing something stupid like a column of resolutions for local sports figures.   

Tony Romo:  Resolves to only resolve one day at a time, and as long as he makes resolutions to get better every day he has a chance to go where he wants to go.

Marion Barber:  He resolves to be friendlier to the media.  That’s right, two – count ‘em TWO – brief statements to the press in 2010.

Roy Williams:  Something about extra practice and trust and rhythm. 

Tashard Choice:  TC has resolved to speak his mind in 2010. 

Keith Brooking:  He says waiting for the calendar to make changes is stupid.  So he shaved that horrible mustache last week.  I’m guessing after they got too many calls about why the guy from No Country for Old Men was on their Christmas card.

Jerry Jones:  He won’t be forced into making a resolution early.  When the time comes to make a resolution, that is just what he will do. 

Marty B:  Hang out with the aliens on Mars more often.  He’s been neglecting them recently. 

There, all goofiness aside, I can now get back to the original post I was writing about why you won’t see fewer plays out of the wildcat going forward and why Garrett kept dialing up the same play in short yardage last week.

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First Reaction to the win

December 20, 2009

If you read my post yesterday, there’s only one instant reaction:

You’re terminated, motherfucker.

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Why I hate columnists

December 19, 2009

OK, the headline is a bit strong.  I dislike two columnists, both from the Star-Telegram.  Jennifer Floyd Engel and Randy Galloway are hacks of the highest order.

So, I finish the last post, and then go to Google Reader to view the latest on the game.  I see the FWST’s staff picks .

To save you from having to click, Galloway calls the Saints 100-0 and JFE has it 49-0.  I’m sure at one point in their careers, both desired to seek out topics, become informed and then select a point of view.  Those days are long gone.  I termed what Galloway does as madlibs columns where he simply takes what a local team does, and replace that into the same hackneyed garbage comparisons.  Add in a few disparaging nicknames, and voila, lucrative career.

They simply desire raising your ire, and I’ve let them get me once again.   Please do yourself a favor, and when you see either of their by-lines…. skip it.

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Final Saints Thoughts

December 19, 2009

Indestructible. Unbeatable. Relentless. It just keeps coming at you, and won’t stop until you are vanquished. Its goal can’t be reached with you around. Every time you think you’ve stopped it, it gets back up and keeps going. Its goal is domination. Until you squash it with a hydraulic press. See, thought I was talking about the Saints, didn’t you? The pronouns should have led you to see it was an allegory.

Now, en route to 13-0, they’ve seemed a lot like the T-800, and it seems like most have bought into the theory that it can’t be stopped. But who’s to say that the Cowboys can’t play the role of Kyle Reese?

It’s not going to be easy, and may not work out, but the Cowboys have a chance to lure them under the proverbial hydraulic press? Other than the media, pundits, analysts, 98% of fans and most other people, that is.

The Saints team that beat New England won’t be beaten by the Cowboys, or any other team for that matter. That team hasn’t shown up for every game though, and assuming they will on Saturday night is quite dogmatic.

Roy Williams’ tongue-in-cheek remark about crowning the Saints was right. Most are assuming they are just killing time until a return trip to Miami with rings on the line.

“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing,” Socrates said. If there’s anything that we should know as football fans, it’s that we have no idea what will transpire. Consider: Last year, the two lowest-seeded teams in the NFC played for the right to advance to the Super Bowl. The winning team of that game now has seven losses. Ryan Leaf was the 2nd overall pick in the draft. The ‘07 Cowboys.

Analysis and prognostication is all idle chatter in a world where we have no absolute knowledge as to our existence for another breath.

“The only constant is change,” was a central belief of the philosopher Heraclitus.

Last year, I said in the pre-season that the Patriots would find themselves out of the playoffs coming off an 18-1 season. My reasoning was that the team that loses the Super Bowl always fails to return to the tournament. I take credit for the prediction, because I ended up right. “You didn’t know that Tom Brady would be injured, you don’t get credit for that,” is something I heard repeatedly as I repeated myself through the season on my radio show.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the game is over, that the Cowboys will win, that my prediction is any more valid than anyone else. We simply don’t know.

And that’s why sports are fun. We watch, because there’s no way that you can be positive about something. The Greeks give us hope. Millennia later, we still acknowledge a lack of knowledge and that things change.

Let that give you hope. The Cowboys won’t always lose in December. The Saints won’t win eternally. Things will change, and they can change tonight when no one expects it.

Except me, Roy E. and hopefully 52 of his teammates. They just need to find the hydraulic press somewhere.

Some quick thoughts:

* Demarcus Ware is a game-time decision. I’m thrilled by the fact that he’s progressed well enough to get that far. We were worried about you big guy. And will be for every play you step on the field for the rest of your career. We should do the same for everyone.

* The Saints won their first five games by an average of 19.8 points. The next month was much closer, with the margin of victory at 8.8. That coincided with them giving the ball away 13 times.

As I noted earlier this week, the Cowboys have dropped the last 2 games while winning the turnover battle. Sure would help the Cowboys to see a +2 or +3 in the box score.

* It’s hard to map out a blueprint for beating the Saints. But I doubt Beyond Jerrydome was built without revisions along the way. The goals are there, thought: Turnovers, special teams, pass rush, don’t waste opportunities.

* Bill Parcels last incarnation of the Cowboys took out a team who many thought would run the table. They did it with a similar blue print to the Giants win over the Bills in the Super Bowl that Parcels oversaw. Keep it on the ground, keep the clock running, maximize your opportunities, and create good field position.

Let’s hope that Wade and crew find a formula that works.

Sorry that I’m a little short of analysis and don’t have any little nuggets to watch for. I just know that I’m around 800 words, now, and trying to look at the little ways to beat the Saints would just bore you, since they can’t beat the Saints you know.

Prediction: Dallas 38, New Orleans 35.