Dallas Cowboys fans, first of all, thanks for nothing. My beloved Steelers (2-3) beat your dreaded conference rivals the Eagles (3-3) last weekend, and your blue and silver (2-3) repaid us by losing against our bitter conference rivals, the Baltimore Ravens (5-1), yesterday 31-29. If there’s one team I hate more than Dallas, it’s Baltimore.
Secondly, you should be furious. At the players, at the owner, and, most intensely, at your head coach.
Why was Jason Garrett so damn chipper during his postgame press conference? His team imploded. Again. And in heart-wrenching fashion. The Cowboys’ offense, which had been jamming the ball down the Ravens’ throat all day long, got the ball down by eight with 4:41 left and drove about 80 yards to Baltimore’s 4 yardline. With 36 seconds left Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo found receiver Dez Bryant in the endzone to draw within two. Your boys bombed on the potentially tying two-point conversion –– Romo and company ran a play nearly identical to the one before, the one that got them six, but this time Bryant let the ball bounce right off his freaking shoulder pads. Not an easy catch, by any stretch. But still: Jerry Rice would have made it.
Still down by two, the Cowboys had to make the impossible happen: Do an onside kick, recover the ball, and, assuming the ball would be spotted around midfield, drive at least 30 yards for a game-winning field goal. Well, the impossible did happen. Almost. With about 30 seconds left, the Cowboys recovered their onside kick at their own 46 and then amazingly, on the very first play from scrimmage, got a huge pass interference call, which moved the ball to Baltimore’s 34 yardline. And then things got stupid. Real stupid.
The previous play left the Cowboys with 26 seconds left and one timeout to gain about 10 yards to make for a comfortable field-goal attempt. That’s a lot of time plus a key timeout, probably enough for two short sideline passes or maybe a sideline pass and then a run up the middle to place the ball near the center of the field, followed by a quick timeout. But, hot dawg, how ’bout them Cowboys?! Most of the blame for what happened next must fall on the bony shoulders of Garrett, who also is the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator. Twenty seconds –– 20 freaking seconds –– disappeared, simply vanished into the ether as Cowboys backs and receivers ran around in circles in the huddle. Twenty seconds and one timeout to move about 10 measly yards on a reeling, demoralized defense, and the Cowgirls decide to stick their heads up their asses and let the precious moments tick, tick, tick off the clock.
Finally, Romo got the snap, dropped back, scanned the field for a microsecond, and then dumped the ball short to Bryant –– in the middle of the field –– for a one-yard gain, forcing the Cowboys to use their last timeout, leaving them with only six lousy seconds on the clock and kicker Dan Bailey with a 51-yarder. The snap and hold were good, but the kick sailed left. Ravens’ ball. With two seconds on the clock. The purple and black knelt down and then celebrated.
At the postgame press conference, anyone even remotely familiar with the Cowboys since the mid 1990s might have expected to see the podium occupied by a mad dog, yanking his hair out and rending his clothing over losing a game that statistically should have been a blowout victory. Here you had a team, the Cowboys, that got its ass kicked by a highly overrated, mediocre-at-best team in the Chicago Bears the week before going into a stadium whose home team hadn’t lost there in 13 tries come out and dominate both sides of the ball, especially offensively. Dallas generated 481 yards of total offense, including 227 yards rushing, the most ever against the vaunted Ravens defense dating back to their first year in the league, 1996. The Cowboys held the ball for an amazing 40:03, racking up 30 first downs in the process. By comparison, Baltimore’s offense barely exceeded 300 yards total. Garrett, though, was a vision of glee, stressing the good and ignoring the bad. “I felt we fought really hard and well through a lot of different adversities in all three phases,” he said. The Ravens, he continued, “have been awfully good for a while. [They have] been awfully good in [M&T Bank Stadium] for a while. We gave them everything they could handle.”
Yes, Jason, the Cowboys’ good was impressive. The offensive line, problematic since the victory against the New York Giants on the first day of the season, was blowing Baltimore’s front seven off the ball consistently, and Dallas’ defense came up with some key stops. Garrett might not have been completely out of place trotting out his team’s jaw-dropping stats and high-caliber performances to spin his failure (a loss is a loss) into a potentially job-saving accomplishment. But Garrett is in his second season as the Cowboys’ head coach, and though we keep hearing all about Dallas’ “talent,” the blue and silver (or silver and blue; whatever you guys call them; I couldn’t care less) simply have not produced. Now looking up from the bottom of the NFC East and with games against the Giants, undefeated Falcons, and loathsome Eagles on the horizon, the time to panic is now.