You can blame Orlando Scandrick for that missed open-field tackle (not easy) and that holding penalty late in the fourth quarter (fatigue-induced) that kept the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive on the field, eating up precious clock. But you and I both know better. We can backtrack play by play to the start of the game –– specifically for twice settling for three in the red zone –– to assigning blame for the ’pokes’ heart-wrenching 19-13 loss to the eight-and-O Falcons, who, by the way, have beaten only one team with a winning record (Denver) in that entire stretch. (Can you say, “Overrated”? I knew ya could.)
Heck, we could probably trace the blame all the way back to when Jerry fired Tom Landry. But we’re not going to, because we’re not in the business of doling out blame. Actually, we are, but we’re actually more concerned with moving forward, and if the Cowboys can play another relatively mistake-free game like they did in Hot-lanta, the schedule gods have laid out an entirely beatable November for the boys in silver and blue.
The fun starts next week with an Eagles team that either will be reeling in drama and too distracted to perform to the best of its abilities after MNF tonight or a reignited Eagles team, one that we all know is simply good on paper only and capable of folding at a minute’s notice. Let’s say the Cowboys handle the Eagles, in Philly, next week as expected. The ’pokes will be sitting at 4-5. The following three games are at home and against not-too-formidable opponents: the could-beat-you-but-won’t Cle Browns, the who-are-they-this-week? Redskins, and the Birds again. If –– and it’s a big “if,” but if –– the Cowboys can play mistake-free football, and Jason Garrett can get his ginger-head out of his ass, the silver and blue might be looking at 7-5. Not too shabby, right? Especially considering the fact that the NFC East-leading Giants are –– finally –– being exposed as the luckiest freaking team in NFL history. (“Helmet-catch on a game-winning drive? Sure!” God says.)
The remainder of the boys’ season includes a road game against another could-beat-you-but-won’t AFC North team, the Ben-gals, followed by the Steelers, the ’aints, and, for the last game of the season, the ’skins again. The only game that sticks out is against the greatest NFL franchise ever, right? True, the black and yellow are rolling right now, having pounded the living shit out of the Super Bowl-champion Giants yesterday in the Meadowlands, the third of three dominating wins in a row, ones that found the Steelers rushing for more than 100 yards in each game (158 against the G-men). (Can you say, “The 2009 Steelers all over again”? I knew ya could.) The black and yellow should have won by at least 20, but the refs were trying brown-nose Roger Goodell, who was in the house to show face, like he cares, for the victims of Superstorm Sandy and whose hatred of the Steelers is well known and documented. The refs were “thanking him” for getting their measly jobs back. Wusses. All of them. Anyway, I can tell you that I’ve followed enough Steeler football to know –– I was born and raised in Sixburgh –– that the Steelers always play down to the level of their opponent and, as a result, are liable to get whupped by any team in the league any day of the week. Even though, on paper, that December 16 tilt against the City of Bridges and The Gateway to the West looks to be an automatic loss, don’t count, er, um, don’t lose all your eggs before they hatch. The Cowboys are equally unpredictable and could manage to come up short against, say, the lowly Browns or the Suckskins yet turn back around and a month later beat the team from the home of Andrew Carnegie, Andy Warhol, August Wilson, Gertrude Stein, Gene Kelly, Mario Lemieux, and Mr. Rogers.
Long story longer: There’s a legitimate chance that the Cowboys can reach 10 wins, and in this league, 10 wins can be more than enough to get you into the playoffs. What happens after that? Sorry, but we all know the end to that sad story.