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Most of us predicted the Dallas Cowboys would finish 8-8, perhaps 9-7 or even 10-6 with a fortuitous bounce here or there. So at 5-6 we shouldn’t be overly alarmed, surprised or – honestly – disappointed.
Yet, s’rnuff, we’re all of the above.
How’s that? Because of the way this wacky, weird and woeful season has played out.
*Despite having his worst season as a starting quarterback, Tony Romo is 3rd in the NFL with 3,357 passing yards and is near the pace for the 1st 5,000-yard season in franchise history.
*The defense has lost starters Sean Lee, Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman and Bruce Carter, all on injuries that none of us have seen.
*The Cowboys allowed an NFL-record tying 108-yard kickoff to the Ravens’ Jacoby Jones.
*They rushed for 227 yards against Baltimore, and only 639 in their other 10 games combined. In fact, at only 78 yards per game, the Cowboys are on pace to smash the record for fewest rushing yards in a 16-game season set during the 1-15 nightmare of ‘89.
*Dallas didn’t hand off in the 2nd half against the Redskins. Not 1 time.
*Despite his drops and gaffes, Dez Bryant is a hangnail against the Giants and a catch against the Redskins from having a Pro Bowl season. (He’s Top 15 in the NFL in catches, yards and touchdowns.)
*DeMarco Murray has missed 6.5 games with some sort of foot injury. DeMarco Murray is only 5 yards from being the Cowboys’ leading rusher.
*The Cowboys have scored only 30 points in the 1st quarter, 29th in the NFL.
*In separate games, they won a home game for the 1st time after trailing by 13+ points at halftime, were gifted a record 10 1st downs by opponent penalty, recorded a touchdown via punt-, interception- and fumble-return in the same quarter, and authored the worst quarter in franchise history on Thanksgiving, losing 28-0 in the 2nd to the Redskins.
Despite that, the Cowboys aren’t out of this thing. I know, I know. They trail the NFC East-leading Giants by 2 games with 5 to play. But in the race for the 2nd Wild Card, Dallas is in the mix. Beat the awful Eagles on Sunday night and the Cowboys climb to 6-6.
Check out the other Wild Card contenders: the 5-6 Saints play at the Falcons; the 5-6 Redskins host the Giants; the 6-5 Vikings visit the Packers; the 6-5 Buccaneers play in Denver; and the 6-5 Seahawks face the Bears in Chicago.
See what I mean?
I’m not saying the Cowboys will make the playoffs. I don’t think they’ll make ‘em at all. Too inconsistent. Too many injuries. But they’ll keep me intrigued into December. You?
Now, just for a second think about Dan Bailey’s field goal in Baltimore that was 2 feet left and Bryant’s finger against the Giants that was 2 inches out of bounds. Scooch a smidge to the right and a tad inbounds and, presto, that’s a 2-game swing. How would 7-4 sound right about now?
Instead, the Cowboys are 5-6. How the hell they’d get here? A 6-pack snapshot of the season, otherwise known as the Sick Six:
1. SEATTLE – How long did it take the Cowboys to vomit away all the momentum from their opening upset of the defending Super Bowl Champion Giants? 1 play. When Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff in Seattle, Dallas returned to reality.
2. CHICAGO – Tony Romo reminded us he was still Tony Romo in the home opener, throwing 5 passes to the Bears including a crotch-kick shovel pass that linebacker Lance Briggs returned for a humiliating touchdown.
3. BALTIMORE – TheCowboys played perhaps their best game of the season against the Ravens, and lost. Because they conservatively – chaotically – let time run off the clock after a Bryant reception and settled for a 51-yard Bailey field-goal attempt that nudged wide left at the last instant.
4. NEW YORK – Bryant saved the season, for an instant. But then replays showed his right hand touching out of bounds before his body, thereby nullifying a game-winning touchdown and voiding a rally from down 23-0. It was almost the defining, season-changing catch of the year. Almost. Instead? Just another incompletion in yet another home loss.
5. ATLANTA – The Cowboys led the undefeated Falcons early and had a chance to beat them late. But needing a stop to get the ball back and having Atlanta pinned inside its own 25 and facing 3rd-and-6, Orlando Scandrick whiffed on a tackle of Jacquizz Rodgers, allowing the running back to turn a 4-yard completion into a 31-yard gain and letting the Falcons escape.
6. WASHINGTON – Down 28-6 on Thanksgiving with under 5 minutes left in the 3rd quarter, the Cowboys desperately needed urgency and yards and points. Instead, on a 1st-and-10 from their own 31, Romo ran a quarterback sneak. Swear. To this point, it’s the signature play of the sad season. Well, at least it’s 1 of the 6.
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