ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) — The Cowboys had just landed on the wrong end of an historic 51-48 loss to the Broncos on Sunday at AT&T Stadium. In the home-team locker room, emotions ran high, bodies stacked together like dry kindling, human fuses waiting to be lit.
There was pushing and shoving. Impolite epithets were exchanged. Security people interceded.
And that was just to break up a dust-up among DFW media members, who I suppose were prepared to assault each other with pencils, laminated press passes and rolled-up Bachelor of Arts degrees.
The actual Cowboys combatants 92,758 paid to see? They were miffed, too. Proud of the “almosts’’ but embarrassed by the “what ares.’’
“I know what’s going to happen to me when I say this, but this is a good team,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “This is a moral victory. It’s not a loser talking here. We can build off this. I feel as good as you could possibly feel at 2-3. We are going to win enough games to get where we want to be.”
That 2-3 record actually places Dallas in a first-place tie in the lame NFC East. And there is no grand shame in losing to the undefeated Broncos, who average an incredible 45 points per game. Dallas actually held leads against the imperial Peyton Manning bunch, at 14-0 in the first quarter and 48-41 in the fourth. And Tony Romo was outdueling the all-time great, answering Manning’s 414 yards passing and four touchdowns with a team-record 506 yards passing and five touchdowns. Dallas got an interception off Manning in the fourth quarter (his first such miscue all year), setting up a chance for a finish as fantastic as the Cowboys’ offensive performance had been throughout. But Romo matched Manning in the negative category, too, and committed his lone error with the score tied and 1:57 left. The Dallas interception set up the 28-yard, game-winning field goal by Denver’s Matt Prater as time expired.
“It’s frustrating and disappointing,’’ said Romo, taking responsibility for the gaffe on a day when his body of work was truly brilliant.
But, countered defensive leader Sean Lee, the quarterback’s single error shouldn’t be the story here.
“Defensively, we were just terrible,’’ said Lee, a centerpiece of a defense that gave up 500 yards for a second straight week, is on pace for a franchise record for yardage allowed, and allowed a point total that is the third most in franchise history. “No way around it. We wasted what our offense just did. Right now, we’re not a good defense. Terrible.’’
The Cowboys wish for Romo to not be the goat here. And it’s true that if just one defensive player makes just one more play, Romo isn’t burdened with his do-or-die spot and the time-worn narrative of Romo-as-choker is avoided. Of course, they know that’s not the way sports work. A pitcher can be throwing a perfect game for eight-and-two-thirds innings and allow a game-ending homer in the bottom of ninth, and isn’t he the goat? That’s truly what happened here – with the additional baseball analogy being that the pitcher’s teammates committed 51 runs worth of errors.
“Tony played the best game that he’s ever played for us,’’ Jones said. “If we can have that kind of play from him and others, especially on the offensive side of the ball, then we’ll win most of our football games left.”
That is a possibility, not an inarguable fact. This nationally-televised thriller allows the football world to continue to debate the merits of Romo and his Cowboys. Football people do it. Fans do it. And media people — armed with our pencils, laminated press passes and rolled-up Bachelor of Arts degrees — will swat away as well.
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