10. Sorry, but let’s stop the “Sean Payton!!” cries before they get started. Yes, he coached in Dallas under Bill Parcells, went to the same college as Tony Romo and owns a $3 million home in Westlake. He might be a free agent after the Super Bowl. But why would Payton leave New Orleans, where he’s won a Super Bowl, has a great relationship with owner Tom Benson, has a quarterback named Drew Bees and possesses more power in personnel decisions than he’d ever have in Dallas?

9. Well, we got what we hoped for. The Cowboys scored 1st for only the 2nd time this season, they committed no turnovers and even were gifted 2 missed field goals by one of the best kickers in the game. And still lost. The Cowboys didn’t beat themselves, but they still got beat. That’s why, to me, Sunday night is perhaps the most demoralizing loss of the season. Just aren’t a lot of “If”s to irrationally hang future hope upon.

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8. Congrats to Jason Witten, who has now caught more passes than any player to ever wear a star on his helmet. Feels hollow I know, but it’s an accomplishment that shouldn’t go unnoticed.

7. You’ll hear lots of punch lines fabricated out of this, but owner Jerry Jones was “locked out” of the Cowboys’ post-game locker room for all of about 7 seconds. A forceful knock and he was in. No biggie.

6. That’s 2 weeks in a row that the Cowboys – needing to throw the ball into the end zone for a chance to win on the game’s final play – have failed to give Tony Romo sufficient time, despite using 6 players to block 3 rushers. Sunday night Romo was forced to dump the ball to Felix Jones, who inexplicably allowed himself to be tackled at Atlanta’s 21 as time expired.

5. The Cowboys are 0-8 on NBC’s Sunday Night Football since ’09. They just aren’t good enough to be good teams on big stages.

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4. If you’re ready to start thinking 2013, you’ve got to smile at the prospect of Sean Lee and Bruce Carter playing alongside each other on defense. And yes, for the record, that buffoon of a GM named Jerry Jones drafted both of them in the 2nd round. Carter was a monster Sunday night, from destroying running backs behind the line of scrimmage to chasing down receivers 30 yards down field.

3. Some of us admitted media blowhards called for an up-tempo, pass-first offense vs. Atlanta, like the one that rallied from 23-0 down against the Giants to take a late lead. And the Cowboys used it, but not until they trailed 16-6 midway through the 4th quarter. With a stagnant running game abandoned and with Romo free to improvise, he went 6 of 6 on a 78-yard scoring drive that made it interesting. But it wasn’t better late than never, because it too little too late. Maddening.

2. Defense gets much of the blame for this one. The Falcons scored on 4 of their final 5 drives, failing only when Matt Bryant pushed a 43-yard field goal. The Cowboys pulled within 16-13 with 5:21 remaining but didn’t get the ball back until :17 remained. Orlando Scandrick missed a tackle on Jacquizz Rogers and then held Roddy White to extend the drive via 3rd-down mistakes. And safety Danny McCray – who’s proving to be no Barry Church, by the way – whiffed on Rogers again. Needing just a field goal to tie the game and thanks to an offensive interference penalty, the Cowboys had the Falcons pinned 1st-and-20 at their own 10. Rob Ryan’s crew played great most of the night, but not getting off the field on that possession was losing football. I would have liked to have seen if Morris Claiborne came up with an interception when he was blatantly interfered with by Julio Jones at Dallas’ 20.

1. The Cowboys under Jason Garrett are 16-16, including 4-9 since Thanksgiving. Their repetitive errors are chronic and, at this point, they appear fatal.

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