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Eatman: This Team Not Good Enough For Style-Point Wins
ARLINGTON, Texas – If you were excited about the Broncos loss, if you thought this team played a great game except for the end, and if you thought Tony Romo played great in that game aside from the late pick, then yes, be annoyed by this Minnesota game.
Sure, go ahead and worry about the fact that the Cowboys didn’t have their best game and barely escaped the lowly Vikings. I can hear it now, “man, if you can’t play better against Minnesota, then you’re not going to be very good.”
And actually, that’s true. The Cowboys aren’t very good. In fact, they’re just a little better than average now with a 5-4 record after their 27-23 win over the Vikings Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
But if you’re worried about style points, make sure you were OK with the close loss to the Broncos. Remember, that was the game everyone got all upset with Jerry Jones’ “moral victory” comment. Then “ugly loss” shouldn’t matter either.
That’s just how the NFL goes these days and everyone knows it. This isn’t anything new. It’s not a concept that has snuck up on us here with this game we all love.
Stuff like this happens and you have to give some credit to the teams that find a way to overcome it. So I give credit to the Cowboys for finding a way against the Vikings. It wasn’t pretty, but it never has to be. Give me a game that is pretty and I’ll give you soccer.
Football isn’t about pretty. It’s about digging deep when it’s crunch time and coming out victorious. Seven days ago, the Cowboys couldn’t do it.
Ironic or coincidence? Either way, the Cowboys lose to the Lions by a touchdown in the final 12 seconds last week. This time, it’s Romo driving the Cowboys down for a go-ahead score with 35 seconds. It’s really why we love football.
I’m sure his critics were just waiting to jump on the “Romo did it again” train when he threw an interception. As it turned out, Romo did do it again. With the ball back and 90 yards from the end zone with 2:44 remaining. And despite popular opinion, only dealing with facts here, Romo does what he does best, and that’s get his team in position to win games. Over time, he’s proven he can win the game in the end.
Sunday was Romo’s 19th fourth-quarter comeback, extending his franchise record. Even though we kind of remember Roger Staubach for always doing it, Romo does it a lot, too. Last year he led the NFL with five fourth-quarter comebacks, but this was his first of the season.
I thought it was funny on Twitter when all of these fans kept saying things like, “the Cowboys always play down to their competition.” Well, first of all, that’s not’s true. Not this year. They beat the Giants by five, Rams by 24, Eagles by 14 and Redskins by 15. So that cliché argument is inaccurate. Secondly, the Cowboys aren’t really that far off from … any competition.
OK, so the Vikings are 1-7. Yeah, but they have a superstar player in Adrian Peterson. And when you’ve got the best player on the field at all times, you always have a chance.
Who cares about style points? No one should, but especially the Cowboys. This team isn’t a lot better than any team in the league. You can’t continue to sign guys off the street like they’ve done and expect you’re going to corral the NFL’s best running back.
Think about it, if the Cowboys hadn’t signed Nick Hayden, George Selvie, Jarius Wynn, Drake Nevis and now Everette Brown, would any of them be in the league? Seriously. The Cowboys gave all of those guys somewhat of a last-chance shot. And that’s not to mention guys like David Carter, Jason Vega, Jerome Long and Landon Cohen. All of those guys were signed off the street, too.
No one likes excuses because they’re overused. But at some point, you have to know that when losing DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff out of the starting lineup, along with backups Tyrone Crawford and Ben Bass, it’s going to catch up to you. And I’m not saying that’s the only problem or part of the problem. That unit is actually playing well – all things considered. In fact, without the big play where Selvie stripped the ball, Wynn blasted Christian Ponder for good measure and Hayden recovered it in the end zone, the Cowboys might not win this game.
But I think we also forget that the Cowboys don’t get a lot of pressure anymore and that certainly affects the rest of the defensive unit.
On offense, this team just isn’t sharp too many times. Umm, anyone think Brian Waters’ injury is big? I can’t just assume Doug Free started playing bad again because it’s a coincidence. Waters kept the entire group mentally and physically sharp and while Mackenzy Bernadeau can hold his own, it’s certainly a huge drop-off.
These receivers were downright awful until the last drive. I think the press-box count was somewhere around 10 dropped passes. Uncharacteristic drops were the norm Sunday. Romo wasn’t that great with his inaccurate throws and this team just can’t run the ball. We’ve known that forever, and why should we expect it to change. It’s not going to.
Yet, when the chips were down Sunday, and they were in the final two minutes, the Cowboys made just enough plays.
That’s why the Cowboys and their fans should feel good about Sunday’s game. There were plenty of teams around the NFL that played horrible and didn’t get the win. The Cowboys were fortunate not to be in that boat.
Just remember this game when you’re trying to make the argument that the Cowboys should be 7-2 or maybe 8-1. Well, if the Cowboys “should’ve” won against Denver or Kansas City or Detroit, then give them a mythical loss in this one. My view is that it usually evens out in the end. Kinda like the Cowboys record seems to do as well.
But the way this division is shaping up this year, finishing even might extend their season. And that would’ve been hard to do if they didn’t find a way to squeak this one out Sunday.
Nick Eatman is the author of the recently-published biography, “Art Briles: Looking Up,” featuring the Baylor head coach with a foreword written by Redskins QB Robert Griffin III.