IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys rolled down the stretch of the season, cruising from 3-5 to 8-6 with their playoff chances once again coming down to Week 17. Instead of reversing their fate of 2011, they followed suit by falling in the last two games of the season.
With the season-ending loss to the Redskins still in recent memory, the DallasCowboys.com staff looked back through the highs and lows of yet another 8-8 season that left owner Jerry Jones promising change for the future.
Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner and Bryan Broaddus looked through the best and worst of the 2012 season, as displayed below. The “Special Teams MVP” and “Best Rookie” categories were left out, as those would have unanimously gone to
Nick: This is a season-long award, not just one game for the last game. With that, it has to be
Bryan: I honestly was caught between Romo and Bryant but I will go with Romo despite what happened in that Washington game. He gave this team a chance to win the division title in the last week of the season. He was able to make plays behind an offensive line that had their struggles plus no running game for the majority of the season. But a tip of the cap to Bryant as well.
Nick: With injuries to Ware and Lee, I think it comes down to two players, but I’m going to lean towards
Most Significant Injury:
Nick: I’m going with
Bryan: Losing Murray for six games was critical, not having Ratliff for the majority of the season was bad, Lee and Carter were bad but losing
Rowan: With a lot to choose from, I’m going to select the defensive leader who would have been setting up the defense and putting the team in position to stop Alfred Morris had he been healthy for either Redskins game. Sean Lee’s loss was the most significant, and his absence wasn’t made easier after Bruce Carter went down and DeMarcus Ware got hurt. His presence against running backs late in the season would have changed things.
Top Offseason Need:
Nick: Like I’ve said before, anything that ends with “fensive line” is good for me. Offensive or defensive. If his weight starts with the number 3, that’s a good start. This team got manhandled up front at times this year. A guard/center would be great, and a defensive end would work, too.
Bryan: I am going to try and fix this defense line. I have said it before and will say it all through the draft. There is too much age and players breaking down at these positions plus you now take
Rowan: The second half of the season shouldn’t distract from what everyone realized early on in the year – that the offensive line was the weakest part of the team. Every week was a twisting and weaving act for Tony Romo, and the running game was nonexistent many weeks. Romo had more time late in the year, but the offensive line play was suspect all season.
Nick: This category is usually for something negative, but I’m going with Dez Bryant here. I really didn’t think this kid could shrug off the off-field issues he had and then produce like he did down the stretch. He grew up in front of our eyes. I knew he had talent, but turn into a beast – and do it consistently - was a huge surprise for me.
Bryan: My biggest surprise was how well
Rowan: The defense’s ability to stay in games despite playing new free agent signings seemingly every week. The backups played well enough that some fans questioned whether some deserve playing time next year, as well.
Nick: Honestly, it’s the fact we’re writing this right now and not looking at Russell Wilson’s stats. I really thought this year would turn out different. So the fact the Cowboys had the ball with a chance to tie or win, and Romo threw that last pick, was disappointing for this team. It was there for the taking.
Bryan: I really believed that
Rowan: The lack of defensive starters who could stay on the field. A handful of young defensive stars flashed moments of greatness before getting lost for the year to injury. The losses of Lee, Bruce Carter,
Nick: I think an obvious answer here could be Dwayne Harris, but the player who really came on at the perfect time was center
Bryan: There is no question in my mind that Dan Bailey is the unsung hero of this team. Mickey Spagnola said it well about Bailey, this team can’t win a game if he misses field goals and with the exception of the Baltimore game, he was absolutely right. Bailey never wavered during pressure and was as automatic as they came. It is a great comfort to a team to have a guy like Bailey in the position that he is in.
Rowan: Sometimes people forget about the kind of talent Bailey is, but I’m going with Dwayne Harris. Nobody would’ve believed more big plays in the return game would come after Dez Bryant was taken off the unit. Harris might not be the fastest guy on the field, but his quickness and big play ability could rival anyone’s, and he became a reliable target for Romo.