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Eatman: Despite The Familiar Finish, This Still Seems Worse

Posted Dec 31, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. – In the end, this was nothing we hadn’t seen before.

No one was exactly sure. I know personally, I was pretty adamant that this would a different ending to the storyline we’ve seen play out a few times here recently.

I’m sorry Jason Witten, but when you made those comments back on the first day of training camp about “this can’t be the same old story” … we all believed you would do everything possible to make sure it was different.

But it wasn’t. In fact, it’s almost like watching The Hangover and The Hangover 2. It’s remarkable how similar everything played out in the end. From start to finish, it’s pretty much the same and that’s what we can say about 2011 and 2012.

The Cowboys had a chance to rewrite the script Sunday in Washington, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Redskins 28, Cowboys 18. The best team won. There’s really no doubt about that. For everything the Cowboys were able to do in the second half of the season, winning three straight and five of six at one point, the Redskins did it even better. The Cowboys turned 3-5 into 8-6, but eventually 8-8.

The Redskins turned 3-6 into 10-6 and that’s why they were wearing the NFC East Champions hats after Sunday’s game.

All week long, I really thought the Cowboys would win the game. And if you listened to our radio shows, or read my comments on Twitter or even in the articles, I didn’t have a lot of clear-cut reasons for my opinion. I wasn’t sure the Cowboys were any better than the Redskins and wasn’t sure they had improved much since the Thanksgiving Day beat-down RG3 and his group delivered.

But I simply thought the Cowboys would just find a way - they would make enough plays to win the game and continue what has been one of the most interesting seasons in years.

Wrong. Dead wrong. Season-comes-to-a-crashing-end wrong.

When you try to figure out what exactly happened in this game, two things stick out the most: quarterback play and run defense.

Let’s start at quarterback, because that’s where it always starts. For the Cowboys to be successful, Tony Romo either needs to have stellar accuracy, or the running game has to be better than good – preferably both.

None of that occurred Sunday night. Romo wasn’t sharp at all, throwing three interceptions, the last of which was an ultimate killer. He simply didn’t see the defensive end peel back to make the interception and that was the difference.

The first two interceptions were a combination of poor throws, miscommunication with the receivers, and one receiver not fighting for the ball. The first pick to Kevin Ogletree was strange, simply because Ogletree wasn’t really looking for the ball. On a third-down crossing route, how can you not be ready for it? Still, the pass looked kind of high from Romo.

I had a real problem with how Miles Austin played the second interception. Sure, it was a bad throw by Romo, who put the ball near the middle of the field and not on the sideline. But still, Austin didn’t even make a real effort to knock it down. It was like he was in tackle-mode long before the pass was picked.

As Romo always seems to do, he kept fighting throughout the game and got his team back in position with a late touchdown and subsequent two-point pass.

If you remember last year against the Giants, who got up 21-0 in the similar elimination game, Romo fought back with two touchdown passes. But in the end, the Cowboys couldn’t get over the hump.

This time, Romo’s third interception proved to be the game-changer and when they got the ball back, the Cowboys were down 10 and the season was about to be over.

Personally, I think Tony Romo is a really good quarterback. As I’ve always said about him, I think his best days are just as good as some of the elite quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady. I’m not comparing Romo to those guys, just saying when he’s on his game, he can be as good as them at times.

Problem is, he can often go the other way. And that’s what he did Sunday night with the game, season and maybe his legacy on the line.

Romo is good. He’s not good enough to overcome all of the Cowboys’ problems. Last year was a career season for Romo in terms of efficiency, and they went 8-8. This year, Romo passed for 4,900 yards and nearly had three 1,000-yard receivers. And they went 8-8.

It’s just more proof that some of Romo’s best seasons still aren’t good enough to get this team where it needs to go.

And on defense, we all know what the real problem is, so it’s pointless to keep harping on it. If you think the defensive injuries are only an excuse, you’re not being realistic. Sure, everyone has injuries, but I don’t think everyone has anything close to what the Cowboys had this year.

In this game, Alfred Morris just simply overpowered the Cowboys. And I guess it shouldn’t have come as a big surprise. Looking at the physicality up front, you knew the Cowboys didn’t have the beef to withstand the power. Sean Lissemore is not a nose tackle in a 3-4. Tyrone Crawford shouldn’t be playing 3-4 end on every down. And DeMarcus Ware, as much as he gutted through the last month of the season, didn’t have any power to make a bullrush, or anything else.

Rob Ryan will be criticized for the way he coached the game, but without the beef inside, it was the worst matchup possible. As banged up as Robert Griffin was, he was still able to make enough plays with his feet. But obviously, Morris did the real damage and the Cowboys could do nothing about it.

After that last interception, you knew the Redskins weren’t going to pass much, if at all. All they had to do was stop Morris, but they couldn’t do it. In this league, if you know they’re going to run, you should be able to stop them. If you can’t, it means you’re just not as physical as you need to be, and that was an issue in this game.

Honestly, I know people reading this are disappointed the season is over. They wanted the Cowboys to go to the playoffs, because in the tournament you never know what’s going to happen.

But realistically, the Cowboys would’ve probably been smashed by Seattle again next week. I mean, could they even field a team? They would’ve had to sign three receivers and probably three linebackers.

And so now it’s over. Just like that, another season in the books. Now this book certainly isn’t new. A few key elements might have been different this time around, but ultimately the ending didn’t change.

Witten wanted desperately for this year not to be the same old story. But it was. And it’s starting to have a nightmare feel to it.
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