As Good As It Gets?

Cowboys didn't play hard. They battled their backsides off, and Romo seconds that notion, saying, "I don't think it was for a lack of effort."

Don't give me they either didn't run the ball enough (27 times) or pass the ball enough (30 times) or protect Romo sufficiently enough (one sack).

Don't blame the play-calling, or second guess trying to run the ball in three times from the one or even going for it on fourth down.

And for goodness sakes, don't start blaming December. How lame. This had nothing to do with the final month of the year. This had nothing to do with Decembers past, and as linebacker Keith Brooking said, "It is what it is, we're 0-2 in December. We teed it up for you guys. But we don't feel it's a mental hurdle for us. That has nothing to do with this football team. It's not about the pressure of December."

Look, the Cowboys are 4-7 now after Thanksgiving during Phillips' three seasons, and eight of those 11 games have been played against teams with winning records. (The Chargers under Norv Turner are 11-0 over the same span, but have faced just three opponents with winning records.)

No, and frightening so, this had everything to do with just how good the Cowboys have been perceived to be and just how good they really are. Because the facts of the matter are, how many times can you say after losses if we had just made a play here or a play there, before you have to accept the realization that just maybe they are not good enough to make all those necessary plays against the best teams in the league to avoid barely losing?

And the Chargers are better, basically shutting down the league's No. 3 offense, the highest-ranked offense they had played all season.

Or Turner said afterward, "I think we've got a very good football team. We've got very good players. We've got playmakers that are capable of making plays, as I said, to make the difference in a football game, and they step up and do that."

Let's take stock. The Cowboys have eight wins, but only one over a team with a winning record (Philadelphia). They now have five losses, all five to teams with winning records.

Why, the combined record of the eight teams they've beaten is now 37-67. The combined record of the five teams beating them is 40-24. And get this, the Cowboys only average 18.2 points a game in the six played against teams currently owning winning records. If you throw out the 55 they've scored in two games against the Giants, the average drops to just 13.5 in the other four (Denver, Philly, Green Bay and San Diego).

I'm just sayin', sometimes you are what you are.

And right now, the Cowboys are 8-5, with three games left, the next two on the road (New Orleans and Washington) where they are 3-3 and the final game at home (Philadelphia) where they now are 5-2. Only one of those games is against a team with a losing record (Washington), but at that, the Cowboys only beat the Redskins (4-9) the first time around, 7-6.

So you know if this trend holds, the Cowboys are heading toward another 9-7 season - what they have finished in three of the past four years, going back to 2005, when the Cowboys, in order have gone 9-7, 9-7, 13-3 and 9-7. If they should go 9-7 again, what does that say to a reasonable person about 13-3?

So after this loss, of all the things the Cowboys must fight, the most formidable foe perhaps being an insidious perception growing from within that they just aren't good enough, a common hangover after consecutive losses to playoff-caliber teams that could beat them down.

"We don't have time to worry about a hangover," Brooking said, "and if we do, we need to take some Excedrin. We'll find out what this team's about."

Phillips thinks he knows.

"We lost a ball game but we haven't lost the season," Phillips said of his impending message to the team when the players reconvene here on Tuesday for their first practice preparing for New Orleans. "The only way you lose is to give up and quit."

Precisely, so instead of a butt kicking after the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones gave these guys a motivational speech, a sure sign he recognizes exactly what's going on here, maybe giving this team that much-needed Excedrin right after the game

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