In a season that has seen its share of ups and downs, this was clearly one of those down moments. I said earlier in the week, after the Bears loss last Monday, that this was a game that the Cowboys had to win. They had been playing well at home and Green Bay was without their best player. And for one half of football, the Cowboys had the Packers right where they wanted them on the scoreboard.
But teams that are fighting for division titles and playoff spots find ways to finish those games. This team has trouble doing that when given the opportunity. There was a night in the Meadowlands where head coach Jason Garrett and his squad competed like a playoff team and killed the last 4:45 of the clock for a victory over the Giants, but that game seems so long ago. Other than the losses to the Saints and Bears, this team has had its share of games that if they just would have found a way to finish, it could have put them in charge of this division with two weeks to play.
Good teams hammer opponents when they have them down, and the Cowboys had the Packers down but allowed them to fight their way back into the game. Execution, coaching, lack of talent on the field, take your pick. When Dallas loses a game, those are usually the reasons. The problem I have when I watch this team play is how some great efforts are wasted because of all the things I previously mentioned. There were several players that played at a very high level and others, not so much.
How this team continues to lose games the way they do is numbing. How do they have a 350-yard passer, a 150-yard receiver and a 130-yard runner and don't finish the job? After playing the best first half of defense in weeks, they were exposed in the second half by, of all people, Matt Flynn.
All the postgame comments from the locker room were about looking at the tape, making corrections and trying to make adjustments to get better. We all know this defense was in terrible shape coming into this game with injuries to Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, then further injuries to Ernie Sims and Justin Durant just compounded the problems.
There were two series in the second half that I did not understand Garrett's play-calling: During the final minute of the third quarter, and when he got the ball back with 4:17 left in the game. Both situations were very confusing to me because I thought he could have helped his defense at the end of the third by trying to eat some clock and let his defense regroup after giving up a 12-play, 80-yard drive to bring the game to within 12 points. There is no way that Garrett should have put his offense in that situation where they had a three-and-out, especially the way that DeMarco Murray was running the ball.
In that drive with 4:17 on the clock, Garrett said in his postgame remarks that Tony Romo had changed the play from run to pass after Murray gained four yards on first down. On that run by Murray, the Packers were forced to use their second timeout. At that point in the drive, there is no way that Romo should have been able to kill that play, regardless of what he saw. Murray still could have banged it in there for a couple of yards, which would have made the Packers use their final timeout, giving you an option on third-and-2 for a run or pass. Instead, Romo throws the interception that leads to the packers' go-ahead touchdown. [embedded_ad]
You can say what you want about the execution of the play, but the last thing that Romo needed to be doing was throwing the football. That direction, however, has to come from Garrett because at that point you are trying to kill the game and not allow a mistake to kill you, which in this case it did.
In this game on Sunday, there was once again some curious game management for a team that needed this win in the worst way, but once again came up short.