Cowboys Are What They Are

gone 8-2.

Timing indeed is everything.

So, you guys see what I'm getting at? The Cowboys are good enough to beat nearly every team - save Washington and the Giants the first time around - currently with a losing record. And they are capable of beating some of the teams still with a chance to finish .500, currently 4-2 against those.

But when it comes to playing teams at least two games above .500, teams for sure heading into the playoffs or leading a division, well, the Cowboys are now 1-3. That's the real barometer, isn't it? Those are the teams you have to face in the playoffs, no?

The Cowboys haven't been able to beat the Eagles early in the season or late. They haven't been able to beat the Eagles with Donovan McNabb at quarterback or Jeff Garcia. Been beaten by a combined score of 61-31, and truth of the matter, had a better chance of beating the Eagles in Philly, trailing just 31-24 with 31 seconds remaining and the ball on the Eagles' 6, than they did Monday at Texas Stadium.

Oh, you've forgotten, have you? The Cowboys actually led that game, 21-17, at halftime and were tied, 24-24, going into the fourth quarter. They were actually competitive in that game being played at the heavily guarded Linc because of Terrell Owens' return. They actually scored 17 offensive points in that game, and were teed up for 24. And that was with the no-count Drew Bledsoe at quarterback. Ah-hunh.

Those Eagles then account for two of the three losses to division-leading teams. The other was to New Orleans, owners of a first-round playoff bye for the first time in franchise history. Thought that 42-17 loss was an aberration? Maybe it was foreboding.

Now the Eagles' path to a 9-6 record isn't much different than that of the Cowboys. Seven of their nine victories are over teams with losing records. The other two? Well, over the Cowboys, and why they are a victory over Atlanta (another team with a losing record at 7-8) away from a division title.

The Saints, neither. Eight of their 10 victories are over teams with losing records. The other two? Yep, over the Cowboys and Eagles.

Those supposedly high-flying Bears? Well, 11 of their 13 victories are over teams with losing records. The only exceptions? The Bears beat the 8-7 Seahawks and 9-6 Jets. That's it.

And Seattle, the NFC West Division winners? Well, seven of their eight victories are over teams with losing records, beating the 9-6 Broncos for their only victory over a team with a winning record. They have lost the other three.

Come to think about it, playing the Seahawks might not be all that bad after all. My apologies.

But you see what I'm trying to say? While trying to play Pin-The-Loss-On-The-Donkey might have some merit, and you might be right about some of this, the harshest reality to accept would be this:

Maybe the Cowboys just aren't good enough to do what everyone was hoping they would. Maybe they are just a young team capable of carving out a winning record and getting into the playoffs, though it's a new season after that, right?

Just maybe their inexperience brings them back down to earth when it comes to playing in the big games against quality foes. Remember what Parcells said last week about trying to get his team to understand what it takes to win this time of year, and hoping savvy vets like Aaron Glenn and Jason Ferguson and Marco Rivera and Terry Glenn and Al Singleton could impart some knowledge on his newbies.

Then afterward Monday night, he reiterated that, saying, "I think our inexperience in these kind of games hurt us. I think we had some young guys who really had some problems in the game at critical times and it really showed up."

So look, this is not meant to be the defining epitaph for the 2006 Cowboys: Here lies a nice team which couldn't play with the big boys. Because there still is time to change that, and most every team in the NFC is of the same ilk.

But we are here to worry about the Cowboys, and so far, 15 games into a 16-game season we have little evidence to prove otherwise about them. Nothing really has changed, and at this point you would say the percentages are against that.

After all, it is what it is, right?

You

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