playoffs might be a tad farfetched without him. Something like 20 might be more realistic.
Now just wait. Can the oh-no's. Let me finish.
Big picture, right?
Only two teams have lit up the Cowboys' defense. The Giants did, but only once, scoring 35 points in the opener and then just 20 the second time around in a home game at that. And there were the 48 hung on them by New England, which is about the Patriots' average, no? OK, it's 36.
Then after that, look at it this way. The Cowboys' defense really only played two bad halves the rest of the way. OK, make that the final 2¼ quarters against Green Bay, giving up 17 points and 201 passing yards to backup quarterback Aaron Rodgers. And then there was that first half against Detroit, giving up 21 points, 257 total yards and 107 rushing yards.
On the flip side, you will counter by saying, three of those four teams are going to the playoffs. And chances are they might have to play two of them, and who knows, maybe all three to win a Super Bowl.
So again, I say, defense front and center. This is becoming the Cowboys' time of need.
Now Phillips maintains "the last few games I see encouraging signs," and that certainly would be good timing on a unit which has been riddled with injuries all year, starting with Terence Newman missing the first two games, Greg Ellis missing the first three games, Jason Ferguson missing the last 14 games, Anthony Henry missing three games and subbing in during three more and Roy Williams missing the last game.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying the Cowboys' defense can be the team's Rock of Gibraltar. But look, giving up a 39-yard run to DeAnglo Williams, that 62-yarder to Ryan Grant and the 32-yarder to T.J. Duckett seems to have distorted the defense's entire body of rush defense work, which currently ranks fourth in the NFL.
Just don't forget some of this: The Cowboys are tied for third in the NFL with their 43 sacks, the most this franchise has posted since the 47 in 1994, which in turn is the most since the 51 in the strike-distorted 1987 season. The Cowboys are tied for fourth in the NFL with 19 interceptions, matching their most since swiping 24 in 1999 and, thus, the second-most since 22 in 1994.
Their opponents' quarterback rating is 73.5 and they are sixth when it comes to net yards per pass play (6.3).
You know, not bad. That's winnable stuff. That to me means the Cowboys have a chance if they can just manage 20 points a game. Hey, had they done that, they still would be sitting there with only one loss, having gone down to the Eagles, 10-6 - although would have been 17-6 if those final seven points were necessary.
So all is not lost if Owens is, or plays without his customary explosion. Tony Romo should be able to somehow scramble together 20 points. And the defense must make that do. That's the deal, like it or not.
OK finished, now it's time for some 'nog. Come on, it's Christmas. The fretting can wait until . . . Wednesday.