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Eatman: Cowboys Refuse to Step on the Clutch


PHILADELPHIA – Remember when you were in college or high school and the teacher assigned a project or a paper to write, giving you three weeks to get it done?

This game looked like one team still had a couple of days to turn it in, and the other was pulling an all-nighter, pounding back Mountain Dews to stay awake, knowing there was no more time to spare.

Actually, the Eagles have been playing like that for the last three weeks, and just ran though their third straight NFC East opponent. Now it's the Eagles in control. They won't have to do any scoreboard watching anymore.

The Cowboys, who have almost bragged about the fact that they control their own destiny, well, they just tossed the keys aside and will have to hope for some help.

I hope you weren't one of those fans laughing at the Giants for drafting Daniel Jones. Now, you can only hope he's good enough to beat the Eagles and give your team another chance to sneak into the playoffs.

Who knows, maybe you're one of those fans (if they really exist) who say they want this whole thing to end now and don't want the Cowboys to get into the playoffs. I don't really buy that, but I can understand that complete frustration in this team – one that absolutely dominates the Rams on both sides of the ball and looked like the world-beaters we thought they were back earlier in the season.

But then that team on Sunday, with everything on the line, comes out flat.

I'm not going to say they weren't ready to play, or motivated or any of that. Once you start trying to question stuff like heart, motivation, leadership and even preparation, it can be very tricky because it's not anything you can truly prove.

But what is accurate is that once again, the Cowboys came out and played poorly from the start.

Is that on the coaches? Sure it is. But it's on the players as well.

That's what I mean about the earlier analogy with the school project. It's like they really didn't HAVE to get it done today, so why go ahead and turn it in early? The problem now is that they don't have the pen anymore. Now someone else is controlling their destiny.

And they only have themselves to blame. The Cowboys could've come out and taken care of business, but once again, they just don't get it done when it matters the most.

You know what my biggest complaint about this team has been all season, and it reared its very ugly head once again?

The Cowboys just aren't clutch.

Yeah, they're talented – at some positions. And yes, they've got Pro Bowlers and guys who have been to the Pro Bowl. They've got veterans who will be in the Hall of Fame and others who might be in the Ring of Honor.

But when they really have to get it done – they don't make the play.

They didn't get that 2-point conversion against the Jets when they had battled back. They didn't drive the field in the final seconds against the Saints. They didn't make those necessary yards to drive the ball against the Patriots in the rain. They didn't get that crucial fourth-down pass against the Vikings after driving into the red zone.

And on Sunday, they once again battled back to get within striking distance, but couldn't make the plays in the clutch.

Dak Prescott struggled all day. You'd like to say his shoulder was bothering him, but he didn't say that. And the Cowboys didn't have him as even "questionable" on the injury report, so that has now become a non-issue. All of his missed throws were just misses.

And boy did he have a big miss in the fourth quarter with Tavon Austin streaking down the field wide open.

But then when he was on with the throw, his guys didn't help him out. Jason Witten dropped a pass, Amari Cooper dropped another. Randall Cobb had some nice plays, but had a big drop in the fourth quarter. And, of course, Michael Gallup, who probably had the best day of any receiver, dropped a pass in his hands on that final drive that would've been huge.

Plain and simple, the Cowboys dropped the ball time and time again.

And that was just the offense. The defense kept them in the game, but also had its share of issues.

In games like this, when the offense is struggling, the defense can't just be pretty good. They have to be exceptional and they just weren't.

In the Cowboys' win over Philly back in October, the defense got four turnovers and three sacks. That obviously helped pave the way for a 27-point blowout.

But the defense got nothing like that this time around. Just one sack, no turnovers, and when they really needed to get off the field and make a third-down stop, they oftentimes couldn't.

Not even in the final minute of play when the Eagles were trying to run out the clock.

That's why I didn't understand why the Cowboys were so hellbent on saving those three timeouts at the end. To me, I'd call a timeout if it meant I could have my best receivers on the field for the final fourth-down play.

The only reason the Cowboys were down there at the end was because of Cobb. But he wasn't in the game on fourth down? Cooper had been in and out of the game for some reason, and it wasn't because of injury. Yet, you'd still want him out there as well over Austin maybe?

Yet, with the game and maybe the season on the line, the Cowboys ran a play with Gallup, Austin, Jarwin and Witten as the four receivers trying to get open, while Cobb and Cooper watched.

Sorry, I think I'd call the timeout and try to get my best options open.

Once again, it's not just the players who are asked to be clutch.

So here the Cowboys are, down but not out. They can still sneak into the playoffs by winning Sunday at home against the Redskins, coupled with the Eagles losing at the Giants.

Nope, the Cowboys are not out of it. They just played like they were on Sunday.