Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published *If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.*
ARLINGTON, Texas – So much for the showdown.
Actually, the word I kept hearing over and over this week was "shootout" and I can't say I disagreed. I didn't know how the Cowboys would stop the Eagles or even slow them down. Then again, after what we saw just four days ago in New York, I wasn't sure how this Eagles defense, particularly the secondary, would hold up.
Well, the Eagles did their part, putting up 33 points.
But wow, just a 10-spot for the Cowboys? And three of those came in the second half after the Eagles gift-wrapped a turnover that they actually caused themselves.
Yeah, the Cowboys lost 33-10 here Thursday in the annual Thanksgiving Day game at AT&T Stadium. And you can blame the defense if that makes it feel better.
But truth be told, the Cowboys didn't win eight games this season because of their defense. Yes, the defense has played better than this, but they haven't gone up against an offense this explosive before.
We knew the offense had to not only step up their game, but also outplay the Eagles offense.
It didn't happen – at all. If finger-pointing someone or something after a loss is a must, then aim straight at the offensive side of the ball.
Like always, it starts with the quarterback, and Tony Romo just wasn't good Thursday. He's the first one to say "no excuses" so let's make sure we stay along the same line. But it was clear the Cowboys were affected more by the short week than the Eagles, and it was because of Romo.
No, they didn't lose because they landed in Dallas at 5 a.m. on Monday morning.
They didn't lose because they played what is becoming the home-field disadvantage of AT&T Stadium.
And nope, it wasn't the blue jerseys either.
They lost because Romo had his worst game of the year. He didn't throw a touchdown pass, threw two picks and didn't even break 200 yards passing.
Now, only Romo and maybe the coaches and trainers know why that happened the way it did. Maybe the short week really affected him. We know he takes Wednesdays off and wasn't able to really do that this week.
Then again, they didn't practice much at all this week. We saw that happen in training camp and leading up to Week 1 vs. San Francisco where Romo seemed more than rusty.
Who knows what it was, but Romo wasn't the same quarterback we've seen all year. And that's why they lost.
Please don't take that last sentence as an excuse. It's Romo's responsibility and his team's responsibility to make sure he's ready to play, and for whatever reason, he struggled.
And the Cowboys are 8-4 because of it, and now have an uphill climb to win the division and perhaps to even make the playoffs.
But we've got plenty of time – a full month, actually – to figure that out.
Thursday's game was surprisingly one-sided because the Eagles defense dropped the hammer on Dallas all day long.
We haven't seen Romo look so uncomfortable since Week 1, or maybe some stretches of the Week 2 game at Tennessee. But his passes were just off several times when he had wide-open receivers. When the Eagles blitzed in exotic ways, Romo's feel for the pocket seemed different. At times, when the pocket collapsed, he collapsed right with it and went down virtually untouched for sacks.
In all, Romo was sacked just four times, but it definitely felt like more. He was just harassed all day by an Eagles defense that clearly had a point to make.
Defensive tackle Bennie Logan asked out loud earlier in the week what was so special about the Cowboys offensive line? He said all they've done is add Zack Martin from last year and wouldn't go so far as to put this O-line as the best in the NFL.
Well, looks like Mr. Logan was right. Who knows where the Cowboys rank in terms of the best offensive line – if that's even something we can prove. Maybe other defensive linemen around the league would vote that way, but not if they saw this game.
The Eagles were better up front. They got after Romo and made him more than uneasy in the pocket. And all the yards DeMarco Murray got this week – a season-low 73 to be exact – were tough to come by. Murray had to stop, start, juke, jive, dive and lunge for every inch. All you need to do is look at his longest carry of the game – a 9-yard run. And actually, not getting a full 10 on that play was costly. After the Eagles fumbled the ball early in the second half, Murray got 9 and nearly scored although his foot went out of bounds at the 4. On second down, he was stopped for a loss and then Romo was sacked on third down, forcing the Cowboys to settle for a field goal when they trailed 23-7.
Romo wasn't himself. Murray wasn't either. Maybe this offensive line isn't as dominant as we thought. For sure, it won't be Ronald Leary's best game and it's unlikely any of the other four could say the same.
This is a good offensive line and potentially great. But that unit struggled Thursday, right along with the rest of the offense.[embeddedad0]
And since that side of the ball is reason the Cowboys have won eight games, there's no way they will get to nine, much less the playoffs, if they play another game like that one.