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Eatman: These Close Calls With Elite Teams Are Getting Hollow


IRVING, Texas  – After the game, Jerry Jones called the heartbreaking loss to Denver a moral victory. The players in the locker room didn't really see it that way, or at least they didn't say as such.

Sure, getting beat by three to a Denver squad that had been steamrolling people left and right has to count for something, right? Anything?

Yeah, for these Cowboys, it'll probably count as the third straight year they *almost *beat a Super Bowl team at some point in the regular season. I'm not crowning the Broncos the champs just yet, but I think we all can see how good they are, and with Von Miller and Champ Bailey coming back to help that defense, it'll only get tougher for Denver's opponents.

So when it's all said and done, I have a hard time thinking Peyton Manning and his Broncos squad won't be at least playing in the Super Bowl and probably winning it.

But we've seen this before from the Cowboys. I mean, just hanging with the mighty Broncos is really nothing new for this team.

Go back to last year, the Cowboys not only stayed with the Ravens, they should've won that game up in Baltimore. I thought at the time, Dallas out-played the eventual Super Bowl champs, and had they come up with a few more yards at the end and given Dan Bailey an easier attempt than a 51-yarder with a crosswind, they likely would've changed the outcome of a 31-29 loss.

The team Baltimore played in the Super Bowl – San Francisco – edged out the Falcons in the NFC Championship Game. And it was Atlanta that needed some good fortune in the final minutes to beat the Cowboys in Week 9 last year, staying undefeated with a 19-13 win.

Go back to 2011 and both Super Bowl teams – New England and the NY Giants – were on the ropes against the Cowboys. The Patriots needed a late drive by Tom Brady and a touchdown to Aaron Hernandez in the final seconds to escape with a 20-16 win in Foxboro. Later in the season, the Giants were down 12 with about six minutes to go, but Eli Manning rallied his team to two touchdowns for a 37-34 win.

Yes, close games happen every year with the Cowboys. They happen every week in this league. It's a close league and teams at the top of the standings will inevitably get tested, and sometimes beaten, by teams closer to the bottom.

That is the nature of this league.

But at some point, enough has to be enough.

Or, you just take these games for what they are. But moral victories can't be in the discussion anymore. I know it's Peyton Manning and the Cowboys won't face a better quarterback this year than him. Although, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers aren't far off.

I understand the concept of recognizing the positives from a loss, just like you'd address the negatives in a win. And so considering there are 11 games left to play, the Cowboys should be optimistic about the offense and its ability to score 48 points like it did Sunday. Without a doubt, if they can put up even a fraction of those points and yards, you would think they'd be good enough to beat some of these remaining teams on the schedule, particularly in the NFC East. [embedded_ad]

So I understand Jerry's "moral victory" stance.

But at the same time, it's got to have some substance to it. Because just getting close to these elite teams has proven time and time again that it doesn't get you past 8-8 and out-of-the-playoffs status.

-        Nick Eatman is the recent published author of **“Art Briles: Looking Up,”* an authorized biography on the current Baylor football coach, with a foreword written by Robert Griffin III. *

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