ARLINGTON, Texas –Said it before and I'll say it again. When you get really nice presents given to you, open them up and enjoy it. Whatever you do, don't give them back!
The Cowboys did just that on Sunday, and with that, the season is over.
Sure, that Falcons loss was looking really nice under the tree with a big bow on it. That gift was actually sitting right next to a bigger one labeled "Detroit Loses in Cincinnati."
All the Cowboys had to do was open them up, which would've called for them taking care of business against the Seahawks.
And speaking of gifts, they already opened one early in the form of Ezekiel Elliott, who returned to action after a six-game suspension. But too many times they decided not to use that gift either, even with more than 90,000 raucous "play-callers" chanting for that to happen.
However, the Cowboys opted to get cute too many times. And when that happens over and over, it usually leads to an ugly finish.
And that's exactly what the Cowboys found themselves with Sunday night on a Christmas Eve loss that dashed any chance they had for the postseason.
But let's be honest. This really wasn't a playoff team. Sure, it would be nice to sneak in, especially after losing Zeke for six games late in the season. If they would've found a way to win five straight games and get in at 10-6, it would've been an incredible feat. And who knows, once you get into the tournament, anything can, and usually does, happen.
But what we saw Sunday night was not a playoff team. It wasn't one of the NFL's best teams.
Those squads usually find a way to score touchdowns. This team couldn't find the end zone, despite getting inside the 40 numerous times throughout the game. But if it wasn't a penalty here, it was a sack there or just a flat-out missed kick from one of the more reliable players on this team.
You can blame Dan Bailey if you want, but he's the only player who scored a point for them. It's like blaming LeBron for missing some free throws after getting a triple-double with 40 points.
I think the fingers need to be pointed toward the play-calling and not feeding the ball to Zeke when he had yet to be stopped.
All week long, we knew there would be a healthy dose of No. 21. The coaches said it. The Seahawks knew it. The fans knew it. And for the most part, that's what happened. And Seattle really had no answer for it.
But then, somewhere along the way, the Cowboys decided to get cute. Let's not run the ball anymore on second-and-5 even though our guy hasn't been stopped for less than 4 yards once in this drive. The Cowboys opted to pass twice and had to kick a field goal.
But that second-quarter play wasn't nearly as problematic as what took place midway through the fourth when they were down nine.
You've got second-down and goal from the Seattle 2-yard line and the entire crowd is yelling (maybe even begging) for Zeke. And they rolled to the right where no one was open and Jason Witten was flagged for holding. Man, I love Witten more than most, but why put him in position to do something that isn't his strong suit – blocking on the move. Put him in a route and let him turn around at the goal line and post-up for the ball.
Or better yet, just give the ball to Zeke.
If you just had to throw it, fade it up to Dez Bryant because the refs were definitely calling P.I. in this game.
Or better yet, just give the ball to Zeke.
This guy was forced to sit out SIX GAMES for something he doesn't believe was right. He's more than frustrated about that, it appears, and from the looks of things, he was running like a guy who had something to prove.
He's not getting stopped on the 2. If anything, the Cowboys should've given him that chance to score a touchdown, and give a big ol' Texas-sized spike that probably would've put a dent in the blue turf.
But no, they went for a pass, that led to a penalty, which led to another sack, which led to a field goal miss, which led to a loss, which led to the Cowboys being out of the playoffs officially.
And who knows what that will ultimately lead to as well.
Sure, it might be a little more complicated than just giving the ball to Zeke. But maybe it isn't. Maybe this team should lean on the very thing they've built all along. This was supposed to be a tough, hard-nosed team with an offensive line that would just wear teams down, and a running back that pushes the pile and won't be denied.
Yet, with the game and the season riding in the balance, they went away from it. That wasn't the time of the game, or the season, to get cute.
And because of that, it turned ugly.