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Parcells to open up the offense ever bothered to look at the mounting turnovers in the final six games? Would you believe 16 - almost three a game? Can't win in the NFL doing that. The Cowboys finished with 31 turnovers, so more than half of those were committed in the final six games. In fact, they finished those final six games a minus-8 in turnover differential. 

Oh-(That)-Line: Ironic thing is, when just reading a season preview magazine's breakdown of the Cowboys, the analysis went on and on about how strong the Cowboys' offensive line was going to be. But nothing went right, starting a week or so after they signed Marco Rivera in the off-season, and he has back surgery. Then Rogers. Then Torrin Tucker regresses. Then Adams. Guess the Cowboys should not have taken the chance with Scott Gragg, figuring they would wait until Week 2 to bring him in. The Jets beat them to the punch and they had little tackle recourse. Worse, the Cowboys took a chance at the tackle position from the start, and it came back to bite them squarely on the backside when Adams suffered the season-ending knee injury. That was absolutely the one injury, aside from losing Drew Bledsoe, the Cowboys couldn't suffer, and they did. 

No Protective Services: Maybe in the end, you now understand why Bill Parcells didn't open up this offense, especially after losing Adams. Bledsoe ended up getting sacked 49 times. Let that sink in . . . forty-nine times! Only David Carr suffered more sacks than Bledsoe's 49. Only Houston, Minnesota and the New York Jets suffered more sacks than the Cowboys' 50. And understand, only once since the strike-interrupted 1987 season when the Cowboys quarterbacks were sacked 52 times had the Cowboys given up 50 sacks in a season. That was the 54 in the 5-11 season of 2002. That's how bad the protection was, and don't go blaming this on Bledsoe's immobility or pocket stubbornness. And just like the turnovers, did you realize half of the team's 50 sacks occurred in the final five games? How bad is that? Had the Cowboys been able to protect Bledsoe, also meaning not having to play so much two-tight end sets to do so and also keep a wide receiver in at times, this offense might have averaged much more than the 20.3 points a game. 

Kick This:So many moan and groan about the kicking problems, and the Cowboys indeed had kicking problems. But they didn't plan on Cundiff injuring himself three weeks before the season began. He was having a strong training camp, and it appeared he was coming into his own in his fourth season. The idea was not to have Jose Cortez kick, remember? And hey, name me a free-agent kicker picked up right before the season began who had a great year. Those guys just don't grow on trees. And don't assume Cundiff would have struggled from the beginning as he did over the six weeks he was here - if going five-of-eight is struggling - had he not sat out nearly 14 weeks without kicking competitively. 

Skinned Alive: Sorry, can't seem to get away from that 14-13 loss to the Skins in Week 2. Now there were obvious other problems preventing the Cowboys from winning the necessary 10 or 11 games to get into the playoffs. They knew they had a weakness at safety, and darn it if teams didn't figure out ways to expose that weakness. They ended up with a weakness at linebacker, and you know, few made a big deal of it, but did you notice how the run defense suffered the minute Singleton was lost for the season? Or how their punt returns suffered once Crayton went down? But how do you work past the loss to Washington? That was a killer. 

And you know what? It was an ender before the end ever arrived.   


!   So the Saints will fly Sean Payton into New Orleans for a second interview on Thursday. The field is getting crowded, the Saints having talked or planning to talk with the likes of Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon, Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis, Fresno State head coach Pat Hill and likely Mike Martz. So why not

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