inexplicable always is explained away with "that's baseball."
But the Cowboys have to be wondering, and with an off-day on Monday to think about it, maybe even contemplating just how good they really are.
"We got to get over feeling sorry for ourselves," Cowboys defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said, "and the attitude has to change. We have to be more confident."
But at this time, where do the Cowboys draw that confidence from, knowing they've lost three of the last four and are about to play one of the elite teams in the league? Knowing this latest loss was not one of those if-this or if-that types of games? This was a dump truck load of ifs and buts.
That's where Parcells must come in. He must put this game behind his team. While you want to correct your mistakes, sure, he must massage some bruised egos. He must remind his team this hadn't happened all year, and that sometimes things in the NFL just snowball. Go see that first Philadelphia game, a prime example in reverse of what happens when a team ends up with excellent field position over and over and over again.
Brow-beating is not in order. Not now. Save that for training camp. Or maybe the third week of the season. Scaring guys would not be a good thing, either. This team has to regain its confidence; somehow have that cloud that's been hovering blow over. No sense belittling Torrin Tucker. That's not going to make him better. He's somehow got to believe he can do this job after three consecutive tough weeks. Keep him working, keep him preparing, keep him somehow believin'.
And making lineup changes? This ain't college football with 90 scholarship athletes around. There's a reason backups are backups in the NFL, OK.
Whatever Parcells does, though, he must steer the players away from just what might be becoming the creeping truth: They just aren't good enough. At some point, come on, when you lose your Pro Bowl left tackle, last year's sensational rookie running back still isn't right, you have struggled through six weeks with an injured starting corner, you have lost two starting linebackers for the season and your other two corners suddenly are banged up, chances are you are going to struggle.
The key thing will be to keep the Cowboys working, keep them grinding through these dog days of December.
"We got to bounce back," Cowboys middle linebacker Bradie James said. "We still have an opportunity, but we are who we are, and if we are, if we're 8-6, and if we want to win and (get) to the playoffs, we got to be better than we were (Sunday).
"It's all a shocker."
Maybe Parcells needs to call in for some shock therapy, because if this team shows up in Carolina suffering post-traumatic syndrome caused by this past Sunday's loss, no way will it win the final two games it needs to win to have a good chance of qualifying for the playoffs.
"So," James very appropriately surmised, "we're faced with one question: Are we going to bounce back?"
A $64,000 question at that.
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