Long Way To Somewhere

 
DallasCowboys.com Columnist 
Jan. 3, 2004, 5:06 a.m. (CST)   

could not win. 

The Giants put a bull's-eye on right corner Lance Frazier, attacking him unmercifully since the Cowboys chose to play so much man coverage. They need another corner or two. 

The Cowboys need another safety now that we know for certain Darren Woodson won't be back, and unlikely neither will Tony Dixon, the fourth-year player forced into the game when Lynn Scott suffered a wrist injury. 

The Cowboys need some beef on their defensive line, once again collapsing in the end, allowing Tiki Barber to gash them up the middle in the fourth quarter and for the game-winning three-yard touchdown run. In fact, they might need two, a defensive tackle and end since even a frustrated Marcellus Wiley didn't figure he'd be back next year. 

The Cowboys need at least two more starting-quality offensive linemen, and while we've insisted they've needed a starting quality right tackle, well, their former Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams might have just played his way over to the right side with that season-ending performance. Either way, they need a tackle. 

And it sure didn't appear rookie Ben Noll is any sort of immediate answer at right guard, where he started for Andre Gurode, who already had set off the guard alarms with his performance this year. 

Then there is wide receiver. Can you believe this team finished the season without any of its top three receivers they started the season with on the field? No Terry Glenn. No Antonio Bryant. And no Johnson, who will be in a walking boot for the next two months while the broken bone in his foot heals. 

And while Johnson and Glenn are expected to heal and be fine for next year, both are in their 30's, and Quincy Morgan seems to be a nice backup receiver, along with Crayton. But just as Parcells says he needs a catalytic player or two on defense, he needs a catalytic receiver so Johnson and Glenn can man complementary roles. 

"Not good enough," Parcells moaned. "We don't take care of the ball. We're not mentally tough. We're not tough enough in certain areas. Just disappointing when you have these kind of results, you can't be happy with yourself." 

So while so many want to focus on the Cowboys quarterback issues, and they do have issues since Vinny is 41 and scheduled to be a free agent come March 2, and the other two quarterbacks likely won't be ready to start, there are so, so many more holes on this team. 

Scary, isn't it when the 41-year-old quarterback plays well enough to win, and you can't even beat the Giants; when the rookie running back gains 149 yards, and you can't beat the Giants; and when the rookie wide receiver gives you a big boost, and you can't beat the Giants. 

At 7-9, the Cowboys might have kidded themselves about this season, maybe lapsing into a false sense of security, consoling themselves by saying they were but one win away from the playoffs. 

But 6-10, third-place in the pitiful NFC East and twice losers to the Giants, all with Bill Parcells the head coach, will be pretty sobering. 

"From midnight tonight," Cowboys corner Terence Newman said 10 minutes from the Eastern time zone witching hour, "everything is next year." 

And that is good. Because this forgettable season has screamed to the Cowboys just how far they have to go.   

 
  The best thing about this loss: The Cowboys will have the 11th draft choice in the first round instead of the 13th had they won, and they won't have to play at New Orleans or deal with Randy Moss again next year. 
  The Giants erased a 16-7 Cowboys lead in the second half by gaining all of 44 yards. The Cowboys chipped in a 43-yard interference penalty (Frazier), and then set up the Giants at the 20-yard line when Adams allowed Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora to go by him as if he was standing still - come to think of it, he was - to blindside Testaverde and cause a fumble. 

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