IRVING, Texas - The Dallas Cowboys defense held the St. Louis Rams to 253 yards, 101 yards less than the Rams' season average.
But it wasn't enough, St. Louis doubling up the Cowboys on the scoreboard, handing them a 20-10 defeat in the final game of the season at Texas Stadium Sunday evening.
"The defense hung in there for a while," Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said. "Overall I can't be too critical of what they did. I think that's a pretty good offensive team there . . . Most of the problems we had were because of turnovers."
In fact, all of the Rams' second-half points stemmed directly from Cowboys turnovers, turning a 10-10 game at halftime into a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe fumbled the ball as he was getting sacked early in the fourth quarter, setting up the Rams at the Cowboys 40, where they took only four plays to score what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Eleven minutes later, Bledsoe threw an interception to Rams safety Oshiomogho Atogwe which led to a 20-yard field goal that sealed the victory for St. Louis.
The Rams gained a total of 41 yards on the two scoring drives.
"We didn't play good enough," Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Ferguson said. "I think they're a good explosive offensive team and we held them to 20 points, but we could have done more things. We could have scored. We could have got a turnover for (the offense) and turned the game around."
The longest drive allowed by the Cowboys defense was a 53-yard effort in the second quarter which ended in a missed field goal. Only one other Rams drive went more than 40 yards - a 51-yard touchdown drive late in the first half.
The pass defense, still banged up with both Anthony Henry and Roy Williams being used sparingly, held the potentially explosive Rams to only 147 passing yards, well below their season average of 259.3 yards per game.
Still, the consensus among the defensive players was their effort wasn't good enough.
"I thought we hung in there hard," Cowboys safety Keith Davis said. "They had a couple of goal line situations where we held them to field goals, and on one they even missed a field goal. I think we completed defensively, and I thought they just made more plays that us. That's the bottom line."
2006 Opponents Finalized
With the 2005 regular season drawing to a close on Sunday, the Cowboys now know all of their 2006 opponents.
The Washington Redskins' victory assured the Cowboys a third-place finish in the NFC East, meaning they will face the third-place team from the NFC North (Detroit) at Texas Stadium and the third-place team from NFC West (Arizona) on the road.
The Rams clinched second in the NFC West with their 20-10 win over the Cowboys.
In addition to the usual six games against the NFC East, the Cowboys will face the NFC North and the AFC South in 2006. They will play New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston and Indianapolis at Texas Stadium while going on the road to play Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville and Tennessee.
Seven Yards Short
Running back Julius Jones came into Sunday's game 42 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season but couldn't break free, finishing the game with 35 yards on 15 attempts. He finished the season with 993 rushing yards.
He got within two yards of the milestone on a 28-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter, but lost five yards on the next play and didn't have a rushing attempt the rest of the game.
The Cowboys finished the game with 57 rushing yards.
"It is frustrating (to not get Jones the milestone)," tight end Dan Campbell said. "Especially when you've got a guy back there you know can run. It's frustrating as a tight end who blocks and as a lineman because you know the guy can do it. But if you don't open up any holes or any lanes for the guy, he's not going to be able to run."
Jones also caught two passes for minus-11 yards.
Woodson Eligible to Return
Had the Cowboys clinched a spot in the NFC playoffs, they might have had a rather familiar face back with them for the first-round playoff game.
The Cowboys at least were contemplating a move to re-sign veteran safety Darren Woodson, who announced his retirement nearly a year ago.
The Cowboys waived Woodson, 36, on Friday from the reserve/retired list, making it possible to bring back the former defensive captain had the Cowboys made it to the playoffs.
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said last year the team would always hold Woodson's rights, "just in case."
Woodson, who cleared waivers on Saturday, retired last year after he was unable to return from the back surgery he underwent just before training camp in 2004. While the Cowboys hoped Woodson could return by mid-season, the veteran safety never returned to full strength, eventually being moved from the physically unable to perform (PUP) list to injured reserve.
Parcells last week said he would like to see some improvement from the safety position. Davis started all 16 games at free safety this year, but the club has been inconsistent at the position all year.
-- Nick Eatman
The Cowboys filled an empty roster spot on Saturday, signing defensive end Vontrell Jamison, who has been on the practice squad since Nov. 2. The Cowboys had the open spot after placing rookie linebacker Kevin Burnett (torn ACL) on injured reserve on Friday.
Jamison, a standout at Clemson, went to training camp this season with the Rams before joining the Cowboys.
Although Jamison wasn't active for Sunday's game with the Rams, the Cowboys will at least have his rights going into off-season. All practice squad players become free agents at the end of the regular season, although the Cowboys will likely try to obtain all eight players.
-- Nick Eatman
Cason Leads Rams
It was former Cowboys running back Aveon Cason, not future Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk, who led the Rams in rushing yards against the Cowboys.
Cason, who was cut by the Cowboys during the 2004 training camp, ran the ball 10 times for 65 yards and scored a touchdown Sunday evening. He also returned two kickoffs for 48 yards.
"I loved getting dressed and then getting my first hit," Cason said. "I wanted to make the most of my chance to play and take advantage of the opportunity . . . I took a couple of hits and was able to get into a rhythm. Then, I started to pop some long runs."
Cason's longest run was a 14-yard effort. He also caught one pass for 11 yards.
Cowboys wide receiver Terry Glenn had a run-in with the police Friday night in Dallas, getting cited for public intoxication, although he was released at the scene.
Glenn, who is expected to play Sunday night against the Rams, was cited for urinating behind a trash dumpster, Dallas police said. After being handcuffed briefly, Glenn was released and left with a friend.
Glenn led the Cowboys with 1,136 receiving yards and seven touchdown receptions.
-- Nick Eatman
- Rookie running back Tyson Thompson returned five kickoffs for 143 yards Sunday, giving him 1,399 return yards for the 2005 season. This broke James Dixon's record of 1,181 kickoff return yards in a rookie season set in 1989.
- Linebacker DeMarcus Ware recorded one sack against the Rams, bringing his season total to eight, the most ever by a Cowboys rookie linebacker. He finished one shy of the Cowboys' rookie record for any position and two shy of San Diego rookie Shawne Merriman who was selected one pick behind him in the 2005 draft.
- With his 242 passing yards against the Rams, Bledsoe finished off his season with 3,693 passing yards. He completed 300 passes on 499 attempts, a 60.l percent completion rate. The yards put him second all-time among Cowboys in a season, trailing Danny White's 1983 season of 3,980 yards.
- Bledsoe passed Vinny Testaverde for third most completions in a Cowboys season (499) and for fifth all time in NFL history with 6,548 attempts. He is also tied with John Hadl and Peyton Manning for 13th on the NFL's career touchdown passing list (245). Bledsoe's 23 touchdowns match the most by a Cowboys quarterback since Danny White's 29 in 1983. Troy Aikman also had 23 touchdown passes in 1992
- Bledsoe was sacked five times by the Rams, bringing his season total to 49. That's the second-most times sacked in a single season, trailing only Don Meredith's 58 in 1964. Steve Pelluer was sacked 47 times in 1966.
- Terence Newman recorded his first offensive yards in the NFL Sunday evening when the Cowboys ran an end-around that gave the cornerback four yards.
- Guard Marco Rivera was inactive for the second straight game with a neck injury. The other inactive Cowboys were Drew Henson, Tony Dixon, Marcus Price, Vontrell Jamison, Junior Glymph, Sean Ryan and Kenyon Coleman.
With Sunday's results, the Cowboys now know they will have the 18th overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft . . . Rookie Shaun Suisham's 22-yard field goal late in the second quarter was a career long. He missed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right in the fourth quarter . . . Witten's touchdown catch in the first quarter was his sixth of the season, tying his career high set in 2004. He is also the first tight end in Cowboys history to have back-to-back 65 catch seasons . . . Terry Glenn finished the season 11 yards shy of his single-season high (1,147). It was only the third time in his 10-year career he played in all 16 games . . . Punter Mat McBriar had three punts downed inside the 20, bringing his season total to 28, tying for the second-most in a single season in club history . . . Defensive tackle Greg Ellis tied Ware for the team lead with eight sacks. He is the second player to lead the team in sacks five consecutive seasons (2001-2005) and the second to lead the team in sacks for six overall seasons . . . Bledsoe was named the 2005 winner of the Bob Lilly Award before the game The award is given to the Dallas Cowboys player who most exemplifies the characteristics of defensive tackle Bob Lilly in fan vote.