ARLINGTON, Texas – The term 'moral victory' is not a phrase any NFL player, executive or fan wants to hear. The bottom line – wins and losses – is all that matters.
Cowboys tight end Jason Witten encapsulated that attitude well on Sunday evening, moments after his team's 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos.
"I'm proud of the way we played, but at the same time we're too far along to say 'Hey, we're right there with the best team," Witten said. "There's no moral victories there – you've got to find ways to win these games."
Of course, for the bushel of negatives to take out of the loss, the Cowboys won't have to look hard to find some positives. It might be an unpopular opinion, but Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said it was fair to classify him as upbeat following the game.
"I know what's going to happen to me when I say this, but that's a good term," Jones said. "It's not a loser talking here, but this has a lot of the feelings of a victory with it because of how well parts of our team played. We can build off this."
It's hard to see some of those building blocks in light of Tony Romo's late-game interception, not to mention the 517 total yards by the Dallas defense. It's the second straight 400-yard passing day allowed by the Cowboys and the third of the season – something that will surely draw criticism toward defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
"I think that I would, knowing what my expectations were playing Denver and playing Peyton Manning coming in, I'm going to cut him some slack," Jones said. "I must tell you I was expecting a high scoring and high yardage game from Denver, and I knew we were going to have to match it."
Speaking of matching Denver's offense, Jones said he was mostly encouraged by the Dallas offense. Despite the interception, Jones said Sunday showed the success of the Cowboys' offseason efforts to increase Romo's input the offense.
"I see the fundamentals of what our plan was when we were in the offseason and Romo was going to take more responsibility – that could give us better ball protection," he said. "Although it's ironic that we lost the game with an interception at the end. But how do you get all that and keep a creative, athletic Romo? You saw it all mixed right out there today."
Witten could at least agree with that.
"I thought we took shots down the field today – which was good to see. It gives you a chance to change the game," he said. "We've got a lot of weapons, and to see them utilized that way and to execute and play that way – it does give you confidence, even though it's obviously a tough loss."
Here are some more notes from Sunday's shootout loss to Denver:
- Go figure that perhaps the most-criticized member of this Cowboys roster through the first four weeks – cornerback Morris Claiborne – became the first player to intercept Manning this season. Claiborne came down with the pick on a lazy lob intended for Denver receiver Eric Decker. It was just the second interception of Claiborne's career, though he said the play felt hollow in hindsight. "No matter what, all the plays we made, all the good things we did, we didn't come out on top," he said. "It was a good play, but we didn't get the victory so it doesn't mean anything." Jones contested that point ever so slightly, saying that Claiborne's day, which also included a first quarter fumble recovery, should build the young corner's confidence.
- Cole Beasley found paydirt for the first time in his career during the loss. The small, shifty wideout grabbed four receptions for 47 yards, including a four-yard touchdown to give Dallas a 48-41 lead with seven minutes to play. Along with a seven-catch, 68-yard day against Washington last year, it was just the second time Beasley has gone for more than 16 yards in a single game. "That's part of what they put me in the game to do, so I feel like that's what I'm here for. I'm really good at getting open early," Beasley said. "That's really what I bring to the table, just like Dez brings the fade ball to the table. That's his niche. My niche is getting open underneath. Hopefully, I can keep excelling in that and keep taking advantage of it."
- Tony Romo's 506 yards set a new franchise record for single game passing yardage. The old record was held by Don Meredith, who threw for 460 yards on Nov. 10, 1963, against San Francisco. Romo's 506 yards is also the 11th-best passing total of the Super Bowl era. [embedded_ad]
- Romo is the fifth NFL quarterback in history to throw for 500 yards and five touchdowns in a single game. His five touchdowns also matched his personal best and a franchise record, set against Buffalo in 2007.
- In some respects, the Cowboys' accomplishment of having three 100-yard receivers in one game is historical. Terrance Williams finished with 151 yards, Dez Bryant had 141 and Witten added another 121, which is just the third time in history the team has managed that feat. On the other hand, it hasn't even been a year since it last happened. During the Cowboys' Oct. 28,2012, loss to New York, Witten went for 167, Miles Austin tallied 133 and Bryant added another 110. The first occasion was the Nov. 10, 1963, game against the 49ers – the same day Meredith set his passing record.