Punished For Going MIA

beaten up, Jason Witten, Anthony Henry, Terence Newman, Chris Canty and then Mike Barrow all missing some plays because of injury. 

Still, down 14 at half is not prohibitive. But, 28-0 is, and was. 

The Cowboys defense allowed the Redskins to go 34 yards in two plays for a touchdown after one of many shanked punts by Mat McBriar, this one just 24 yards. Then, four plays later, another Bledsoe passed headed Julius Jones' way inside the Washington 25, was batted in the air, intercepted and returned by Marcus Washington to the Cowboys 38. 

Two plays later, that Cowboys-beater, Cooley - Chris Cooley, an H-back - took what seemed to be an innocent dump pass 30 yards for a touchdown with just 12 seconds left in the first half, the Cowboys defenders doing some great pantomime tackling. The Cowboys defense gave up as many touchdowns in one half (four) as they did during that five-game stretch from Oakland to Arizona. In fact, that now was eight touchdowns in the past six quarters - two more than they had given up in the four-game stretch prior to last Sunday's game against Kansas City. 

But hey, if you are looking to assess culpability, don't blame it all on the defense. The offense needed 47:50 to finally break the shutout. The offense could not protect Bledsoe, who was sacked a season-high seven times, and this had nothing to do with holding the ball too long. The offensive line could not start in unison, the Cowboys assessed more false starts than they had scored points until the fourth quarter. The kickers, well, they turned into the group that couldn't kick straight. 

And just maybe, the decisions to play guys such as Barrow and Thomas Johnson, and needing to play Jacques Reeves and Nat Jones, simply caught up with the Cowboys. They indeed found their depth was not bottomless. 

"We're on a real roll now," said Washington quarterback Mark Brunell, who spanked the Cowboys bad by completing all of 12 passes - only two to a wide receiver (Santana Moss) - for all of 163 yards. "Every one of us expected it to be a close football game." 

Said before this game whoever beats Washington, the Cowboys or the Giants, would win the East. The Cowboys didn't, and now, even if they win out and the Giants (10-4) lose out, they can't win a tiebreaker with the Giants thanks to finishing division play at 3-3. And the Redskins, well, they too are two-games behind the Giants with two to go, and if they should beat the Giants next week here at the Big Ex and then win out by beating Philadelphia the next week, they would have split with the New Yorkers and clinched a better NFC East record by one game (5-1 to 4-2) for the title. 

The Cowboys, well, they must go on the road on Christmas Eve to play Carolina (10-4), and we also know this about these guys: They are not road warriors, having gone 3-4 away from Texas Stadium so far this season, including losing four of the last five. In fact, not sure what kind of warriors they are, having lost three of the past four games while the Redskins have won three straight at exactly the right time of the season. 

Not one to be an alarmist, but if you need to be alarmed, then now's the time. Be alarmed. Ring the bell. The Redskins were revved up for this game. The Cowboys, they acted as if they were playing that preseason game in Arizona this summer. The Redskins played this game as if it was a playoff game, which really, it was more so for them than the Cowboys because if they lost, that would have been that. The Cowboys, they never really put up their competitive dukes. 

"This was inexcusable," safety Keith Davis said. 

"They were high on the bet," James said. "Coming into this game we thought we were the better team. But we are what we are." 

Yep, 8-6, with a season on the brink, now fading down the stretch just as they did in 2003 when they lost three of their final five after an 8-3 start. 

So pull out all the clichés. The Cowboys' backs are to the wall - probably shoulder blades pushed into the sheet rock. The Cowboys must win at least one of their next two games to even have a chance of involving themselves in a tiebreaker for likely the last wild-card berth. It would be recommended to win both. 

Now this loss might not be the

MICK SHOTS

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