IRVING, Texas – Can't make this stuff up, not this week in the life of the Dallas Cowboys, a life growing tougher by the day.
Let's see, in totality:
The Cowboys have lost four consecutive games.
The Cowboys are in last place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys have not logged a takeaway since the second game of the season.
They rank last among the 32 NFL teams in takeaways (3) and turnover differential (minus-9).
They are on to their third starting quarterback in just seven games.
Their second starting running back.
The first won't even play, the mystery of Joe Randle's absence growing larger by the day, sources saying he has some deep-seated "personal problems" that aren't criminally related and much larger than any potential NFL suspension reportedly looming overhead.
The Pro Bowl starting quarterback still has to miss three more games, but can start practicing next week. And from the sounds of things, he'll start moving around, throwing the ball, possibly some 7-on-7 reps, but that's it.
Their co-sack leader continues to receive heat from all corners of the world, except those within The Ranch, for his sideline tirade this past Sunday that has provoked even some "retired" NFL players to mouth off about how they would have physically confronted Greg Hardy afterward in the locker room in their day, a much safer declaration after turning in your helmet, I'm sure.
The owner has come under fire for his outward support of Hardy, and so has the head coach, the uninitiated insisting he has lost control of his team.
Let's see, anything else?
Oh, the Cowboys must play the two-time defending NFC champs at 3:25 p.m. Sunday in AT&T Stadium and before a significant national television audience for all to see.
Now, if all this were not enough hardship or a mountain high enough to overcome, the Seahawks are coming off a Thursday night tilt, meaning 10 days between games, while the Cowboys are coming off that East Coast road trip, arriving back to their homes this past Monday morning no earlier than 1 a.m.
And, for one last kick in the backside, heavy rains forced the Cowboys to move Friday's late-morning practice indoors to nearby Coppell High School's facility, meaning loading up on buses for the five-mile ride.
Believe me, can't make this stuff up. But believe this, too: They do not throw pity parties in the NFL.
Just go play.
And that's what the Cowboys must do if they expect to stay in touch with the NFC East while waiting for Tony Romo to return, and boy would a victory do wonders for not only the psyche of this team, but also its material place in the division. Remember, the Giants lead the division at 4-3, but the Cowboys have at least split with them already. Also, the Giants are traveling to New Orleans on Sunday.
Then there are the second-place teams, Philadelphia and Washington. The Eagles are next up for the Cowboys, but of all things, they will be coming off Sunday's bye, as will the Redskins. So a Cowboys win would tie all three for second at 3-4. And what if the Saints march over the Giants, certainly plausible since the Giants were benefactors of the Cowboys' generous gifts – an interception return and kickoff return for touchdowns – in their 27-20 victory last Sunday.
Could you just imagine, the Cowboys, after losing four straight, just winning on Sunday and only being a half-game out of first in the division, especially after all that has gone wrong, physically, mentally and materially?
And, as owner Jerry Jones insists, "What's not happening is this team is not losing its heart, it's not losing its competitiveness. It's actually gaining on it."
Let me also point out that winning Sunday is not out of the question. Know that these Seahawks are not your 2-year-olds' Seahawks. They are 3-4, losers of two of their past three. Sure, they are coming in off a win, but that was over 2-5 San Francisco. Whoopie. Why, the Seahawks have not beaten anyone of note yet – Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, their combined records at 5-15. They have lost to St. Louis (OT), Green Bay, Cincinnati and Carolina, the latter three undefeated and St. Louis at least .500.
But here is the catch: The Cowboys offense doesn't have to win the game, but by George, they can't lose the game, either. Similar to how they did this past Sunday against the Giants, turning the ball over three times (Matt Cassel interceptions) and then special teams forfeiting one last chance for a last-minute drive to tie the game when Cole Beasley fumbled away a punt.
"If we're going to win games, we can't turn the ball over," Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan insisted. "That has to be our mindset. When the game is in the balance, you have to be really good protecting the ball."
And in the Cowboys case, with little margin for error, redact the good and insert great protecting the ball.
Please, though, don't be that guy who insists Cassel slinging the ball around and being intercepted multiple times is better than Brandon Weeden checking down underneath and relying on the Cowboys defense to hold down the fort. Can't have it. Can't win with it.
The Cowboys defense must be this team's backbone until Romo arrives, which will be no sooner than Nov. 22 against Miami. And that group should be energized, and has been, with Greg Hardy and Rolando McClain returning from suspensions and Randy Gregory from a high-ankle sprain. Even though the Cowboys defense did not log a takeaway against the Giants, giving up 13 points and less than 300 yards to the team should have been good enough to win.
Yeah, I know, the Seahawks have the No. 2 rushing offense in the NFL, but a third of their 1,003 yards rushing came in two games: 159 against Chicago and 176 vs. San Francisco. But they have only averaged 22 points a game, and even that total is a tad misleading since two fumble returns and two interception returns for touchdowns are included in their 15 touchdown total (only two more than the Cowboys have scored in one less game).
And this right here might be the key: Russell Wilson, eight touchdown passes, five interceptions, has been sacked 31 times. Come on now, 31? That's like nearly one sack for every yard Lucky Whitehead picked up rushing last Sunday (35) and on pace for 70 in a 16-game season. The Seahawks have reconstructed their offensive line, and saying as politely as can be, that unit certainly is a work in progress.
And I'd think if Hardy has been paying attention to everything that's been said about him this week, he ought to be champing at the bit to get him some, along with the rest of the guys, since the Cowboys have recorded 10 sacks in the past three games compared to their three in the first three games.
And wouldn't it be something if one of those sacks turned into a sack-fumble-recovery since the Cowboys have not recorded a takeaway in the past four games.
"We have to find a way to stop him, contain him – the plays he makes are amazing," Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee says of dealing with Wilson. "He's a threat in every sense."
As for the offense, goes without saying no multiple-interception game from Cassel, a boost from Dez – he's listed as questionable – clean special teams play and how about this, Darren McFadden notching his first back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances since Games 13-14 in 2010 with Oakland, his only 1,000-yard rushing season of his now eight-year NFL career.
So as crazy as this may sound, especially with all the Cowboys have been going through and went through this week, this is indeed a winnable game. No matter the lingering perceptions.
No matter this mountain seeming too high.
Just go play.
Be there when the Cowboys take on the Seahawks November 1st! Tickets start as low as $49 for their match up this Sunday at AT&T Stadium. Instant ticket download available. Click here to purchase.