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Spagnola: Testing Outer Limits Of 2013's Mortality


IRVING, Texas – Ya worried sick over that heartbreaking 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos would emotionally devastate the Cowboys, and what, they bounce back to beat the Redskins, 31-16, the next game.

         Same thing, right when they let the Detroit Lions out of jail in the fourth quarter for the crushing, 31-30, loss, again in the final seconds, but how those Cowboys rebounded, beating Minnesota, 27-23, the next week.

         Then there was the Sunday night embarrassment in the Big Easy, where for the Cowboys it was anything but, getting spanked like no tomorrow by the Saints, 49-17, yet darn if they did not jump back up the next game to beat the Giants in the winter cold of the Meadowlands, 24-21.

         And now this: Bears 45, Cowboys 28, this past Monday night on the bitterly cold Shores of Lake Michigan, and it wasn't even that close, the disappointment – maybe even embarrassment – hanging heavy, causing some serious internal sag afterward, nearly as low as those iced-over trees last weekend in these parts.

         Geesh, are the Cowboys testing the outer limits of their resiliency, and this late in the season, with only three games to go and trailing the first-place Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East by one full game, the loss to Chicago having eliminated any margin for error in their playoff quest?

         Is there only so many times a team can get up off the mat, especially after all the injuries they've had to overcome, and you can add another two to the list since middle linebacker Sean Lee, who had just returned last week after missing the previous two games, is out once again, this time with a seriously sprained neck ligament, along with hamstrung linebacking partner Bruce Carter?

         Got to take one more deep breath, if they possibly can, before bumping into the somewhat equally-hobbled Green Bay Packers at AT&T Stadium this Sunday afternoon in basically a win-or-else contest in Week 15 for both teams, although at least the Cowboys (7-6) have their starting quarterback standing, unlike the Packers (6-6-1), with Aaron Rodgers still trying to calcify the collarbone he fractured right at six weeks ago.

"You've heard me say this before, but the best teams and the best players somehow focus on the task at hand," said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who must come equipped with great resiliency himself not to continually cry *why me *over the melt downs and number of injuries over the past two seasons. "You have to focus on the task at hand after a big win, you have to put it behind you and go to the next one, and you certainly have to do that after a difficult loss, and that's certainly what it was in Chicago."

Self-pity is an evil emotion in the National Football League. Wallow in it too long, and you're cooked.

So here the Cowboys go again, no Lee, no Carter, no Brian Waters, no Anthony Spencer, no Jay Ratliff, no Tyrone Crawford, no Ben Bass, no Dwayne Harris and probably no Morris Claiborne, although the second-year corner, after not having practiced for weeks and following the recent death of his father, showed up as questionable on Friday's injury status report.

"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us," Garrett explained.

Least of which Green Bay, fixing to play the seventh consecutive game without franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers, having watched a 5-2 start turn into 6-6-1 those six Rodgers-less games later and now starting journeyman Matt Flynn, although the Cowboys found out this past Monday facing a team's backup is no piece of cake since the Bears Josh McCown hung 348 passing yards on them.

Despair hangs heavier than those softball-sized Christmas tree ornaments.

But, for at least the Dallas Cowboys, every bit of bad news seems to be balanced out with some good news. Let's try.

So yes, the Cowboys got seriously clobbered by the Bears. But, with three games remaining they still are assured of winning the NFC East if they close out the season on a three-game winning streak.

But, the Cowboys last fashioned a three-game winning streak in Games 12-14 of last season, that being the only such three-game streak in the past 34 games. So, you might ask, why now?


Then again, as Garrett has told his team, you can't win three in a row without winning one in a row, and the good this Sunday is they are playing the Packers at home, and not since 1989 in the final game of the Cowboys' 1-15 season have the Packers won a road game against the Cowboys, amounting to a nine-game losing streak at Texas Stadium, the ninth in 2007 when a blitzing Cowboys corner Nate Jones knocked Brett Favre out of the game in the second quarter of a 37-27 Cowboys victory.

But as mentioned, the Cowboys will be playing without Lee and Carter, two-thirds of their starting linebacking corps, and in the past four games playing without Lee in two of those and at least a half in two others, the Cowboys have been hit for 643 rushing yards, an obscene 160.7 a game – all going a long ways towards giving up 110 points during that span, or 27.5 a game. [embedded_ad]


Oh but here, in the six home games the Cowboys have played at AT&T Stadium this year they are averaging 34 points a game, a high of 48 against Denver and a low of 27 versus Minnesota, with at least 31 in every other one of the four. And if we expand that to include the final four home games of 2012, the average increases to 32.9 points in the past 10 home games.

And we will see down this stretch if the Cowboys indeed are developing a home-field advantage at the AT&T, standing 5-1 after six games this year and 7-3 over the past 10.

Want more? Oh, on one side of the coin, the Cowboys all season long have been just horrible defending the pass, ranking last in the league, giving up 298.5 yards a game, last toasted by McCown, which has a heavy in their 32nd-ranked overall defense, too.

But then again, the Cowboys have found their running game of late, totaling 538 yards in the past four games since Demarco Murray fully returned from his sprained knee, with a high of 198 against the Bears this past Monday. Why Murray nearly had 100 yards by halftime against Chicago (99).

Hard to figure, right. Insanely maddening at times for sure.

But these are your Cowboys, and as I've said time and time again, the just-when-they're-in-they're-out kids are back in that same position trying desperately to get back in when they once again seem out.

Stay tuned with these fickle-faced Cowboys.

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