IRVING, Texas – Whaddaya say, just the facts on these Dallas Cowboys.
Yes, the last time we've seen the Dallas Cowboys on the field they got pounded by the New Orleans Saints, 49-17, the worst loss suffered since Green Bay defeated them, 45-7, in 2010, Wade Phillips final game as head coach.
Yes, the Cowboys set an ignominious NFL record that Nov. 10th day in New Orleans by allowing those Saints a total of 40 first downs.
Yes, the Cowboys defense has basically stunk of late, giving up 623 yards one week to the Detroit Lions to set the franchise single-game record for most yards gained by an opponent, only to have the Saints reset that mark two weeks later, upping the total by two more yards.
Yes, the Cowboys offense has suddenly become more miss than hit these past five games, not only averaging just 278.4 yards a game over the past five, but also accounting for just 12 touchdowns, a modest 2.4 average per game, and worse, driving more than 60 yards for just seven of those touchdowns.
Yes, a Cowboys team that at one point during this 2013 season had won three of four games is a Sunday loss to the New York Giants away from having lost three of their last four games.
And yes, these Dallas Cowboys who were in first place or at least tied for the NFC East lead in the first 10 weeks of the season are an unfulfilling 5-5 coming out of this past weekend's bye, having fallen into second place behind the 6-5 Philadelphia Eagles.
Oh, my aching head. And yours, too, I'm guessing. No wonder Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was being asked late this week if his head coach Jason Garrett was facing job-Armageddon in these final six games of the season, alas stepping up to say "it's not that," and issuing a double "yes" when asked if Garrett would be the Cowboys head coach in 2014.
Yep, all the promise coming out of training camp has come to this, that first play of the 2013 season, DeMarcus Ware jumping up from his new defensive end position at the line of scrimmage to intercept Eli Manning's pass in that rousing 36-31 victory over these once 0-6 Giants who now are 4-6, long forgotten I bet.
But you know what? Wonders of wonders, despite all this doom and gloom, despite having finished that Saints game with but three projected defensive starters from the outset of training camp on the field – Brandon Carr, Barry Church and Bruce Carter – the Cowboys are but a half-game out of first place in the NFC East, and only because the Eagles have played one more game that they won this past Sunday with the Cowboys sitting idly by.
Remember now, just the facts and nothing but, and that's one of them.
Here is another: Only three NFC teams heading into these Week 12 games have a record more than a game better than the Cowboys – the 10-1 Seahawks, 9-2 Saints and 7-3 Panthers.
Five are no more than a game better – the 6-4 Niners, 6-4 Cardinals, 6-4 Bears and 6-4 Lions, along with those 6-5 Eagles.
And while the Giants would like you to believe this game Sunday at what's expected to be a jam-packed, well-bundled up bunch at MetLife Stadium in the windy cold of East Rutherford, N.J., is for all the marbles, that the winner is in playoff contention and the loser will be left for dead, well, if the Cowboys should lose, they will be tied with the Giants at 5-6 and one game behind the Eagles, a team the Cowboys have already beaten.
Now look, I'm not trying to minimize the importance of this matchup, but with six games remaining, this whole thing is not over until it's over. It is beyond me why so many want to simply throw in the towel, already moving on to who the Cowboys should draft in April and who the Cowboys will cut to fit under the 2014 salary cap.
"I'm disappointed we don't have a better record, but he has got us in position to win the division and got a team here I firmly believe has the ability to be one of the better playing teams at the end," said Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, talking not only about his team's position after 10 games but also confirming Garrett is not coaching for his job with six games to go. "We're positioned to get in the playoffs. We see logically how to get in the playoffs. We have that, for all practical purposes, in our control. Now, that's a pretty good spot to be in after 10 games. [embedded_ad]
"A lot of this story is to be played out."
That's right. Let the thing play out – all the way out. The NFL is a 17-week grind, and too many things can happen. Just when you think you're in, you're out, and just when you think you're out, you're in. Does anyone remember 2011 when the Cowboys went on that four-game winning streak, moving to 7-5, only to lose three of the last four? Or take the Giants, losers of their first six this year and facing insurrection, only to win the next four. Or the Niners starting off 6-2 and now 6-4. Or the Cardinals, off to a depressing 3-4 start, now 6-4. We could go on and on with examples of what normally is a season-long roller-coaster ride from game to game, and for some, even season to season.
Ask last year's 10-6 Redskins, who went 5-1 in the NFC East, now 3-7 and having yet to win a division game (0-3).
And, I know, you don't give a darn about all them, only the Cowboys. But here is what clouds this .500 start to the 2013 season:
- Getting beat 49-17 by the Saints the last time out, having to sit around stewing over that embarrassment for two whole weeks without being able to do a thing about it.
- Those two dang one-point losses.
Man, I said that back then that the 17-16 loss to a very beatable Kansas City Chiefs team the second week of the season on the road would come back to haunt the Cowboys, and it definitely is.
Said the same thing after the 31-30 loss to Detroit on the road, those Lions scoring the winning touchdown with 12 seconds remaining to rip out their hearts, and it is, too.
Just for a second, let your mind wander, although you may need an Advil to counter the ensuing pain. But had the Cowboys won those two very winnable games on the road – admit it, they were good enough to have done so – and even if they had gotten clobbered by the Saints two weeks ago, they would be sitting here at 7-3. Think about it, 7-3, and that's what is so maddening: Good enough to be 7-3, yet only 5-5.
But again, you are what you are, and the Cowboys are 5-5, with fate in hand. Heck, think about this: Even if the Cowboys split these next two games to be played within five days of each other, facing Oakland on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium, they would be 6-6, and no worse than one game behind the Eagles for first in the NFC East and equally no worse than even with the Giants.
Nope, this thing is long from over, with the Cowboys anticipating the return of Miles Austin, Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware, Nick Hayden, Morris Claiborne and J.J. Wilcox for the next two and praying for the return of Sean Lee and Justin Durant by time they face the Bears that Monday night (Dec. 9) in Chicago.
Them are the facts, just the facts. No interpretation whatsoever, cold and hard.
There was a time, I remember, a Cowboys team coming off consecutive seasons of 7-9, 7-8, 3-13, 1-15 and 7-9, standing but 6-5 after losing three of four games and their future Hall of Fame quarterback just after halftime of Game 12 against the eventual Super Bowl champs on the road. Yet out of the blue, they won the final five, that occurring in 1991, then going on to win their first playoff game since the 1982 strike-shortened season's playoff tournament.
Look, I am absolutely making no comparison whatsoever between the talent of those two teams. None, that's for sure. Just stating facts.
And as for you, for at least the next couple of weeks, you ought to stick to them facts, too.