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Spagnola: Where Have We Heard This Depressing Song Before?

Tampa, Fla. – Right, it's enough to make you scream.

         One week the defense plays well, holds an opponent to 13 points, and the offense can manage only four field goals, and the Cowboys lose by one.

         The next week the offense puts up 27 points, but donates seven to the other team and the defense gives up 26 points, the final six the first possession of overtime to lose.

         This week, for 59 minutes the Cowboys give up just three points. They hold the opposing quarterback to a 55.9 passer rating, sack him twice, intercept him twice – the first interceptions by the secondary since forever (Week 2) – limit an opponent to less than 100 yards rushing (81) for the first time in seven games and the offense only scores six points, two field goals.

Can't even score a measly touchdown for the third time this year and second time in three games. Can't gain more than 216 yards of total offense. Can't run for more than 42 yards. Can't do squat on their final six possessions of the game, five consecutive punts and an intercepted pass.

         And they lose. Again. For the seventh consecutive time. Most consecutive losses since dropping the final seven in 1989's season of 1-15, and third longest in club history, behind only the eight to start that 1989 season, the 10 in 1988, Tom Landry's final season as head coach, and of course the 10 straight in Tom Landry's first season as head coach in the inaugural 1960 season.

         This time to the Bucs, 10-6, here on what should have been a nice Sunday afternoon, yet turned into the same ol' song, next disheartening verse at Raymond James Stadium when first one to score a touchdown obviously was going to win.

         The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did, with 54 seconds remaining, painfully after it had appeared the Cowboys produced the long-awaited game-winning stop five seconds earlier by recovering rookie Jamies Winston's fumble in the end zone only for back judge Jim Quirk's yellow flags to come flying in late for a hold on Jeff Heath. That set up Winston's game-winning run from the 1-yard line with 48 seconds left, the fifth time a Cowboys takeaway was canceled out by a review or penalty during the losing streak.

         Gut punch after gut punch after one last shove in the back with 28 seconds remaining that should have been interference on Bradley McDougald at the Buccaneers 1-yard line that instead ended up being his game-clinching interception when the same back judge failed to get in decent position to make the call.

         But then, what's new?

One week the Seahawks get away with illegally calling timeout with too many men on the field. The next the Eagles are granted a ticky-tack interference call on Terrance Williams, nullifying his touchdown catch.

         Then this week, this. Just go watch.

         That's enough to make you sick watching film on Monday. Conspiracy theorists are being born one play at a time.

         So the Cowboys lose their seventh straight. They fall to 2-7, still dead last in the NFC East with seven games to go. Lost every, single game Tony Romo has missed with his fractured left collarbone healing. An oh-fer when winning just two or three in his absence would have been more than acceptable after the 2-0 start.

         Who knows if they can get up? Again.

         "Ultimately you have to do what's necessary to win the game," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said, preferring not to give his opinion on the officiating. "You have to make the stops and make the plays. We all know that. I think the effort's outstanding, the fight is outstanding, all those things. But you have to do what winning teams do in critical moments. We didn't do that today, and I think if you reflect back on the earlier games that we've lost, you would probably say the same thing."[embeddedad0]

         But in this year's version of the NFC East, their East Coast brethren must feel sorry for the Cowboys without their franchise quarterback, almost as if they're all saying, hey, we'll wait around for youse guys until Romo returns. Well, he returns this coming week, and here is what he returns to:

         How nice of the Giants to lose to the Patriots, evening their record atop the NFC East at 5-5. Same for the Eagles, losing to Miami, 20-19, and dropping their record to 4-5, which is the same as the Washington Redskins, who had the nerve to actually win a game Sunday, putting 47 on the Saints (14).

         The Cowboys seemingly keep trying to check out, but the NFC East won't let them leave in the true spirit of Hotel California, having lost seven consecutive games since getting off to the 2-0 start, but still just two games back in the loss column with seven to play, if you can believe that.

         The Giants still have to play the Redskins and the Eagles, so somewhere in there will be two losses among those teams. The Giants also must play Minnesota and Carolina. The Eagles still have to play the Patriots and Cardinals, along with one game each with Washington and the Giants, again two more losses in there. And the Redskins, now in the thick of things as the only NFC East team to win during Week 10, have two left with the Cowboys, along with meeting Carolina and Buffalo. The Cowboys will be responsible for taking out Washington.

         So there are enough losses out there to make an 8-8 team the potential NFC East winners. That would give the Cowboys a chance, but at some point they have to win, do something to help their own cause.

If you want to feel sick, just think what would have happened if the Cowboys would have only gone 2-5 during Romo's absence, and that certainly would not been out of the question if you consider two overtime losses, the one point loss to Seattle and this one on Sunday when giving up only 10 points:

They would have been 4-5, a half game out of first. Who knew?


         But here comes Tony.

         "I hope. … Tony is a big part of why this team runs and having him back is going to be great for us," said Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne when asked if he hopes the return of Romo will make a huge difference. "Hopefully we can stand up next week when that time comes."

         Just hope for some measure of consistency, the offense and defense playing well in the same game, not teeter-tottering as has been the case in six of the last seven games, the only clunker thrown in being the 30-6 loss to New England when both sides misfired versus the now 9-0 Patriots.

          This is something, isn't it: Still not over until it's over?

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