Friday, October 11, 2013

Decade of Futility - Dallas Cowboys' Worst Losses of Century: No. 25 Brady, Patriots Bring Reality Back To Dallas

Whenever the Cowboys start thinking and talking big, it’s been proven that fans would do themselves a favor by expecting the not-so-big. After all, Kevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News had it correct when he observed, “The best are held to a higher standard. The Patriots live up to it week after week. The Cowboys? Still a work in progress.”
A game pitting two 5-0 teams against each other, this 48-27 New England victory was not only an indication of just how good Tom Brady and the Patriots were, but a stark reminder that Wade Phillips’ Cowboys may not have been all they were cracked up to be.
Brady, on the way to NFL MVP honors, had a field day against a helpless Dallas defense, connecting on 31 passes for 388 yards, while becoming only the sixth quarterback to pass for five touchdowns against the Cowboys. And he made it appear all too easy, compelling Sherrington to declare that “Brady continues to play at a level with which most of us observers are not familiar.”

The New England defense, on the other hand, provided the rest of the league with the memo on how to slow down Dallas’ vaunted offense: put pressure on Tony Romo. The Cowboys entered the game with the league’s No. 1 ranked offense, but posted season-lows in yards (283), first downs (13), plays (46) and points (20). They had the ball for only 21 minutes, 45 seconds.
The Cowboys fell behind 14-0 early but actually took the lead in the second quarter thanks to a Romo-to-Terrell Owens touchdown and a Jason Hatcher fumble recovery that he returned for another score. Yet it was a barrage of fourth-quarter penalties (Dallas finished the game with 12 total) that allowed New England to end the game on a 27-3 run, score on their final five possessions, and win going away.
Even while scrambling for his life, Romo guided the Cowboys offense to the New England five-yard line with ten minutes remaining, attempting to cut into the 38-24 deficit. But when his third-down pass for Sam Hurd fell incomplete, head coach Wade Phillips inexplicably called off the dogs, settling for a meaningless field goal. The Cowboys did not score again.

For the first time all season, Romo failed to crack the 200-yard passing mark, one of many shortcomings that failed to dampen the spirits inside the Dallas locker room, as some players spoke as if some moral victory had been achieved by hanging with the mighty Patriots for all of three quarters. Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton, emboldened by nobody knows what, guaranteed a Dallas-New England rematch in the Super Bowl.
As it turned out, Crayton was only halfway correct. The Patriots were a Super team indeed, marching into Glendale, Az. in early February with an unprecedented 18-0 record.
The Cowboys, as the tape revealed, were not. Owners of an NFC-best 13-3 record, Crayton and teammates became the first No. 1 seed to lose a Divisional playoff game, falling to the Giants in ignominious fashion at Texas Stadium.
The best teams are at their best against the best teams in the biggest moments.
The Cowboys had yet to ascend to such a plateau, something that only an afternoon with Brady’s Bunch could convince the throngs of.