In typical fashion the Dallas Cowboys once again proved the miracles of mediocrity still exist. Whatever they worked on over the bye week; lineups; route running; turkey recipes; it was still the same old Cowboys team that squandered a 15-point lead, almost losing to the much despised New York Giants. And the Giants wanted it badly; guaranteeing a win Sunday, Giants’ cornerback, Terrell Thomas echoed what the rest of the team must have felt. Jason Pierre-Paul called it their “Super Bowl”. And for all intents and purposes it was.
Let’s be honest; Dallas didn’t win the game as much as the Giants lost it. Penalties plagued both teams. The Giants played undisciplined football; very uncharacteristic of a Tom Coughlin coached team. In fact, there were moments when they looked more like the Dallas Cowboys than the Cowboys did. Personal foul penalties, especially more than one, are the result of a team whose emotions are allowed to roam freely from one end of the field to the other. That is a result of coaching; which leaves me scratching my head as to why a Giants team that really loves to play for their coach would behave so poorly. You would expect if from the Cowboys.
Ever the pessimist, I’m not going to count the Giants out. The fact that the Cowboys swept the series means little at the end of the season if the Giants have the better record. Granted, the Cowboys play the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving, but don’t kid yourselves. They have a nasty habit of playing down to the level of their opponents. Remember the Minnesota Vikings’ game?
The NFC East, or NFC Least, as it has been affectionately dubbed this season, is still very much up for grabs. To win the division, Dallas has to sweep it. They still have to play the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles one more time. Those are winnable games, but they aren’t guaranteed, either.
Still present and accounted for after the bye week are the inconsistencies that beset them two weeks ago. Sporadic running game; spotty passing game, and a glaring hole in the defense – as in the whole defense. Eli Manning was not the Eli Manning of the past; it’s not like the Cowboys didn’t give him his usual 3-5 minutes in the pocket to carefully look at all his reads, and make one of his signature throws; he had plenty of time to throw the ball. Some of his passes were just off the mark; very atypical of Manning. Passing isn’t the only way to beat the Cowboys; they have been very kind to opposing running backs, too. Averaging 6 yards per carry, André Brown rushed for 127 yards on 21 carries, and they weren’t garbage yards, they were tough, drive-sustaining yards.
The worst part about this season is that this team will do just enough to make owner Jerry Jones’ decision to keep head coach Jason Garrett one more season an easy one. If they make it to the playoffs, Garrett is the coach next season. If they don’t – well, he’ll still be the coach next season. Then again, he’s made similar statements in the past. With Garrett it’s different; Jones likes him. That’s been the Achilles’ heel for the Cowboys since Johnson left and took his brutality with him. Jerry Jones is a sensitive soul; he doesn’t thrive on confrontation. Of course, this passive-aggressive mentality has found its way down to the playing field. Instead of sessions with R. Lee Ermey over the bye week, they still play like a “Frasier Crane” episode; flashes of brilliance, followed by moments of bungling ineptitude.
Injuries notwithstanding (and there have been many; linebacker Sean Lee perhaps the most missed of any player), Dallas is not a complete team. Complete teams play complete games. Complete teams focus their emotions on the task at hand, and that is during the play being run at that particular moment; not afterward and not directed at officials, teammates or opposing players.
Beating the Giants, regardless of how it was done, was a huge win for the Cowboys; they will, more than likely, win the division. After all, there are three other teams in the NFC Least that are not setting the division on fire. Dallas, when playing to their potential, is the best team in the division.
Oh yeah, what was it that Bill Parcells once said? “You lose with potential. You win with performance.”
Bring on the Raiders!