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News » Star-studded Cowboys disappointing

Star-studded Cowboys disappointing

Star-studded Cowboys disappointing
IRVING, Texas - In the final game at Texas Stadium, the 2008 Dallas Cowboys moved one Texas-sized step closer to taking their own place in franchise history.

And trust me: It's not how anyone would want to be remembered.

After Saturday's stunning 33-24 loss to Baltimore, Dallas is set to become the most physically talented Cowboys squad to fall short of the playoffs. No longer in control of their postseason fate, the Cowboys (9-6) will now spend Sunday and Monday cheerleading against other wild-card contenders Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia.

"We're really behind the eight-ball and have to have a lot of help," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

It shouldn't be this way. Not with a roster chock full of so many players with big-money contracts and Pro Bowl pedigrees.

Instead, the Cowboys were outplayed and outcoached — again. A sputtering offense produced only seven points through the first three quarters. Even that touchdown was gift-wrapped after a sack-and-strip of Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco by outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware gave Dallas possession at the Baltimore 4.

By the time Dallas closed the score to 19-17 late in the fourth quarter, the defense was spent. On Baltimore's first snap after the ensuing kickoff, running back Willis McGahee burst free for a 77-yard touchdown.

"They run a lot of unbalanced [offensive] line," Cowboys strong safety Keith Davis said. "If you get out of your gap one time, runs like that can happen."

Yes, runs. After the Cowboys scored another touchdown, Baltimore answered with another long jaunt. This time, it was Le'Ron McClain — whose speed is even more pedestrian than McGahee's — rumbling 82 yards into the end zone with 1:18 remaining.

The home crowd was left stunned, let alone the Cowboys legends gathered on the field awaiting what became an awkward postgame stadium celebration in a half-filled venue.

"Unbelievable," Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach lamented.

Not really. Around here, the D in Big D has come to stand for dysfunctional. And we're not just talking about the off-field soap opera that has become far more entertaining than anything this team does on the field.

Even the team's most boisterous player admitted that.

NFL Week 16

Week 16 action

    Colts 31, Jaguars 24 -- Recap | Box
    Ravens 33, Cowboys 24 -- Recap | Box
    Cardinals-Patriots -- Preview | Notes
    Saints-Lions -- Preview | Notes
    Steelers-Titans -- Preview | Notes
    49ers-Rams -- Preview | Notes
    Chargers-Bucs -- Preview | Notes
    Dolphins-Chiefs -- Preview | Notes
    Bengals-Browns -- Preview | Notes
    Bills-Broncos -- Preview | Notes
    Jets-Seahawks -- Preview | Notes
    Texans-Raiders -- Preview | Notes
    Falcons-Vikings -- Preview | Notes
    Eagles-Redskins -- Preview | Notes
    Panthers-Giants -- Preview | Notes
    Packers-Bears -- Preview | Notes


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"We just haven't been playing well," an uncharacteristically subdued Terrell Owens said. "It's been up and down all year. Offensively, we need to carry this team and put points on the board."

Owens and Tony Romo couldn't do it Saturday. Although they connected on a fourth-quarter touchdown, Romo couldn't hit Owens on two deep passes in the first half. One was intercepted by Ravens safety Ed Reed, who snared another errant Romo pass in the red zone on Dallas' first possession.

Romo clearly wasn't himself, probably because of a back injury suffered in last Sunday's 20-8 victory over the New York Giants. Romo, though, admitted his unit spent most of the game confused by Baltimore's array of exotic blitzes.

"When you play guys in your division, you start to get the beat of things," said Romo, who had tallied only 72 of his 252 passing yards entering the fourth quarter. "It took us a good three quarters to understand what was what. ... They were rushing four or five guys and still almost double-covering all the guys. But you've still got to make plays and block some of the techniques they threw at us. We didn't communicate as well as we should."

In Week 16? That's inexcusable.

No offense to the Ravens, a 10-5 team angling for the AFC's No. 6 playoff seed. But this is a game the Cowboys had no business losing. The stadium atmosphere was electric. The Cowboys had won four of their previous five games while the Ravens were reeling from last Sunday's 13-9 home loss to Pittsburgh.

Wide receiver Derrick Mason was basically playing with one healthy arm after being hurt early. Yet he still managed to catch a 13-yard touchdown pass from Joe Flacco, who made his own history by becoming only the second rookie quarterback to defeat the Cowboys at Texas Stadium (Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger was the first).

The third-quarter touchdown was set up by a fake field goal that exploited a Cowboys overload to the right side of Baltimore's blocking formation. That was the highlight of the Ravens' special-teams dominance throughout the game.

None of this reflects well upon a Cowboys coaching staff headed by Wade Phillips. As a seething Jones stood alone on the field watching his team's demise, a fan screamed, "You've got to get rid of Wade!"

At this point, that seems like a formality. Just like the implosion of a stadium that should have closed with a playoff game, not a "victory lap" by aged legends who did what the Cowboys haven't done since 1996: win in the postseason.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 21, 2008

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