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We are five days away from the new Star Wars movie, so let’s roll out some Star Wars lines.
A long time ago…
The Cowboys traveled to Lambeau Field to face the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys were a competitive bunch. In fact, that Cowboys team had reached the playoffs and had even won a playoff game.
That game in the distant past occurred in 2014. Only some of our older readers might recall that year.
Anyway, Dallas actually led that playoff game heading into the fourth quarter. Dallas also might have won the game but for a reversed call on a reception by Dez Bryant near the goal line in the fourth quarter.
This is the present though.
To be fair to the defense, Dallas was not out of tonight’s game until late in the second half. Green Bay controlled the ball for much of the first half, but the Packers’ lead was only 14-0 going into halftime.
At the midway point of the third quarter, Dallas had even cut the Green Bay lead to 14-7. The Dallas defense forced punts on four straight possessions.
Had Dallas been able to mount more offense, the Cowboys could have been in a position to win this game.
But this is the 2015 Cowboys, who have utterly no clue how to win a game.
After gaining 80 yards on four plays to score their only touchdown of the game, the Cowboys managed a total of 55 yards on their next five possessions.
Dallas still had some chance in the fourth quarter, but the defense needed to make another stop. Instead, the Packers moved the ball 84 yards on 12 plays.
The worst play of the drive occurred on a 3rd and 9 from the Dallas 48. A stop would have forced a Green Bay punt. Instead, Aaron Rodgers broke an arm tackle and ran 11 yards for a first down.
Five plays later, James Starks broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run that all but put the game away.
Jerry can spin this season all he wants, but the bottom line is that this season has been a failure.
At 4-9, Dallas is not fully eliminated from the playoffs, but it would take monumental failures by the Eagles, Redskins, and Giants for the Cowboys to win the NFC East. It’s not going to happen.
Moreover, failures this year are solely the result of Tony Romo being injured. These have been team losses with failures at one time or another by every part of this team.
If the Dallas Cowboys had failed to win another game in 2015, Jason Garrett’s coaching record would (fittingly) fall to an even, perfectly mediocre 44-44.
With a few exceptions, the Cowboys played against Washington as if they might have wanted this to happen.
For example, with the Cowboys trailing 9-6 in the fourth quarter, Matt Cassel completed a 42-yard pass to Dez Bryant to get the ball to the Washington 3. A touchdown would give Dallas a fourth-quarter lead.
But who needs a lead when the team can tie the game with another field goal? Dallas moved the ball to the 1, but Darren McFadden lost a yard on 3rd-and-goal, meaning that Dallas tied the game with a Dan Bailey field goal.
A few minutes later, the Redskins did their best to give Dallas the win. More specifically, DeSean Jackson tried to give the game away by running backwards on a punt return and then fumbling the ball.
Dallas recovered at the Washington 15 with less than two minutes remaining. A first down by the Dallas offense would mean the Cowboys could run the clock down to nothing, setting up a probable game-winning attempt by Bailey.
But who needs to take the path leading to a sure win when you can give the opponent a chance to tie the game again? Well, McFadden ran out of bounds on first down to stop the clock, then rushed for a touchdown on second down. That meant Dallas led 16-9, but it also meant that Washington had 1:14 to tie the game-winning score.
To help the Redskins with a comeback attempt, Dallas gave up a long kickoff return, and J.J. Wilcox was called for a facemask. This gave Washington the ball at the Dallas 43.
Four plays later, Kurt Cousins hit Jackson on a 28-yard touchdown pass to tie the game.
Really stupid game management. And we’ve seen this before during the Jason Garrett regime. Please remember the possibility of a 44-44 record.
Well, Garrett will continue to have a winning record after this year because Lucky Whitehead returned the ensuing kickoff 46 yards, and Cassel moved the Cowboys into field-goal range for a 54-yard attempt by Bailey. The kicker nailed the kick, and Dallas improved to 4-8.
It was a strange win, but even stranger is that most of the other cards fell into place. The Eagles, Giants, and Redskins each have 5-7 records, so Dallas is only one game out of the division lead. This race somehow is not over.
Sean Lee was a monster tonight. He finished with a total of 13 tackles, including two for losses, plus a sack.
Other defenders had good games as well. This Washington team scored 47 points against the Saints less than a month ago, but Dallas shut down the Redskin offense for much of the game.
With five receptions, Jason Witten now has 1,003 for his career. He not only surpassed the 1,000-catch mark but he also moved into the top 10 on the all-time list for receptions. With 22 more receptions this year, he’ll surpass Isaac Bruce.
Once upon a time (2010), I owned a fantasy team in a league on Yahoo. Jay Cutler was my starting quarterback. I needed something like seven points to win that week, and Cutler and the Bears were playing the Giants on Sunday Night Football.
Cutler was typically good for 15 to 20 points per game, so I should have had this one. Instead, Cutler threw for only 42 yards with an interception and a fumble lost. He was sacked nine times and was injured near the end of the first half. He did not play the rest of the game and finished with -3.32 fantasy points. To my knowledge, it is the only time during the past 18 years of playing fantasy football that I had started a quarterback who finished with negative fantasy points.
Anyway, I originally drafted Tony Romo in one of my fantasy leagues and then drafted Cutler, of all people, as a backup. When Romo went down with an injury, I was somehow able to acquire Carson Palmer, so I have only had to play Cutler once. I cut Romo but picked him up in time to have him on my roster for the playoffs.
My only football-related thanks on Thanksgiving? I did not start Romo against the Panthers. His three-interception dud left him with -1.76 fantasy points before he left the game with another clavicle injury.
It marked the second time in Romo’s career that he ended up with negative fantasy points. The first occurred in 2005, when as a backup, he knelt on the ball twice in a 33-10 win over the Eagles. That gave him -0.2 points, but that hardly counts given that it was his first appearance in an NFL game.
So in 127 career starts, yesterday marked one of the worst performances of his career and easily the worst fantasy performance of his career.
Here’s a summary of five of his worst games (taking into account both on-field performance and fantasy performance). Note that fantasy points are based on standard scoring on NFL.com.
2015: Carolina 33, Dallas 14
11-21, 106 yds., 0 TD, 3 Int.
-1.76 fantasy points
2007: Philadelphia 10, Dallas 6
13-36, 214 yds., 0 TD, 3 Int.
4.06 fantasy points
2008: Philadelphia 44, Dallas 6
21-39, 183 yds., 0 TD, 1 Int.
4.42 fantasy points
2008: Pittsburgh 20, Dallas 13
19-36, 210 yds., 1 TD, 3 Int.
6.0 fantasy points
2009: Denver 17, Dallas 10
25-42, 255 yds., 0 TD, 1 Int.
6.20 fantasy points
To be sure, he had plenty of dishonorable mentions. For example, he played part of the season finale against the Redskins in 2007 in a 27-6 loss. He posted only 1.44 fantasy points. Few games, however, match yesterday’s performance in terms of futility.
During the Dallas Cowboys’ seven-game losing streak, Tony Romo’s abilities became almost mythical. The quarterback who had a record of 25-28 between 2010 and 2013 was going to return from a clavicle injury and lead Dallas to seven consecutive wins and a run to the Super Bowl.
Much of this talk focused on how well the Cowboys did in 2014, plus the team’s first two wins in 2015. After all, the team was 2-0 when Romo went down with his injury.
Of course, we have chosen to forget that Romo was just one piece of the puzzle that caused Dallas to finish with a 12-4 record in 2014. The running game took pressure off Romo, and the Dallas defense played well over its head after horrible showings in 2012 and 2013.
We chose to forget that Cowboys probably should have lost to the Giants in week 1 in 2015 and only won because of some poor mistakes by the Giants and the referee. Yes, Romo led the game-winning drive, but the drive would not have occurred had the Giants and referees not made mistakes before that drive.
We also chose to overlook Romo’s two interceptions in the win over Miami last week. Romo was bound to be rusty, and he did manage to throw two touchdown passes in the win. However, he took plenty of hard shots from the Miami defensive line and did not look especially sharp.
We lastly overlooked what has tended to happen during Romo’s career when he has tried to do to much on his own. For instance, a Dallas quarterback has thrown five interceptions in a single game seven times during the past 56 years. Romo has done that twice.
Anyway, the Romo myth helped to make the Cowboys favorites against the undefeated Panthers on Thanksgiving. It became evident that it might be a long day when Kurt Coleman picked off a Romo pass less than a minute into the game and returned the pick for a touchdown.
Dallas never really recovered. Romo threw another pick-6 when Luke Kuechly snagged a pass intended for Jason Witten and returned it 32 yards for another score. By that point, the Panthers led 20-3.
A third Romo interception led to another Graham Gano field goal, giving the Panthers a 23-3 halftime lead. It was the worst halftime deficient on Thanksgiving Day in the history of the Cowboys.
And yes, it could get worse. On the final play of the third quarter, Thomas Davis sacked Romo, and Romo immediately grabbed his left collarbone. It was fairly obvious that he re-injured his clavicle, and the team sent him in for x-rays.
Whether he returns in 2015 does not seem to matter, though. The defense succeeded in forcing field goals against the Panthers, but the idea that Dallas has a playoff-caliber pass rush with Greg Hardy and others is another myth. Dallas did manage one sack of Cam Newton, but far too often, Dallas never came close to creating pressure.
Ah, yes, the Kraken. The legendary sea monster…who tries to swim inside a line of Panthers and suddenly becomes invisible.
Carolina did not have a huge rushing today, but Jonathan Stewart regularly managed three, four, or five yards on first down. Carolina was able to win the time of possession by holding the ball for more than 35 minutes.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were supposed to have The Best Offensive Line in Football such that any running back would easily duplicate what DeMarco Murray did last year.
Darren McFadden has had his moments, but his performance on Thursday made The Best Offensive Line in Football story look like yet another myth.
During the past 10 years, the Cowboys (and their fans, including me) have made the mistake of talking about the Super Bowl, even though the team has not shown the ability (or resolve, or talent) to win more than a single playoff game, if that many. The current Cowboys are talking about making a playoff run when the team could not win a single game for two months and now cannot win more than one game in a row.
The Panthers showed they are elite right now. The Cowboys should start thinking about 2016.
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant set a team record on Sunday by connecting on their 50th touchdown. This mark broke the previous high of 49 set by Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin.
Here is a look at the highest number of touchdown connections in team history, organized chronologically by quarterback.
Eddie LeBaron (1960-1963)
LeBaron threw 45 touchdown passes during his career in Dallas, connecting 21 times to Frank Clarke.
Don Meredith (1960-1968)
Meredith had 135 touchdown passes during his career from 1960 to 1968. He connected with Bob Hayes on 36 of those.
Craig Morton (1965-1974)
Hayes was also at the top of Morton’s list. Of Morton’s 80 touchdown passes as a Cowboy, 21 went to Hayes.
Roger Staubach (1969-1979)
Two receivers had 27 touchdown receptions from Staubach. Both Billy Joe DuPree and Drew Pearson had 27 touchdown receptions from Staubach, who had a total of 153.
Danny White (1976-1988)
White threw two more touchdowns than Staubach, finishing with 155. He connected with Tony Hill on 31 of those.
Steve Pelluer (1984-1988)
No, Pelluer does not belong on this list. He connected with Irvin on four touchdowns, but the player who caught the highest number of Pelluer’s 28 touchdown passes was Ray Alexander. Remember that name?
Troy Aikman (1989-2000)
Aikman connected with Irvin for 49 touchdowns between 1989 and 1999.
Quincy Carter (2001-2003)
Another one who I could omit, but I included him anyway. He connected on five touchdowns with three different players, including Antonio Bryant, Terry Glenn, and Joey Galloway.
Drew Bledsoe (2005-2006)
Bledsoe threw 30 touchdown passes with Dallas. He connected with Jason Witten on six of those.
Tony Romo (2003-present)
Romo shattered the team record for touchdown passes, as he has thrown for 247. In addition to the 50 touchdowns to Bryant, Romo has also connected with Witten 37 times and Terrell Owens 34 times.
During their seven-game losing streak, the Dallas Cowboys found plenty of possible ways to lose.
They squandered opportunities. They blew leads. They ruined comebacks. Anyone reading this blog knows all of this.
On Sunday, the Cowboys jumped out to a 14-0 lead thanks to an interception return for a touchdown by Rolando McClain and a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams. Despite bad field position for much of the first half, the Cowboys looked like they would go into halftime with a two-touchdown lead.
But during the celebration following Williams’ touchdown, he and Dez Bryant were called for taunting, forcing Dan Bailey to kick off from the 20. His squib kick was poor, giving the Dolphins the ball at the Miami 46.
Four plays later, Miami had cut the lead to 14-7.
To make matters worse, Miami tied the game midway through the third quarter on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Tannehill to Kenny Stills.
It was this type of sequence of events that haunted the Cowboys for two months. In the past seven games, Dallas would have found a way to lose this game.
But not today. And perhaps Romo can provide a spark that leads Dallas back into this race.
With the game tied 14-14, Romo and the Cowboys took over at their own 20 and promptly marched 80 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. Romo hit Bryant for the score, marking the 50th time Romo and Bryant have hooked up for touchdowns. That is a franchise record.
The Dallas defense had failed the team several times during the losing streak. But not today. Miami not only failed to score for the remainder of the day, but the Dolphins also managed only one first down during the entire fourth quarter.
Romo was not great. He threw two interceptions, including one in the red zone in the first half. But he also made just enough plays to give the Cowboys a chance.
His touchdown pass to Williams was exciting, and he kept Bryant involved even with Bryant battling injuries.
Darren McFadden was solid again. He carried the ball 29 times for 129 yards, including a 35-yarder in the second half to help set up a touchdown. McFadden also had a critical 15-yard run on a 3rd-and-14 play to keep a drive alive as the Cowboys were trying to kill the clock late in the fourth quarter.
New running back Robert Turbin was a pleasant surprise. He ran hard and gained 35 yards on 7 carries.
Dallas held the ball for 38:50, running 68 plays compared with 41 for the Dolphins.
With the Redskins and Eagles losing today, the 3-7 Cowboys are only two games out of first place in the NFC East. The Giants are 5-5, while the Eagles and Redskins are both 4-6.
Jeff Heath picked off two Jameis Winston passes today, giving the Dallas Cowboys their first multiple takeaway game since week 2.
Heath’s second interception came with 5:48 remaining in the game with the Cowboys leading 6-3. Dallas had a chance to win a game for the first time since week 2.
The 2014 Cowboys would have fed DeMarco Murray at that point, and the team might have run out the clock.
These 2015 Cowboys? Of course not. The Dallas offense faced a 3rd and 1 with 4:13 left, and quarterback Matt Cassel threw a back-shoulder pass to Dez Bryant, who dropped the pass.
The defense that had stuffed the Buccaneers all day then needed one more stop to give Dallas the win.
It looked as if the Cowboys might have caught a break with just under one minute left. Winston tried to dive over the goal line, but he fumbled the ball. Dallas recovered the apparent fumble.
But the referees called Heath for holding, and Tampa Bay scored the game-winning touchdown on another run by Winston.
Cassel launched a desperation pass to Bryant with 28 seconds, but Bryant barely made a play on the ball. Tampa Bay picked the pass off as Bryant did what he has done best lately—run his mouth, arguing for a pass-interference call.
Seven consecutive losses. The Cowboys held a lead or the game was tied in six of those seven games.
Bryant backed up his locker-room eruption by catching only 5 passes for 45 yards. On the other side of the ball, Mike Evans dropped several passes yet still caught 8 for 126 yards.
Nobody else stepped up for Dallas, either. Darren McFadden managed only 32 yards on 17 carries. Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley combined for three receptions.
The Cowboys only managed 212 yards on offense, representing the team’s lowest output of the season. Dallas has been outgained in total yards in six of the seven losses during the losing streak. The only game in which the Cowboys have outgained an opponent since week 2 was against the Giants in week 7.
Tony Romo will return next week, but it hardly seems to matter.
Glass-half-full fans will say Dallas can win seven straight and still make the playoffs. Sure.
A more immediate concern? Dallas will avoid its first 2-8 start since 2001 by beating the Dolphins next week.
Dallas Cowboys fans are suffering through the team’s longest losing streak since the first year that Jerry Jones owned the team.
Maybe Jerry will sell the team, and these losing streaks can be suitable bookends?
Perhaps the current streak ends against Tampa Bay on Sunday, but now is a good time to compare previous losing streaks with this one.
Then (1960): The Cowboys opened their inaugural season with a ten-game losing streak. That streak ended on December 4 when the Cowboys tied the Giants.
Then (1989): The Cowboys opened the season with an eight-game losing streak and finished with a seven-game losing streak. In between was an unexpected 13-3 win over the Washington Redskins.
Now (2015): Unlike the 1960 and 1989 squads, these Cowboys were expected to contend for the NFC title. Instead, an injury to Tony Romo caused the club to tank. A 2-0 start turned into a 2-6 record at the season’s midway point.
Then (1960): The Cowboys had a future Ring of Honor player in Don Meredith at QB, but veteran Eddie LeBaron was the starter for most of the year.
Then (1960): The Cowboys had future Hall of Fame player Troy Aikman, but he only started 11 games due to injury.
Now: (2015): The Cowboys have a future Ring of Honor player in Tony Romo but have had to start Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel because of Romo’s broken clavicle.
Then (1960): The team’s leading rusher was a six-year veteran named L.G. Dupre, who was out of the league after 1961.
Then (1989): The team’s leader rusher was three-year veteran Paul Palmer, who was out of the league after 1989.
Now (2015): The team’s leading rusher is Darren McFadden, who may be back next year.
Then (1960): The team ranked dead last in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys had 50 giveaways compared with 26 takeaways for a ratio of -24.
Then (1989): The team ranked dead last in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys had 42 giveaways compared with 17 takeaways for a ratio of -25.
Now (2015): The team ranks 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL in turnover ratio. The Cowboys have 13 giveaways compared with 4 takeaways for a ratio of -9.
Then (1960): First-year head coach Tom Landry led the Cowboys to the playoffs by 1966 and a Super Bowl championship in 1971.
Then (1989): First-year head coach Jimmy Johnson led the Cowboys to the playoffs in 1991 and a Super Bowl championship in 1992.
Now (2015): Sixth-year head coach Jason Garrett has led the Cowboys to one winning record and one playoff appearance.
The Dallas Cowboys could have avoided their first six-game losing streak since 1989 by finding a way to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
The Eagles all but closed the door on the Cowboys’ 2015 season with a 30-27 win in overtime. It marked the second time this year that Dallas has come from behind to force overtime only to lose on a touchdown without ever touching the ball on offense. The other game was a 26-20 loss at New Orleans.
Dallas is now 2.5 games behind the Giants and 2 games behind the Eagles with eight games remaining.
The Cowboys took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and looked like they could dominate the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
The Cowboys struggled to move the ball for much of the first half, and the defense could not continue to stop the Eagles. Philadelphia scored after an 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. To make matters worse, the player who scored was former Dallas running back DeMarco Murray.
Dallas moved the ball into Philadelphia territory in the second quarter but fell out of field-goal range thanks to a sack.
The Cowboys might have tried to win the field-position battle in the third quarter after pinning the Eagles at their own five-yard line.
The Eagles moved the ball 95 yards, thanks largely to a 44-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Murray.
Dallas did come right back to tie the game on an 80-yard touchdown drive. Matt Cassel found Cole Beasley on four pass plays, including a 17-yard touchdown pass.
After forcing a Philadelphia punt, it looked as if the Cowboys could take the lead. They drove the ball to the Philadelphia 36.
Cassel tried to throw an out pattern to running back Darren McFadden, but Jordan Hicks cut in front to pick the pass off. Hicks raced 67 yards for a touchdown to give Philadelphia a 21-14 lead.
Dallas still had life thanks to an 80-yard kickoff return by Lucky Whitehead. An incredible touchdown pass from Cassel to Dez Bryant tied the game.
The Dallas defense could have given the Cowboys a chance to win.
The Eagles were able to move the ball into Dallas territory twice and kicked two field goals.
Dallas tied the game after the first Philadelphia field goal. The second Philadelphia field goal gave the Eagles a 27-24 lead.
The Cowboys did have life. And they could have ended their five-game losing streak by finding a way to win in overtime.
At one point, referees had awarded the Cowboys the ball after an apparent fumble by Ryan Mathews.
One more time—JUST KIDDING. Mathews’ knee was down, so the Eagles kept the ball after review.
And Dallas simply could not stop the Eagles when it mattered. A touchdown pass from Bradford to Jordan Matthews ended it.
Darren McFadden ran hard, and Cassel played pretty well except for the pick-six, which was pretty bad.
The defense played pretty well but became worn out in the second half. However, Dallas cannot find a way to force a single turnover yet again.
Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant were much more active in the passing game. But when Dallas needed a first down to keep a drive alive for the go-ahead touchdown, Cassel could not hit Beasley on a slant pattern on third down.
The Cowboys released Joseph Randle this week. That means he will forever be known in Cowboys nation as the player who said DeMarco Murray left meat on the bone even after Murray led the league in rushing in 2014.
Of course, Murray was a bit more effective than Randle. Murray started 47 games with the Cowboys between 2011 and 2014, and he gained at least 100 yards in 19 of those games.
Randle started a total of eight games for the Cowboys between 2013 and 2015. He gained at least 100 yards in…
Well, he never gained 100 yards in a single game.
This lack of production puts Randle in an obscure category. How many running backs in team history have started at least eight games but never rushed for at least 100 yards in single game?
The answer is a bit tricky. Some halfbacks started at least eight games, but they played during eras when fullbacks ran the ball much more frequently. For example, Don Perkins was the Cowboys’ primary ball carrier between 1961 and 1968, but he was actually a fullback.
Two halfbacks started at least eight games during the 1960s but never rushed for 100 yards. They included Jim Stiger and Craig Baynham.
A third running back, Doug Dennison, played almost a decade later and started 13 games in 1975 and 1976. He too never rushed for more than 100 yards in a game.
A number of fullbacks who played since the 1980s could fall in this category, but I would not count them. Most, including Daryl Johnston, were never primary runners like Randle was supposed to be.