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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.
The Dallas Cowboys had their chances to end a four-game losing streak against Seattle on Sunday.
After blocking a Seattle field-goal attempt early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys backed the Seahawks to the Seattle 15 with 6:41 remaining. Up to that point, the Cowboys had largely held Seattle in check.
But the Dallas defense could not make a stop when the team needed it the most. The Seahawks converted three third-down plays, including a third-and-seven from the Dallas 17 with 3:01 remaining.
Dallas forced Seattle to kick a field goal with 1:06 remaining, giving the Seahawks a 13-12 lead.
The Cowboys had one more chance, but the team needed something from an offense that did next to nothing late in the game. And the team did nothing when the game was on the line. Matt Cassel was sacked twice, and the game ended after Cassel’s final pass was incomplete.
Dallas drove 46 yards on the first drive of the third quarter, leading to a field goal.
On their remaining drives in the second half, Dallas had 44 total yards on 17 plays. One of those drives started at the Seattle 25 following a Greg Hardy interception off a pass he tipped at the line. Dallas managed only seven yards, and though the team was able to take the lead Dan Bailey’s 27-yard field goal, the Cowboys would not score again.
The last time the Cowboys had a 2-5 record was 2001, when Dallas finished at 5-11. With or without Tony Romo, it is looking as if the Cowboys might finish around that mark this year.
That assumes, of course, that the Cowboys find a way to win three more games.
The return of Dez Bryant was not the magic cure. He was targeted six times but caught just two passes for 12 yards.
The Cowboys are not in the playoff picture, but the team still theoretically has a shot at the NFC East. The Giants lost today to fall to 4-4, just 1.5 games in front of Dallas. The Eagles and Redskins are both 3-4, one game ahead of Dallas.
The final score of 13-12 brings back a couple of bad memories related to head coach Jason Garrett. When he replaced Troy Aikman in 1998, Garrett lost two games as the starter. The final scores of the games he lost were 13-12 (vs. Oakland and Chicago).
No fan of the Dallas Cowboys could possibly be happy with the fate of the 2015 team thus far. A 2-0 start has disintegrated into a 2-4 start, and the team could be out of the playoff race before Tony Romo returns later in November.
The Cowboys have been in a similar situation in the past. The team of the 1970s was nearly a dynasty, and by 1974 Dallas had been the playoffs eight consecutive years. Moreover, Dallas had at least made the NFC Championship Game in each season between 1970 and 1973.
The 1974 season was, however, one to forget. As you can see below, that season and the 2015 season have some similarities.
Then (1974): The Cowboys had reached the playoffs each season between 1966 and 1973. The team had reached the Super Bowl in 1970, won the Super Bowl in 1971, and reached the NFC Championship Game in 1972 and 1973.
Now (2015): The Cowboys have not had recent success like the 1970s Cowboys did, but Dallas reached the playoffs in 2014 and beat Detroit in the first round.
Then: Dallas dominated the Atlanta Falcons before losing consecutive games against the Eagles and Giants. Dallas also lost to the Vikings and Cardinals, leaving the Cowboys with a 1-4 record.
Now: Dallas recorded wins over the Giants and Eagles before losing to the Falcons. Additional losses to the Saints, Patriots, and Giants have left the Cowboys with a 2-4 record.
Then: Dallas rebounded with a 31-24 win over the Eagles in week 6. Dallas eventually won four straight to get back into the playoff race with a 5-4 record.
Now: Dallas faces the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in week 8.
Then: The Cowboys had a good backup QB with Craig Morton, but the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants early in the season. When Roger Staubach went down with an injury against the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, backup Clint Longley entered the game. In one of the most famous games in team history, Longley threw two touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind in a 24-23 win.
Now: Dallas lost starting QB Tony Romo in week 2, and the team did not have a good backup. The team lost three straight games with Brandon Weeden, followed by a fourth loss with starter Matt Cassel.
Then: The Cowboys still had a quality starter at RB with Calvin Hill. However, Hill would leave the team after the 1974 season to join the World Football League. In 1976, Hill returned to the NFL, joining the division rival Washington Redskins.
Now: The Cowboys had arguably the best running back in the NFL in 2014 with DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left via free agency to join the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Then: Although the Cowboys finished with a winning record in 1974, the team missed the playoffs. Nevertheless, a strong draft in 1975 helped Dallas to rebuild quickly, and the team reached the Super Bowl in 1975.
Now: Jason Garrett’s teams have reached the playoffs just once since he took over as the head coach of the Cowboys. A feel-good season in 2014 has evaporated into a distant memory, and unless the team can turn things around in a hurry, the Cowboys will have another disappointing finish in 2015.
Darren McFadden has earned the starting RB job in next Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. He will start in place of Joseph Randle, who suffered an injury against the New York Giants.
McFadden was effective last weekend, rushing 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. He is the first Dallas running back this season to rush for more than 100 yards.
It marked the fourth time in McFadden’s career that he had 29 or more attempts in a game. He twice ran the ball 30 times while a member of the Oakland Raiders. Unlike last Sunday for the Cowboys, the Raiders won all three games when McFadden had at least 29 attempts.
In team history, a Dallas running back has carried the ball 29 times or more in 43 games. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys have won most of those games, holding a 36-7 record.
The last time a Dallas running back carried the ball at least 29 times in a loss was January 2, 2005, when Julius Jones carried the ball 29 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 28-24 loss to the Giants.
Jones had at least 29 carries five times during his four seasons in Dallas, ranking him second in team history. The franchise leader in this category is hardly a shock: Emmitt Smith carried the ball 29 or more times in 22 games.
Here is a summary of the backs who have carried the ball this many times:
Emmitt Smith (22)
Julius Jones (5)
Tony Dorsett (4)
DeMarco Murray (4)
Calvin Hill (3)
Troy Hambrick (2)
Herschel Walker (1)
Eddie George (1)
Darren McFadden (1)