Paralyzed by a prolonged experience of dumbfounded disbelief, the aftermath of what became yet another Dallas Cowboy loss almost too painful to watch left this long-suffering diehard fan frozen in an unblinking, if not unfocused, stare at the conclusion of the Sunday Night Football broadcast wondering what just happened.
The magnitude of the multiple incompetent move-after-moves leading to the Cowboy demise literally left me speechless.
Now please understand, I seldom find myself incapable of finding the words to express myself, which has often turned into hysterical rants over the years – no, decades – since America’s Team last won a Super Bowl in 1996.
But on this Sunday night, I ran out of words to express my disgust and dismay of how Jason Garrett’s coaching staff could blunder through decision after decision about the time Tavon Austin threw up his arms for a fair catch of the Minnesota punt at the 50-yard line with nothing but green in front of him with 25 seconds left on the clock.
At that point, I simply yelled, “WHAT?!?!?” and then never uttered another word. I just sat there in silence waiting for the fat lady to sing.
Okay, I know you know what happened. But I’m still suffering through the various stages of grief, and I need to talk about it. I think I’m still stuck in denial. After all, it all played out like a bad dream, and it’s still unbelievable.
Trailing Minnesota 28-24 late in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys came out of the two-minute warning facing a first-and-10 from the Viking 19-yard line. Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott, playing one of the best games of his career, hit wide receiver Amari Cooper for a quick eight yards to set up a favorable second-and-two. Everything was going right for the Cowboys to pull out a big win against a playoff-caliber team.
Then, just like that, everything went horribly wrong. Nothing Garrett and his coaching staff did made any sense. And just replaying it in my mind is when I start getting angry.
Remember, the Cowboys have been telling anyone who will listen that they ran the ball to drain time off of the clock for fear of giving the Vikings the ball with too much time left. But it that’s really true, why did they snap the ball on both second and third down with about half of the play clock left?
But poor clock management represents only the beginning. Let’s move on to play calling.
In a game where the Vikings shut down Ezekiel Elliott for only 2.4 yards per carry, the Cowboys decided to run their over-priced, over-rated running back not once, but twice in what should have been the game-winning drive. Not only did Dallas gain nothing on those two plays, they managed to succeed in running time off the clock, which cost them in the end.
Then anger turned to fury on fourth down when boy wonder offense coordinator Kellen Moore called a designed out-route to the worst receiver on the field – that’s right, sports fans…Elliott again – that was batted away and fell incomplete.
Really? You’ve got to be kidding me?
After Prescott played brilliantly the entire game, delivering bucket throw after bucket throw to his wide array of weapons – Cooper in one of his best games ever, while Randall Cobb and Michael Gallup made complementary big plays – Garrett and Moore naturally go back to the highest-paid back in the NFL, the same player who already failed to produce anything of note on 22 previous touches. Mind-numbing.
But remarkably, Dallas’ chances weren’t over yet, and that’s when bargaining came in. If the Cowboy defense can just step up and hold the Vikings deep in their own territory, we could get one more shot at this thing. And that’s exactly what they did.
But then came the punt. Or should I say the punt return. I mean, the lack of a punt return. Okay, okay…a stinking fair catch. And as I said before, “WHAAAAAAAAAT?!?!”
That’s when depression took hold. Forget about the impending “Hail Mary” attempt. As good as Prescott and Cooper had been together against the Vikings, they will never be Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson. And instead of the legendary Tom Landry changing the way everyone plays the game in his iconic fedora, we have gutless Garrett as Jerry Jones’ predictable patsy. Even the way they tried to set up the last second heave into the end zone played out like a pathetic pun.
Here’s a depressing statistic for my fellow Dallas devotees. So far this season, the Cowboys have won five games by a combined difference of 99 points, but they have suffered four losses by only 18 total points. Which leaves all of us already pondering what could have been.
With that said, it’s time to accept the fact that the 2019 version of the Dallas Cowboys will probably prove to be nothing more than an average team with above average talent capable of beating most of the NFL’s bottom feeders badly, but not quite good enough to knock off the real contenders.
But then again, this season remains far from over. After almost 60 years of faithful fandom, I’m just one good Cowboy win away from denying how mediocre they really are, getting angry all over again about the games they let get away, bargaining that this could still be a Super Bowl season, getting depressed all over again when it doesn’t happen, and accepting once again that there’s always next season.
What can I say?