From the Armchair: Dallas Cowboys, Week 17
Is it something in the water in Dallas? Something in the air in the home locker room in JerryWorld? Maybe it's just part and parcel of playing for Jerry Jones. Whatever it is, in the Cowboys week 17 showdown with the Eagles to decide the champion of the NFC Easy (sic), and without starting QB Tony Romo, tonight, Dallas gave us the same story we'd seen all season, just with a different protagonist.
Stepping in for Romo, Kyle Orton put up a very Romo-like performance, going 30-46 for 358 yards with two TDs. And, while I didn't think it was possible, Orton also managed a Romo-esque, soul crushing, late game Interception to snatch defeat from the jaws of a potential victory.
I was honestly shocked the Cowboys still had a chance to win with less than five minutes left in the game. Kyle Orton's performance shocked me. The performance of the Dallas defense took me by surprise. In the end, however, it didn't matter that Orton or the Dallas D actually gave the 'Boys a chance to win, because the movie (and the season) ended the same as it has the last three seasons: a loss in a win-and-you're-in game and another season of no playoffs.
While I'd hoped the Cowboys would run more to open more passing room for Orton, for a change, it was the Eagles defense that kept DeMarco Murray in check, not questionable play calling. Murray could only muster 51 yards on 17 carries, well below his season average.
In the air, 20 of Orton's 30 completions were to TE Jason Witten (12 receptions/135 yards) and Dez Bryant (8/99). Further, while it seemed Orton was content to throw dink passes of ten yards or less much of the night, he did manage to get the ball downfield several times, highlighted by a 32 yard touchdown pass to Bryant to put the Cowboys within two with 3:57 left.
Given that the Eagles put up 54 points last week against the Bears, that the NFL-worst Dallas defense managed to hold Nick Foles, LeSean McCoy and the number 2 ranked Philly offense to 24 points was also a pleasant surprise on the night. The defense certainly didn't lose the game for the Cowboys and, with a huge 4th and goal stop on the half yard line at the end of the 3rd quarter and a stop to get the ball back with 1:49 left, the much maligned unit did its part to give the Cowboys a chance to win.
In the end, as their 8-8 record showed, the 2013 Cowboys were just extraordinarily average. The offense, which owner/GM/de facto coach/God of football Jerry Jones deemed "lethal" was too often lethargic and leaned way too much on the pass, thus making it very predictable. We also discovered the defense sucked just as much for new DC Monte Kiffin as it had for last year's defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan (who's leading the Saints defense into the playoffs btw), regardless of the new 4-3 scheme. Further, Jerry's plan to have the team be just good enough to make the playoffs and then get hot didn't work out real well, as it became apparent this team just didn't have what it takes to win in the post season (or in the regular season. The proof? Other than a week 8 win over the Eagles when Nick Foles was injured during the game, Dallas didn't beat a team with a winning record all season. Oh yeah, that "secret sauce" that Stephen Jones suggested the Cowboys possessed? Yeah…that never showed either, but I'm wondering if that might be what causes Cowboy QBs to throw crucial INTs with the game on the line.
Personally, I'm thinking 8-8 won't be enough for Jason Garrett to keep his job, even though he was stuck with the players and salary cap limitations his "GM" supplied to him. My guess is that Garrett gets the boot and Jerry Jones hires Lane Kiffin because:
1) Jerry Jones has never let lack of ability stand in the way of an opportunity for publicity, and
2) Jerry Jones is just that stupid
Till then, stay tuned to see how Jerry and his ego will screw up the Cowboys again in 2014!