Cowboys at least know how to put on a show
OCT 28, 2012 10:11p ET
This team won't come anywhere close to the playoffs, but at least they'll have fun not getting there. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo engineered a brilliant comeback to give the Cowboys a 24-23 lead in the third quarter. Of course, it was his three interceptions in the first half, including a Pick Six, that put the Cowboys in that position in the first place.
And the fact that Romo threw for 245 yards more than Giants quarterback Eli Manning and had three different receivers surpass 100 yards for the second time in franchise history didn't mean anything unless you had him on your fantasy team. The only reason the Cowboys had any shot at a comeback in the first place was the play of their defense.
Romo had three of his four interceptions in the first half and Dez Bryant gave the ball away during an ill-fated punt return. Even with all that, the defense only allowed one Giants offensive touchdown in the game.
So for one afternoon, Rob Ryan's off the hook. But the head coach and architect of this offense, Garrett, should be in the crosshairs. He and Romo have been together since the 2007 season. He constantly talks about Romo being one of the top quarterbacks in the league. But then he watches his quarterback put the team in an enormous hole. In the past, Romo has learned from his mistakes and gone through stretches of mistake-free football. But he's been all over the map this season.
Maybe you can blame some of it on wide receivers running questionable routes, but it's ultimately Romo's responsibility to decide where he goes with the ball. With the Cowboys trailing 6-0 in the first quarter, Romo tried to hit Miles Austin on a fly route near the sideline. The throw drifted offline and was easily intercepted by Corey Webster, who raced 38 yards to set up the Giants' only offensive touchdown of the game.
And early in the second quarter, Romo didn't get enough loft on a screen pass to Felix Jones and it was picked off at the line of scrimmage by Jason Pierre-Paul and returned for a 28-yard touchdown. Pierre-Paul has freakishly long arms, so it shouldn't come as a shock that he might be able to get his hands on that ball. Unfortunately, Garrett will likely spend more time massaging Romo's ego over the rally he led in the second half.
"It's a hard league, it's a hard position," said Garrett. "This is not the first time quarterbacks have thrown interceptions in games…turnovers are a team thing. We have to do a better job as a team making sure we don't have those turnovers. When [Romo] has the ball in his hands, he is responsible for it, but other guys are responsible for it, too, and we have to continue to make that emphasis."
Garrett was asked if he thought about removing Romo from the game in the first half and he seemed amused by the question. He knows that Romo's probably one of the few quarterbacks in the league who can overcome a 23-point deficit. But fans weren't quite as forgiving as they booed Romo and anyone else from the Cowboys organization that appeared on the jumbo screen in the first half. As you might expect, owner/general manager Jerry Jones heard the loudest jeers when he was featured in a video. After the game, he said he didn't blame the fans one bit.
"I'm sure the fans have the same feeling I did," said Jones. "I was frustrated and knew that we had dug ourselves a hole that was going to take a super effort to get out of. But I understand them. I understand the frustration, I do."
The Giants improved to 6-2 on the season and are now 4-0 at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys sent a letter to season-ticket holders this week announcing a new "third-down graphic" on the stadium's enormous video board that was supposed to encourage fans to generate more noise during the game. But despite my admiration for the ominous funnel cloud complementing the graphic, it didn't help the Cowboys end their streak against the Giants.
This is a team that has so much more style than substance. It's hard to believe that a great player such as Jason Witten can have 18 catches for 167 yards in a losing effort. But the Cowboys had to expend so much energy in overcoming six turnovers that the outcome wasn't a surprise.
Trailing 29-24, the Cowboys raced down the field to set up a second-and-1 at the Giants' 19-yard line with 1:23 left and all three timeouts in their pocket. Based on their performance in Baltimore, that should've been enough time for a play or two.
But knowing his team hadn't made a dent in the running game, Garret called three consecutive passing plays. On second-and-1, Witten couldn't quite haul in a pass along the sideline. On the next play, Romo tried to hit Kevin Ogletree on a throw to the end zone. It seemed like an odd choice to throw to the one receiver who hadn't made a catch the whole game when you simply needed a yard to extend the drive. Garrett, who was very conservative at the end of the Carolina game, basically admitted that his offense didn't have a shot at gaining a single yard on a running play Sunday.
"They did a really good job defending the run," said Garrett. "They were committed to stopping the run throughout the game versus all personnel and formations that we were in. They had a lot of guys in there and that's why we had to throw the ball consistently through the ballgame."
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck told me via text Sunday evening that he wasn't surprised at all by the Cowboys' decision not to run because of how much success they were having with the pass. Yet after all the turnovers and questionable decisions, the Cowboys came within inches of pulling off a miracle win. Bryant made a remarkable catch in the back of the end zone, but the fingers on his right hand were clearly out of bounds as he instinctively tried to brace his fall.
And that pretty much says it all about this team. They're just talented enough to keep things interesting.
But when it comes to winning meaningful division games, leave that up to the Giants.