KANSAS CITY — The Dallas Cowboys’ Sunday afternoon in Kansas City was splotched with indecision, bad decisions and well -intentioned decisions gone wrong. And even after this 17-16 Week 2 loss to the Chiefs, the sputtering continued all the way to a simple Arrowhead Stadium elevator ride.
As Cowboys staffers trudged from their lofty box to the lift that would drop them to the locker room and to the realities of a 1-1 record, a few coaches straggled. First, the late-comers waved politely at their mates, signaling for the elevator to proceed without them. Then came a hoot and a request to hold the doors. Starting and stopping. Opening and closing. Stalling and falling.
“What do you want me to do,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in response to a media question about his seemingly calm demeanor. “Lay down on the floor and throw and kick and scream?”
In review of an effort that featured just one offensive touchdown, no designed rushes in the final quarter, a half-dozen underneath tosses on which Tony Romo couldn’t find the strike zone, two crushing fumbles in the third quarter, a red-zone call without explanation, a defense that came up with zero takeaways and yet just one too few stops and a hideous drop from the otherwise spectacular Dez Bryant …
Well, there is much to be angry about.
“I can’t just… be nonchalant with the football,’ said Bryant, frankly discussing the lack-of-concentration drop of what would’ve been a momentum-stealing half-the-length-of-the-field gain in the fourth quarter. “That’s not winning football. That’s not acceptable.”
Edginess permeated the Cowboys locker room. Bryant was left unhappy even though he caught five passes for 100 yards and a TD in the first half alone (and would finish with nine for 141). Usually surly defensive back Orlando Scandrick let out a yelp and a stream of expletives directed at a media interloper in the crowded postgame who’d accidentally stepped on Scandrick’s bare foot. Defensive linemen DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher – a pair of Jockstrap Jekyll-and-Hydes who are as delightful off the field as they are destructive on it — barked at some non-essential locker-room inhabitants whose presence blocked their path to the showers.
“We feel like we’re the better team,” said defensive end Anthony Spencer, “but at the same time, the better team doesn’t always win.”
This is a long-time lament for a Cowboys team that is coming off back-to-back 8-8 seasons and is 205-205 since 2000. They are inventive in ways to discover mediocrity. On defense, they failed to rival last week’s six takeaways by capitalizing on defensive chances (like Bruce Carter’s drop of what would’ve been a long pick-six interception return to close the first half). On offense, more capitalization failure, embodied in a third-quarter setup of first-and-goal at the 5 during which the Cowboys proceeded to allow a sack, get penalized for a false start and call for a failed lateral screen to rookie Terrance Williams rather than throwing the ball toward the end zone.
“I mean you could see it,” said Romo, who took a painkiller shot for his ribs and then completed 30 of 42 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown. “It’s penalties and sacks.”
In the end, on offense it was also a vertical passing game sabotaged by Romo’s errant underneath throws. And on defense, it was about the same lack of timely play-making.
“We didn’t get turnovers and we didn’t get off the field on the last drive,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We stopped them most of the game. But when it mattered most, we couldn’t stop them.”
And so on the Cowboys’ .500 elevator goes.
Starting and stopping. Opening and closing. Stalling and falling.