Well, here we are. Another week with the season on the line, and another week that sees the season still alive. The Dallas Cowboys did what they had to do yesterday and beat the wounded, floundering Eagles 38-23. At 4-5, the Cowboys have hope. They're only 1 game behind New York in the loss column in terms of the division, and also one game back of Seattle in the wildcard chase.
And yet, this still doesn't seem like a playoff football team. After a masterful opening drive against Philadelphia, the Cowboys offense returned to the bumbling unit we've seen throughout most of the other 8 games. If not for some Houdini-esque scrambling by Romo and some lovely scampering by a couple of players who have been scamper-less thus far, we'd be talking about the April 2013 NFL draft instead of playoff hopes. The Cowboys got all they could handle from a coach on his way out, a rookie QB, and a defense that previously hadn't been able to stop a walnut (albeit an athletic one).
And yet, more than halfway through the 3rd quarter, it looked as if we were heading for a quick exit in this 2012 campaign. The Cowboys offense had stalled, going 3-and-out twice to start the 2nd half. Nick Foles was hitting on all cylinders, having just recorded his first NFL touchdown pass to Jeremy Maclin. The Eagles were up 17-10 and had the 'Boys faced a 3rd down that quite possibly had the entire season riding on it.
And then, Romo stepped up with the play of the game. A lot of people have called it "vintage" or "patented" Romo. I'm sure Romo wish that wasn't the case (it's a lot easier without 300lb behemoths chasing you, or at least that's what I'd imagine). Against a pass rush that had struggled all year, the Cowboys made them look like pro-bowlers. Romo dodged, dipped, ducked, dove, and dodged pass rushers, all the while keeping his eyes down the field to find Miles Austin for 25 yards. 3 plays later, Romo again stepped up and whipped up a slice of deep-ball pie for Dez Bryant to gobble up. In contrast to recent memory, Bryant was able to make the grab and Dallas had tied it up.
From there, the offense took a back seat and watched as the other units decided it was their turn to score. Dwayne Harris proved why he's on the team with a relatively simple punt return for a touchdown, not really getting challenged by anyone wearing a green jersey except for world-renowned head hunter Mat McBriar. Maybe the coaching staff will take notice and give him some reps in place of the Tree. Maybe.
And then Brandon Carr scored, putting the game out of reach for the feeble Eagles. Jason Hatcher added a cute little cherry on top, aided in large part to Demarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer's artistic rendition of the sandwich (Foles played an oscar-worthy meat part of the sandwich as well. He deserves credit for that).
If I sound a bit un-enthused, I apologize. Until the Cowboys can correct the vast array of issues that we've seen, there's not a whole lot of reason to be excited. Sure, they'll probably beat up on the Browns. Maybe even the Redskins. You know what? It wouldn't surprise me one bit to see this team in the division lead come December. Romo is 20-3 in November, and there's no reason to think that won't continue. But until we stop seeing all the penalties (6 off-sides?!?), start seeing the offense produce, and continue seeing the defense make game-changing plays, there's just not a whole lot to celebrate.
The Cowboys didn't correct any of those issues this past week, they simply swept them under the rug for the time being. That's not sustainable. Just ask the 2011 team.
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