It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.
And I am still having a hard time believing what happened in this tale of two cities, two teams, and two football fates.
With a 12-point lead and just over five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Dallas Cowboys managed to squander what would have been a formidable division lead and lose a gut-wrenching, heart-rending, back-breaking game to the New York Football Giants.
Final score: 37–34.
As soon as the punch-drunk, dumbfounded Cowboys fan sobers up, he will want to know whose fault this is. To whom do we assign blame for this epic meltdown?
The usual suspects will be scrutinized first.
Coach Jason Garrett, fresh off the debacle in the Arizona desert and the worst day of his brief head coaching career, will get his share of crotch-kicks. There will be the usual complaints of how he should have run here or thrown there or done something else that might have saved the game.
Tony Romo will be targeted. By football idiots, mostly.
Romo was 21 for 31 with 321 yards passing. He threw four touchdowns and no interceptions. He did take a sack in his own end zone to start the game. He also missed a crucial downfield pass to Miles Austin that would have sealed the win.
Let us not forget, however, that, after the Giants had taken the lead and left but 46 ticks on the clock, Romo drove his Cowboys from their own 20 yard line to the Giants’ 30 and set up rookie kicker Dan Bailey for a game-winning field goal.
I guess Romo could have played interior line on the kick team and blocked Pierre-Paul to keep him from blocking the FG attempt. Other than that, I am not sure what more you could have asked of him on that last drive.
If you are blaming Romo for this loss, you either did not watch the game or have no clue about the game of football. Romo was solid with flashes of brilliance. His offense racked up 444 net yards and hung 34 points on the world’s biggest scoreboard.
Um, hello? That ought to be enough offense to win a home game in the National Football League. If you are too silly to understand that, then please refrain from watching football and stay away from sharp objects and Sudoku puzzles. We don’t want you hurting yourself.
So, whom do we blame?
How about Rob Ryan and the vaunted Ryan family tradition of blitzing every down, whether it is working or not? How about the uber-blitzing, coverage-blowing, 510 yards-and-37 points-yielding, Swiss cheese defense?
How about mixing in a defensive stop every now and then, especially when the game is on the line and your offense has presented you with a 12-point lead and just 5:30 to kill?
How about not lining Gerald Sensabaugh up 35 yards from the line of scrimmage so that he cannot even lend assistance on a 19-yard Eli Manning pass that looked more like a punt? May as well have sent your safety for a couple dozen Krispy Kremes. He was closer to the Krispy Kreme on Cooper Street than he was the line of scrimmage.
How about maybe not holding a receiver that was running into double coverage anyway, Frank Walker?
How about not sending DeMarcus Ware onto the field with his shoulder screaming and his arm hanging limply at his side, especially when Victor Butler is playing well in his stead? The result of putting the ailing superstar back into the game: two crucial neutral zone infractions.
This was a massive loss, a meaningful loss, with major implications.
It was another reminder that this Dallas Cowboys’ team is not ready to be called elite. They could not defend their home stadium. They could not defend their goal line. So, it is no surprise they were unable to defend their slim division lead.
They lost a game they could have won and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Blame it on Rob Ryan. Blame it on the defensive backfield for getting toasted at the end of the game. Blame it on the defensive front’s inability to put much pressure on Manning. Blame it on Jerry Jones and that deal he made with God (or was it the Devil?) back in the ’90s.
Heck, blame it on a gutsy performance by the Giants or the “brilliance” of Eli Manning’s quarterback play. But, don’t blame me. Don’t blame yourself.
And just once, please, don’t lay all the blame on Tony Romo.