NFL: Cowboys fail to validate past couple of weeks’ success
By Randy Galloway
MINNEAPOLIS — There in the fading minutes, with only the stadium clock, and certainly not the Cowboys still ticking, a great verbal outburst arose in front of the home team bench.
Keith Brooking, the linebacker with some ongoing spunk, had invaded enemy territory and was dog-cussing the likes of Brett Favre, coach Brad Childress and anyone else wearing purple.
Keith, luv you, man. But frankly, it was probably time to go on to the locker room, then the bus, then the airplane and then the house back in Texas.
“I thought it was disrespectful, classless and all other things in that category. I’ll tell that to anyone over there who wants to hear it,” said Brooking, after his Cowboys were buzz-sawed right out of the playoffs here Sunday afternoon.
Classless and disrespectful?
If anything, the Cowboys were outclassed. And if anything, they failed miserably to validate any of the respect that had been heaped on this team over the last couple of weeks.
Brooking was livid, and you can understand his point, because Favre threw successfully for the end zone with 2 minutes to play, and on a fourth down. It resulted in seven points of scoreboard icing in a game long ago over.
Sure, the Vikings were running up the score on the Cowboys. But let’s be honest here.
If you want the game over, if you want the Vikings to play nice and sit on the ball as the clock dwindles, then don’t have Wade Phillips calling three straight timeouts on Minnesota’s previous possession (with 6 minutes to play). All three followed running plays that would have killed about half the time remaining.
Another point: The Cowboys, as a team, needed a lot of Brooking-like anger in the previous 57 minutes.
Honestly, you had to also like the way Childress got in a postgame parting shot on the Cowboys, who were the most nationally hyped playoff team going into the weekend.
“... The Tasmanian Devils that were coming from Dallas that were about to bombard the state of Minnesota and run through us like Sherman through the South. That was the aura that was left after last weekend’s games.”
But two steps deep into the postseason, the Cowboys’ year ended here with a sickening thud.
“This (performance) came out of nowhere, at least for me,” said owner-general manager Jerry Jones in a shocked postgame locker room.
If you agree with Jerry, honk. I’m honking.
For those of us who pumped sunshine in the direction of this team since mid-December, the accolades suddenly went dark under the dome.
It was a miserable performance that once again left a long list of indictments for the winter, spring and summer of the off-season.
Tony Romo, for one. Three turnovers and six sacks. Under heavy pressure, yes, he was, and particularly after his offensive line had to re-tool on the fly when tackle Flozell Adams went down with an injury early in the second quarter (in his absence, old-timer Flo gained new respect because he was obviously missed).
But Romo had the kind of struggle Favre didn’t, even though the 40-year-old also had some heavy heat at times.
The indictment list of usual suspects goes beyond Romo, and continues with Phillips, who will be back next season despite no formal announcement from Jones after the game, with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and with every area on both sides of the ball.
Offensively, the Cowboys had three first-half possessions get inside the Minnesota 35-yard line and came away with exactly three points.
With the game still on the line (Vikings up 17-3) to open the second half, the Cowboys had a first down at the Minnesota 23. Then came a pitch right to Marion Barber. Why Barber to the outside at that point? Anyway, a 7-yard loss totally changed the once-promising possession.
In the first half, Wade had a decision to make on fourth and less than a yard at the Vikings’ 30. Good grief, coach, you gotta go for it there. Scoreless game at the time. Be aggressive.
Instead, Phillips brought in a field-goal kicker with no pressure roots. He missed from 48 yards.
Afterward, Phillips argued with a reporter. “It wasn’t fourth-and-1,” he actually said. Sheez, Wade. Actually, it wasn’t that far.
“A quarterback always wants to go for it right there,” noted Romo, “but since getting the lead was important, I agree with the decision.”
For Tony’s sake, let’s consider that answer a case of not wanting to throw his head coach to the wolves. Otherwise, I have no explanation.
While Garrett’s offense was miserable, Phillips’ defense did a good job of mopping up after a couple of killer turnovers by Romo.
But in the end, giving up big plays for touchdowns—three of them on Favre-to-Sidney Rice throws—put the defense in the same failure category as all other aspects. The two longest gains the Vikings made in the game came on two of the TD passes to Rice.
The first one, in the first quarter, was a 47-yard bomb when Rice seemed to be well-covered by safety Gerald Sensabaugh. For whatever reason, Sensabaugh, working deep in zone coverage, never attempted to make a play on the ball.
For Wade, his postgame critique of Sensabaugh on that play sounded strangely like a rip job. So un-Phillips-like.
Based on the outcome here that closed the football year, one lingering question might have to wait for a cooling-off answer.
Was it a successful season, overall?
Compared to the past, the answer is yes. Otherwise ...
“We did have success that most didn’t expect from this team,” said Jones. “But this game told us we didn’t have enough. I’m not discouraged. I’m disappointed.”
Save for the Brooking exit, and his dog-cussing of Favre, Childress and Co., the Cowboys’ farewell message was a collective whimper.
And that says it all about 34-3.