Originally posted on Fox Sports Southwest  |  Last updated 10/14/12
It was the best of the Cowboys. It was the worst of the Cowboys. All wrapped up into one game. Sunday's 31-29 loss to the Ravens was time capsule-worthy of the Romo era: Good enough to get close. Bad enough to lose. Most of the postgame attention will focus on clock management. The Cowboys executed perfectly to get in position for a game-winning field goal, then did everything they could to undermine kicker Dan Bailey. Somehow, the Cowboys snapped the ball with 26 seconds left and had to burn their last timeout to avoid letting the clock run out. That set Dan Bailey up for a 51-yard attempt, outdoors, which is a 50-50 proposition for good NFL kickers. Bailey appeared to have the distance, but the kick floated left of the uprights. For that, you can blame head coach Jason Garrett for terrible clock management and quarterback Tony Romo for a terrible decision. On the play snapped with 26 seconds left, Romo threw to Dez Bryant who ran a short extremely short in route toward the middle of the field. He was driven backwards, making the kick even longer. What is the point of throwing such a short pass to the middle of the field when time is critical? Not sure what Romo was thinking there. You could say the same about Romo's second quarter interception. Once again, Romo bought himself time by running away from pressure, then bought himself trouble by throwing back across the field. The interception led to a Baltimore touchdown drive. After all these years, Romo still doesn't protect the ball. Does he need to be strapped to a chair and forced to watch the 2011 Detroit game again? That the final offensive play went to Bryant was somehow appropriate. Bryant had perhaps his best game as a pro with 13 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns. His second touchdown, a nifty back-shoulder snare in the end zone, set up the potential game-winning two point conversion pass. Which Bryant let slip through his hands. But Bryant wasn't the only Cowboy struggling on Sunday. The Ravens should send a game ball to third receiver Kevin Ogletree, who managed to draw three illegal shift penalties at least two in scoring range because he couldn't get set before the snap. Failing to get set is pure sloppiness on Ogletree's part. The second and third instances were especially egregious because the first one was a warning that the refs were looking for it. Ogletree also dropped a sure touchdown on a play that would have been wiped out anyway by a chop block penalty. Except it wasn't a chop block. Horrible call, as was the pass interference on Morris Claiborne on the Ravens' second touchdown. So the refs weren't having a good day, either. Good teams fight through it. If there's a good sign from Sunday, it's the proof that the Cowboys could adapt and improve. After letting Ray Rice slip through the pass rush for a couple of big receptions, the Cowboys got one and stuck to Rice once he chipped at the line. The special teams unit also redeemed itself with a smartly executed onside kick recovery. Well, almost redeemed itself. It's hard to excuse giving up a 108-yard kickoff return. Along the theme of redemption, Felix Jones showed up for the first time this season. Word is that Jones, who failed the conditioning test at the start of training camp, recently dropped a few pounds and regained his burst. The Cowboys needed it on a day when DeMarco Murray excused himself with a reported foot sprain. I'm sure it was painful, but does anyone remember Julius Jones playing with a broken shoulder blade to prove his toughness to Bill Parcells? Or Jason Witten playing with his jaw wired shut? Again, that was to prove something to Parcells. Where are the players willing to prove something to Garrett? This is a coach who constantly preaches about accountability, yet would rather have his finger cut off than publicly point said finger at a player who screws up. It will be interesting to see how much accountability Garrett places on himself over the next few days. Not just for another bad job of clock management, but the overall sloppiness of his team. The Cowboys were also brilliant at times on Sunday, which is why they were even in position to win in one of the toughest road venues in the NFL. They played pretty good defense and ran the ball well for once the middle of the offensive line wasn't an issue. Except when Romo had to constantly step into the line and point out blocking assignments, which led to difficulty getting plays off in time. There's no such thing as two steps forward, one step back in the NFL. One step back will lose you a game. That's why when the Cowboys are both good and bad, the bad will outweigh the good. Every time. Follow Keith Whitmire on Twitter: @Keith_Whitmire
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