The worst part of the Cowboys losing last week was that I figured I wouldn’t pay much attention to the games this weekend. To my surprise, I watched every single one of them, though I continued to think that I’d prefer not to given that the Cowboys won’t play again in a meaningful game for another eight months.
Okay, so given that I watched the games both being mad at the Cowboys as a franchise and being equally disappointed that we weren’t still watching them, here is what I thought the Cowboys might have learned from the four games played this weekend.
Houston 31, Cincinnati 10
Even the most vocal critics of Wade Phillips admitted that he was a good defensive coordinator. He now has as many playoff wins as the Texans’ defensive coordinator as he did as the Cowboys’ head coach.
What did the Texans do that the Cowboys under Phillips didn’t? The defensive playmakers made plays.
What did the Texans do that the Cowboys under Phillips didn’t? The defensive playmakers made plays. Defensive end Antonio Smith had a sack and three tackles for losses. Defensive end J.J. Watt had an awesome interception that he returned for a touchdown. The Texans frustrated Andy Dalton, who threw three interceptions after throwing only 13 during the regular season.
Houston also showed that a dominant rushing game can win in a playoff game. DeMarco Murray showed that he can be as good as Arian Foster, who rushed for 153 yards and 2 TDs against Cincinnati. The threat of the run helped rookie QB T.J. Yates, who now has as many playoff wins as Tony Romo.
As for the Bengals’ performance, the Cowboys learned that as bad as Terence Newman and Alan Ball can be, Dallas should not miss Pacman Jones. Jones was burned badly by Andre Johnson on a 40-yard touchdown.
New Orleans 45, Detroit 28
Dallas once had an offensive genius named Sean Payton on its staff. He left to become head coach of the Saints. Jerry Jones brought in an alleged offensive genius in Jason Garrett, who later become the Cowboys’ head coach.
There is simply no comparison in the results. The Saints only managed 10 first-half points but then blew up to score 35 in the second half. Payton now has a playoff record of 5-2.
The most dominating player on the field played for the Lions. Calvin Johnson caught 12 passes for 211 yards with 2 TDs. New Orleans simply couldn’t stop him. Dallas has a player in Dez Bryant who was sometimes compared with Johnson. Dez sometimes disappears in games, and he has only one 100-yard performance in two years. Bryant needs to improve for the Cowboys to take a step forward next year.
N.Y. Giants 24, Atlanta 2
Perhaps the Cowboys shouldn’t feel as bad for struggling against the Giants defense, which was very good against the Falcons today. Atlanta scored more than 40 in two of the final three weeks of the season but could only manage a safety today.
Then again, it was hard to think that the Cowboys could have been playing the Falcons today. Whether the Dallas defense could have had the success that the Giants had is a good question.
Many consider Mike Smith to be a solid head coach. However, he is having playoff problems in Atlanta that one might expect in Dallas. And when smart-ass bloggers remind everyone that Tony Romo has only one playoff win, Romo can respond by pointing to Matt Ryan, who has not won a single playoff game.
Denver 29, Pittsburgh 23
Good news: the Cowboys and Steelers are still tied with eight Super Bowl appearances apiece, and that record won’t change this year.
Bad news: Tim Tebow has as many playoff wins as Tony Romo. Ahem.
Nothing about the Broncos really compares with the Cowboys, other than both having mediocre regular-season records. But here is one similarity: Pat Bowlen has often been compared with Jerry Jones in that both ran their own shows.
Bowlen has reportedly suffered short-term memory loss, and health concerns have caused him to relinquish major decision-making to such “football guys” as John Elway, the greatest QB in that franchise’s history. Sure, this was not an impressive overall season by the Broncos, but Denver is heading to New England with a chance to continue a playoff run.
No, I don’t want Jerry to suffer health problems so that he relinquishes control of the team to a real football guy. I just want him to relinquish control to a real football guy.