SAN DIEGO — While his teammates, head coach and boss were all spitting out the same thing, cornerback Orlando Scandrick at least offered the truth.“I don’t know if this team is any different,” Scandrick said. “There is a lot to be seen about this football team over the next few weeks. I don’t feel good about anything today. Anything. The only thing I feel good about is that we came out healthy.”Scandrick may not be a star, but he has been with this team for six years. He knows the score.After all of these years, and so many teases for great things, they still show up at the visiting stadium convinced the outcome should be different. Tens of thousands of Dallas Cowboys fans, who not only spend their money on Cowboys stuff but who want to believe.They were here on Sunday at Qualcomm Stadium, mostly louder and outnumbering the hometown Chargers fans. And they left like we normally do — perplexed at the consistency of this operation.“We have too much talent on this team,” wide receiver Dez Bryant said.Yet here we are.For years we have fed, and been fed, that line. The problem for this team, and why it keeps sailing at a brisk .500 clip, is their best players are not consistently better than the other team’s best players.When it comes down to it, especially on Sunday, the Cowboys’ two highest profile players — Tony Romo to Jason Witten — were thoroughly outplayed by the same combination of Philip Rivers to Antonio Gates.As good as Romo is, he was outplayed by Rivers. This is the same Rivers who was no longer considered elite.As good as Witten is, he was outplayed by Gates. This is the same Gates who was considered old and banged-up.Rivers threw for 401 yards with three touchdowns. Romo threw for 244 and two touchdowns.Gates caught 10 passes for 136 yards and the game-clinching score. Gates was so dominant the Cowboys had to bench linebacker Bruce Carter in the second half; Carter is considered a quality cover linebacker, too.Witten caught five passes for 43 yards, and had one drop that would have been a third-down conversion in the second half.Rivers to Gates won the game.Romo to Witten put up numbers.This is the way it’s been for this statistically prolific pair, and close friends, since 2006. They’re both very good, and two of the better at their respective positions. Yet here we are.To be fair, the offense’s putrid performance on Sunday isn’t on just Romo and Witten.Much like the game in Kansas City, Dez at times on Sunday looked dominant with a pair of touchdown catches. And he also had a drop on a pass that was a difficult catch that would have been a crucial third-down conversion in the third quarter.“You’ve got to make those plays,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Those aren’t easy plays. Those aren’t easy throws and easy catches, but those guys are capable of making them. Again, I keep saying this, but in a game like this, it comes back down to those kind of plays, when we’re not slowing them down and we have to match them and every one of those allows you to maintain a possession by converting a third down or putting you in a more favorable third-down-type situation.”Yet here we are.The best thing going for the Cowboys is not “talent on this team” but rather what appears to be a historic level of ineptitude on the part of the NFC East. The four teams are 4-12 — that’s hard work. An 8-8 record looks like it can win what is the new Big 12 North.We were reminded again on Sunday the Cowboys are just another team in the NFL’s large middle class. They’re good enough to be close just about every Sunday.Next Sunday when Peyton Manning and the Broncos come to JerryWorld we will see that there is a difference between the Cowboys’ best players, and the other team’s best players.Scandrick was just being honest when he said he does not know if this team is any different.We have to believe maybe it will be, even when our gut says it is probably the same for all the reasons we saw on Sunday in San Diego.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697 Twitter: @MacEngelProf