After two weeks of the 2013 NFL season — following an uncomfortable off-season of coaching changes, role changes and free agent additions — it’s the same old, same old for the Dallas Cowboys.
For more than a decade and most acutely, the past three seasons, the Cowboys have proven to be a a bad-to-middling team that doesn’t know how to win when it counts and one that majors in red-zone failures, untimely miscues and self-inflicting wounds.
It was all on full and vivid display in Sunday’s 17-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs before a crowd of 76,952 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Consider two third-quarter fumbles, a big drop by receiver Dez Bryant, a failure to score a touchdown on a drive inside the 5-yard line because of a sack and penalty and the inability to get off the field on defense and get the ball back for the offense for a late comeback.
The Cowboys dropped to 205-205 since 2000 and 1-1 in 2013 after back-to-back 8-8 seasons.
“Well, do you want me to lay down here on the floor and kick and scream and what have you,” said a surprisingly subdued owner Jerry Jones. “I’m very disappointed. This is the start of our season and we had hoped to come up here and get a win.”
Said linebacker Anthony Spencer: “It’s tough. We had it happen last year. It’s something we’ve been working on through off-seasons and just something we can’t have happen.”
Spencer went so far as saying “the better team” didn’t win.
Jones believes the Cowboys let one slip away against the improving Chiefs, who look nothing like the two-win team of a year ago. Kansas City, led by former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, is 2-0 for the first time since 1995.
Quarterback Alex Smith threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns. The defense, which has allowed just one touchdown this season, kept the Cowboys at bay late.
“We knew that they’re a good team, but what we really know is how good Andy Reid is against the Cowboys, and so he does know our team,” Jones said. “He’s coached against Jason quite a bit, so I give him all the credit that he should have here.”
But while Jones focused on the Reid and the Chiefs, the outcome was more about what the Cowboys didn’t do, per his players.
A Cowboys defense, which recorded six turnovers in the season-opening victory against the New York Giants, got none on Sunday. The best chance came late in the first half when linebacker Bruce Carter dropped what could have been a game-turning interception.
After a 53-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 3:55 left to make the score 17-16, the defense couldn’t get off the field and get the ball back to the offense in time to mount a comeback. Cornerback Morris Claiborne exacerbated the situation with an aggressive pass interference penalty.
“We didn’t get turnovers and we didn’t get off the field on the last drive,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We stopped them most of the game. When it mattered most, we couldn’t stop them.”
The same can be said of the Cowboys’ problems on offense. They couldn’t run the ball when needed, as running back DeMarco Murray rushed 12 times for 25 yards.
Leading 10-7 at halftime, the Cowboys had a chance to take a double-digit lead in the third quarter, driving 73 yards to the Chiefs 5. But they were forced to settle for a field goal because of a sack and false start.
“I mean you could see it. It’s penalties and sacks,” said quarterback Tony Romo, who completed 30 of 42 passes for 298 yards and a touchdown.
“They won the game. They made the plays. We both had our cards that were dealt, and they just ended up winning it,” Spencer said. “We feel like we’re the better team, but at the same time, the better team doesn’t always win.”
It’s been that way for more than a decade.