They are the Dallas Cowboys, once upon a time a somebody in the NFL, but over the decades having been reduced to that mass of football goo known as mediocrity.
They will win some, they will lose some, but there are always certain Sundays in a season when the eyes become dazed and glazed from just having watched how another W was suddenly snatched away.
From the Motor City, it was hello, dazed. Hello, glazed. The W was snatched away.
“We blew it ... totally unacceptable,” said disgusted linebacker Sean Lee, putting the proper label on a gut-stomp of a 31-30 defeat to the Detroit Lions.
On this day, Lee, as usual, was one of the best players, if not the best, with a star on his helmet, but he was pointing the blame finger at himself for a defense that allowed the Lions an 80-yard touchdown drive in the final minute.
Blame game accepted, particularly since the defense also gave up, overall, 623 bleeping yards (most ever in Dallas history), including the second-most receiving yards, 329, in NFL history to that man, that big man, the one-and-only Calvin Johnson.
But the loss was as much about roster rot as it was defensive ineptness, since the secondary of the Cowboys was wiped out by injuries for most of the second half.
On the final, fatal drive by the Lions, the Cowboys had, yes, Jakar Hamilton, just off the practice squad, at safety, alongside another undrafted rookie, Jeff Heath, who was forced to start and had played OK. Another rookie who hadn’t figured into playing time before Sunday, cornerback B.W. Webb, was also on the field most of the second half.
Lee, however, was not accepting excuses.
“We are an average team, an 8-8 team, until we find a way to win these kind of games,” he said. “That’s all we will ever be. It’s an 8-8 kind of team when you lose this game.”
Got to love the honesty, and the accuracy from Lee. The Cowboys are now 4-4 at the midway point, right on schedule for 8-8.
Frankly, the blame should go more to the Cowboys’ offense.
The Cowboys’ defense, mostly a collection of football boat people on the front line, and then also injury-depleted in the secondary on this day, flat played butts off, collecting four turnovers, including two picks by Lee.
Picture an upriver dam, and you live down river, holding, holding, holding out as long as it could against the great Calvin, against Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, against Reggie Bush, etc.
The dam finally burst.
But other than striking on two long fourth-quarter TD passes to Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams, the offense simply did not get enough done over the 60-minute course.
In the first half, this offense was particularly pathetic, totalling 95 yards, and let it be known the Lions’ defense is not exactly a stellar group outside of the two tackles up front.
Dez is a Calvin wanna-be, and that’s a goal he should strive for, but this wasn’t the day he made any strides in that lofty direction. Bryant was involved in two sensational TD plays, but he had three catches overall.
As the TV cameras continued to show, Dez did more running of his mouth on the sideline than he did good route running on the field against a subpar Lions secondary. Yes, he was targeted only six times by Tony Romo, and that’s not acceptable.
But being targeted also goes hand-in-hand with being open. It’s not like Romo doesn’t want to throw to Dez.
This was a day of blame for Romo and Co., who didn’t get it consistently cranking (a meager 268 yards on 13 first downs), making it three consecutive games of subpar offense.
The kill shot of the afternoon for the Cowboys involved the offense just as much as it did the defense, although the hammer fell on the defense when Stafford leaped over from the 1-yard line, with the ball outstretched, with 12 seconds left.
Stafford was yelling “clock” when he approached the line of scrimmage with the clock running, but on his own did not spike the ball.
It was a nice fake-out for the win.
But go back 90 seconds earlier when the Cowboys’ defense got a 4-and-out stop at the Detroit 31.
Game over, right? Dallas was up three at the time.
Did clock mismanagement happen?
Two running plays went nowhere, but the Lions also burned their last two timeouts. On third down, why not take a knee, and burn 40 seconds, leaving the game clock in the 30s?
Instead, Phillip Tanner carried for 9 yards to the 26, except a flag fell, stopping the clock. Tyron Smith, the tackle, was called for a hold. That part was the kill shot.
The Lions wisely declined the penalty, leaving Dan Bailey to kick a 44-yard field goal for a six-point lead.
But the Lions still had 62 seconds to work with, and they worked those seconds well.
Garrett said, and it’s hard to disagree, he didn’t take the knee on third down because the ball was right on the fringe of field goal territory. Plus, the flag on Smith was only the second penalty all day on the Cowboys, although it came with an immense cost.
Hindsight says a knee on third down would have won the game, even if the Cowboys had just pooch-punted on fourth down.
But overall, the circumstances say Garrett can’t be charged with clock mismanagement.
The Cowboys simply lost because, well, they are the Cowboys. These sort of things happen to a team that is, and has been forever, a gooey mass of mediocrity.