Clash of the Titans, it wasn’t.
There are no titans in the NFC East, we have discovered. In the NFL’s worst division, you win some and you lose some.
And sometimes you tie, so you play a few minutes more and you lose again.
The Dallas Cowboys tried to flip the script Sunday night, but they couldn’t escape their now-familiar ending. After sending the game into overtime on a bank-shot Dan Bailey field goal, the Cowboys lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 33-27 on a 41-yard touchdown pass from Sam Bradford to Jordan Matthews.
Six defeats in a row. Back in September, when the Cowboys were still unbeaten and Tony Romo had just broken his clavicle, it seemed far-fetched that the team wouldn’t find a way to shuffle along at a steady pace in the stumbling NFC East.
But help! They’ve fallen and they can’t get up.
The Cowboys defense, one that was supposed to be bolstered by returning players and counted upon to provide stability in Romo’s absence, hasn’t.
Matt Cassel, the fill-in quarterback who was signed on the cheap to replace Romo, threw another pick-six Sunday and is now winless in three starts.
Worst of all, the Cowboys’ record fell to 2-6 on a day when the division-leading 5-4 New York Giants beat Tampa Bay. If the Giants simply go 4-3 over the remainder of their schedule, the Cowboys would have to win seven of their final eight just to tie.
And Romo won’t be back for another two weeks.
A dark cloud has descended upon the season, whether Owner Jones and his head coach want to admit it.
By going winless in Romo’s absence, they have dug themselves into a hole that looms as insurmountable.
If the Giants simply go 4-3 over the remainder of their schedule, the Cowboys would have to win seven of their final eight just to tie.
Cassel, admittedly, had his best game in a Dallas uniform, throwing for 299 yards, completing 25 of 38 passes, and three touchdowns. But he floated a wimpy pass in the flat at the start of the fourth quarter that Philadelphia’s Jordan Hicks intercepted and returned 67 yards for a touchdown.
And with a little under 2 minutes left in regulation, Cassel moved the offense only far enough for Bailey to bank a tying 44-yard field goal off the left upright.
In other words, the offense under Cassel may not be getting any better. It may just be that the Cowboys’ standards are getting worse.
At least Romo is scheduled to return November 22.
The other dark cloud, Greg Hardy’s presence, doesn’t seem destined to go away.
On the contrary, defensive end Hardy again received the blessing of owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett, despite the publication last week of the shocking photos from his 2014 domestic abuse case.
We gave him a second chance. We knew before the season that there would be criticism that came with that.
Jason Garrett, on Greg Hardy
If you haven’t seen the photos, be forewarned —they will disgust and maybe even sicken you. If you have a daughter, you’ll be dismayed that Greg Hardy is in a Cowboys uniform and not in jail.
Hardy had one sack Sunday and was in on three tackles. From Owner Jones’ perspective, apparently his humane deed is working.
Garrett, when asked after the game about the Hardy distraction, toed the Jones company line by saying that the organization did its background work and gave Hardy a second chance.
“We, as an organization, don’t condone domestic violence,” Garrett said. “We gave him a second chance. We knew before the season that there would be criticism that came with that.”
It’s an old Jones cop-out, though. Time and again in the 26-plus years since Jerry Jones bought the once-proud franchise, the owner has answered criticism with a shrug and a line about, “Oh, we already knew that.”
As if knowing it was a bad decision beforehand somehow absolves Owner Jones of the actual poor judgment.
The Hardy cloud won’t go away, especially now that the photos have been published.
Nor, to be sure, will the six defeats that the Cowboys have piled up in Tony Romo’s absence.
Quite a hole you’ve dug there, Owner Jones.