Bad Romo + No Greg Ellis = Big, Bad Loss
The NFL prepared a Sunday Night feast. We were supposed to engourge ourselves on good football and sleep heavily this night knowing we had seen a legendary story unfold before us.
Seattle lost to Arizona today leaving the Seahawks at 8-5, one-half game behind both the Saints and the Cowboys. Philadelphia, the Giants, and Atlanta all won leaving all three teams a game and a half behind the teams on tonight's NBC docket. Tonight's winner would be in the playoff driver's seat. The loser would face a three week dogfight.
The table was set. We were ready to eat. The feast was wonderful early giving the Cowboys fans something they'd been waiting for all season: a long TD run by Julius Jones. The Cowboys came ready to play. Two Dallas defensive stops sandwiched the run leaving the task of putting the game away early in the hands of young Tony Romo.
Except Romo appeared young, unable to find open receivers and throwing an interception setting up the Saints go ahead TD from which they never looked back. Sean Payton brought his team to Texas Stadium ready to lay the smack down, exploiting a Greg Ellis-less defense for all its not worth.
Yes, we are now seeing how important Mr. Ellis was to this squad and how much of a bust Bobby Carpenter may just be. We got a grace period, what with the 'Boys playing the sad sack Buccaneers on Thanksgiving. Since that day, offenses have moved moved the ball up and down the field at will against this defense. Eli Manning and Drew Brees both sat in the pocket all game nearly unharmed and picked the D apart. Without Romo's late game heroics and the Giants lack of discipline, this pass rush-less defense would have handed Dallas a two-game losing skid.
And with the safeties the Cowboys sport, this team needs all the pass rush it can muster. Because this we know: we would never want Roy Williams and Keith Davis in the Rangers' outfield the way they read the ball in the air. We also know Williams, at least once a game, is going to try to tee off and hit someone, miss the tackle, and allow a big play. All these ingredients against the league's number one offense was too much to bear.
The poor play by the defense allowed the Saints to dominate the clock as if they were playing their own scout team. This combined with Romo's early indiscretion put him and the offense in an impossible hole. One that even a hilariously ironic Terrell Owens touchdown off a dropped intereception couldn't provide any help in digging out.
And yet, I find a little joy in this win. No doubt, I'm not a fan of Bill Parcells. If the media likes to talk bad attitudes, he's definitely among the worst. So seeing Sean Payton call a great game without the Tuna holding him back was beautiful, as was Payton getting the best of Parcells with that third quarter onside kick. Also, a stumble by Romo may be just what the team needed to take a serious self-inventory before the playoffs.
But we're left with questions. Can Romo succeed if kept in the pocket? Can the defense stop anyone but the Bucs without Greg Ellis? Are the Parcells-coached Dallas Cowboys setting the stage for another December collapse or will step up against fellow playoff contenders the next two weeks?
But I'm not worrying about those tonight. Instead, I'll bask in Vince Young's homecoming overtime heroics and Texas basketball's upset win over #11 LSU.