ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys added Sunday to a disturbingly long list of losses in recent memory that went down in a heart-ripped-out kind of way.
“Words really can’t describe it,” said tight end Jason Witten, who has left a stadium with a sickening feeling in his stomach way too many times during his remarkable 11-year career. “I’ve been in some tough games, it’s a tough league, but obviously this one was really tough.”
It’s not just that the Cowboys blew a 23-point lead after outgaining Green Bay by 200 yards in the first half. Heck, the Cowboys have blown bigger leads in this $1.2 billion building before, letting the Detroit Lions roar back from a 24-point deficit to pull off a crazy comeback in October 2011.
There are plenty of other reasons this loss was excruciatingly painful for a franchise that seems to lead the league in coming up with creative ways to cough up wins.
The Tony Romo-chokes-in-December narrative picked up ample ammunition. We can cite a bunch of glowing statistics -- second-best December passer rating since 2009, best fourth-quarter passer rating in NFL history, 358 passing yards and two touchdowns in this game -- but that seems silly after the $55 million franchise quarterback got picked off twice in the final three minutes.
The fact is that Romo had chances to put away a win and then to pull off a comeback, and the Cowboys blew both opportunities. Cole Beasley took the blame for the last pick, but that certainly isn’t going to quiet the Romo critics.
The critics of Monte Kiffin’s dreadful Dallas defense, which ranks dead last in the league, might reach a deafening level.
“We fixed it the first half,” Kiffin said. “We just needed it for the second half, dang it.”
Oh, that dang second half. The Packers’ post-halftime drive chart consisted of five touchdowns and a kneel-down to end the game. Sure, injuries forced the Cowboys to play a pair of rookies at linebacker who had no business being out there, but Matt Flynn (20-of-26, 227 yards, four touchdowns in the second half) shouldn’t resemble Aaron Rodgers under any circumstances.
“This is one of the hardest losses that I’ve experienced,” Jerry Jones said. “That’s a shame that we lost that ballgame. When you’ve got that kind of lead and you’re playing well, and we were playing well, then it’s a shame to lose a game like that.”
All the Cowboys had to do to reclaim first place in the NFC East was protect a 23-point lead against a team playing with a backup quarterback that had one win in the previous six weeks. They couldn’t do it, coming through with a well-rounded meltdown.
“We are in the same situation as we were when we woke up this morning,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We’ve got to put this one behind us and make the corrections and learn from it.”
That’s robotic coachspeak. The reality is that the Cowboys are a devastated team that will have to reach deep to rebound from this debacle.
“We’ve just got at it as if everyone is against us – the world is against us,” safety Barry Church said. “Everybody’s written us off. But we’ve just got to find somewhere or somehow fight and win these last two games and make a playoff run. We had it in our hands today and we let it slip away.”
How many times have we seen the Cowboys stunned by letting a win slip away?
This one stings as bad as any of them.