PHILADELPHIA -- If he was furious or agitated in any way about the beating his team had just taken, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys hid it very well.
"I would be concerned if I did not think we were going to win a lot of football games," Jerry Jones said after his Cowboys dropped an ugly 34-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night. "But I think we will win games. This is not about re-examining everything we do. This is about being disappointed in not winning this football game. That's how I can not be concerned."
Cowboys fans listening from the ledge view this as crazy talk. How can the owner not be concerned after a beating so thorough by a division rival dropped his team to 3-4 for the season? How can there not be talk of firing coaches and overhauling schemes and finding Tony Romo's replacement? How, a seething fan base wonders, can Jones seriously stand there and say he's not concerned?
Well, maybe he's looked at the Cowboys' remaining schedule. Because he's right. As bad as Sunday night's loss was, it offered little, if any, reason to change what Jones or anybody else thinks about the Cowboys and their chances to contend in 2011. Through seven games the Cowboys are, to borrow a line from that classic Dennis Green news conference, who we thought they were.
Look at the four losses. If you'd looked at the Cowboys' schedule before the season and played the win-loss game, where you scan through and decide which game they're likely to win and which they're likely to lose and then predict their record based on that, there's only one loss (the Lions at home) that would have looked like a win. You would have had them losing road games to the Jets, Patriots and Eagles. Heck, it's possible, if you were one of the people who had the Lions as a playoff team this year, that you might have had them losing that one, too. To this point, they have lost maybe one game and maybe no games in which they could reasonably have been considered on-paper favorites. Heck, one of the three wins was in San Francisco against a team no one else has beaten.
Now, you can argue that they should have won the Lions game and the Jets game and the Patriots game because they had leads in the fourth quarter of all three and shot themselves in the foot. And you can make the point that you, if you're a Cowboys fan, would actually like to see them exceed expectations rather than simply meet them -- to play the part of the potentially great team and win one of these tough games instead of just barely losing it. And you'd be right. My point is that, from a record standpoint, the Cowboys have done nothing to change our preseason perception of them. Whether you had them with 10 wins (as I did) or eight wins or six wins, nothing that's happened has warranted a drastic change in your prediction. They could still fall apart and have a lousy year, but they could also still rally and win the NFC East.
The rest of the Cowboys' schedule is loaded with games that would have looked like wins before the season started. Even if you give them a home loss to Buffalo, a split with the Giants and a home loss to this same Eagles team that just whipped them so completely, that still gets them to 9-7. Their next five games are home against Seattle, home against the Bills, at Washington, home against Miami and at Arizona. This 3-4 record could be 7-5 or even 8-4 with minimal trouble. Jerry Jones knows it, and that's a big part of the reason he's not concerned.
"We get to play [the Eagles] again at home," Jones said. "If they play the way they did tonight and we play the way we did, I dread it. If we can play like we can play and get them at home, we can get a win."
Jones is taking the long, sensible view, and it would be wise for the rest of us to do the same. The Cowboys didn't need Sunday's game as badly as the Eagles did. That's no excuse for why they played so much like a team that didn't need it, but in the end a loss is a loss and they move on to a part of their schedule that could, in short order, have everybody feeling a lot better about their chances.