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Notes On Dallas 27-26 Loss to the Arizona Cardinals On Christmas

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When I was a young kid, my mother was not overly cautious about the television I watched, but she definitely made sure that my eyes didn't see anything I wasn't supposed to see. One of those movies that I saw that had the gigantic 'R' on the back of its box was Jerry Maguire. My mother would fast-forward from the mature parts so I could see the movie.

The movie is about a sports agent who grows a conscious and writes a politically incorrect mission statement that ultimately gets him fired, and in a scrum for clients, he emerges with just one wide receiver named Rod Tidwell (played by Cuba Gooding Jr), and this wide receiver played for the Arizona Cardinals.

Well, in the climax of the movie, the Cardinals are fighting the Cowboys, the signature team of the 90s, for a playoff spot, and it is a classic close game with Rod Tidwell making the game-winning score. Close but so far for the Dallas Cowboys was the story.

I saw that movie all over again on Christmas, and sadly, my mother was not there to fast forward through the nasty parts. I saw the whole loss happen before my eyes.

The Cowboys were in a close game against the Arizona Cardinals, and they failed to seal the win in the end. It was a game that they never should have let get that close. They should've crushed the Cardinals, a team that was resorting to a rookie named John Skelton to be their quarterback.

I'd rank this loss in the top five for this season because there is no reason they should have lost to the Cardinals. I think if you put the Arizona Cardinals against the Oregon Ducks, they'd just might lose to them. That's how poor that football team is in some aspects.

I have to say that this is a traumatic loss really. To lose the way Dallas did is something that you never get over. It is something that should wake the Cowboys up in the middle of the night. I know I sound like I'm exaggerating, but I'm not. If I'm a Cowboys player, I am wearing a bag on my head for at least a week.

The first quarter of the game, the Cowboys were probably thinking that they're going to come in, blow out the competition, go home and open gifts with their children. Instead, they open up the game with two interceptions that are returned for touchdowns.

The first one was picked by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie after Miles Austin slipped on what looked like a comeback route. Kitna threw the ball expecting Miles to be there, but only Cromartie was, and he easily ran into the endzone for a score.

The next drive, Dallas drove hard and went into Cardinals territory and then the second pick-six happened. It looked like Roy Williams was going on a quick slant inside, and it happened so fast, but the ball looks like it might have been thrown slightly behind Williams, but he still got his hands on it, and bobbled it, and it just landed in Greg Toler's hands, and he just ran home with it. 66 yards and a 14-point lead for Arizona.

Dallas fought back and got a field goal, but then John Skelton looked like Kurt Warner and Andre Roberts looked like Larry Fitzgerald when they hooked up on a 74-yard touchdown pass. It was the only real major mistake the Dallas defense had all night. Granted, the Cardinals managed to drive down the field for two field goals, but field goals won't kill you in the end, but touchdowns will.

21-3, and yet, I knew Dallas could still win because they are still a better team than Arizona. They have the ability to beat anybody they line up against on their best day. So, it was good to see them not give up, but I have to give a lot of the credit to Jon Kitna. A 38-year-old quarterback should not be able to do the things he does. He led the team to a 53-yard field goal, then was injured, but returned to throw a 2-yard touchdown strike to Jason Witten on fourth down. That was Witten's eighth touchdown this season, a career high for him.

Dallas put their faith in the hands of the third-string backup, Stephen McGee, who performed masterfully for his first game. But, the person who fought the hardest was Marion Barber. Marion Barber had missed the previous three games due to a calf strain, and there has been speculation on whether or not his time with Dallas was coming to an end. Well, he made a case to keep him Saturday. He had eight carries for 58 yards with a 24-yard touchdown run, and a 25-yard run as well. He looked like the bulldozer running back that runs funny, but effectively that we all missed seeing.

His big mistake though was he let his emotions get ahead of him and he took off his helmet. You cannot do that. John Madden dubbed certain fouls with the phrase, "Stupid penalties," and that is a stupid penalty. 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct is never acceptable and when you are trying to come from behind in a ball game that you are in danger of losing just makes it more of an eye-roller.

The Cardinals managed to get a 48-yard field goal, and now the game is in the hands of our backup's backup, Stephen McGee. The Texas A&M standout was finally given his chance to make plays for the team that drafted him, and in his first game, he has a fourth-quarter comeback with a 37-yard strike to Miles Austin for the touchdown.

I went wild when I saw that. It is almost impossible to describe the play, you have to watch it on ESPN replays. It was a perfect spiral in double coverage that I thought was going to get intercepted, and then I see Austin pull the ball away and scamper into the endzone. I was picking my father up in utter joy when I saw that play.

Then, the Buehler misses the extra point, and I'm pretty sure I thought I need mandible surgery because my jaw hit the floor. How do you miss the extra point? Now the Cowboys lead is only 26-24, which is two points, so if the Cardinals can get down the field and kick a field goal, they'll win the ball game.

If you're the Cardinals, you've just been given hope. You see there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of the gloomy feeling that you need overtime after you get the tying kick, you see that you can go home with one kick. Hot chocolate and eggnog with the kids, and a chance to see "The Christmas Story" on DVR.

I'm thinking that momentum has risen for the Cardinals, but the Dallas defense should still think that, 'Hey! We got the lead now! They've earned only 10 points on us all night. If we do our job, who cares if we win by only two, we still win!' All they have to do is force a turnover on downs or get a takeaway, and this ball game is done.

I remember the great Bill Parcells, who once coached these Cowboys, said in an interview that the great players make big plays in big situations. We see a lot of players on Pro-Football-Reference with great numbers, and a lot of people look at stats, and say that these numbers show who the greatest players are. I disagree with that mindset. I'm with Bill Parcells. The great players, the truly great ones, the ones that you want to remember forever are the guys that when the chips are down, and the term 'clutch' can be used to describe the situation, they make the big plays that change games.

Dallas had not gotten a sack the entire night up to that point, and Larry Fitzgerald had not caught a pass yet.

It is 2nd-and-10, the ball is on the Cardinals 24-yard line, Skelton goes back to pass, there are five receivers running routes, and DeMarcus Ware gets around the left tackle, Levi Brown,  and pulls Skelton down for a 5-yard loss. 3rd-and-15 now, and the Cardinals have to burn a precious timeout. When the Cowboys needed a sack, DeMarcus Ware got them one.

Momentum goes to Dallas, especially after the incomplete pass to Tim Hightower. Dallas has the game now. 4th-and-15? Just knock the ball away and go home.

Now on Larry Fitzgerald's watch. He makes one of the greatest catches I've ever seen. He leaps in the air and pulls that ball into his chest and clutches it like it was a newborn baby he's sworn to protect. It was a 26-yard completion for a first down, and it signaled the end for Dallas. It is ironic that they Cowboys defense shut Larry Fitzgerald down to what was his worst game this year, and with that catch, he put the Cardinals in position to finish the drive and broke the 1,000-yard receiving barrier this season to gain 1,012 yards receiving this season so far.

Just goes to show you that Larry Fitzgerald is the kind of receiver that just needs one catch to put his team on top. The Cardinals drove 30 yards in four more plays, and they set up the field goal. 43 yards and Jay Feely can make this, and just as the snap goes, the flag comes in.

I'm thinking, 'What's going on? Is it on Dallas? Is it on Arizona?' If it is on Arizona, the commentators made a point to mention that penalties in final minutes of halves have a ten-second runoff on clocks. Now, I know this is confusing, so I enlisted the help of NFL.com to help out.

Here is the link to the precise area on the website: http://www.nfl.com/rulebook/timingfinal

Here is the word-for-word explanation given as well:

  1. On kickoff, clock does not start until the ball has been legally touched by player of either team in the field of play. (In all other cases, clock starts with kickoff.)
  2. A team cannot buy an excess time out for a penalty. However, a fourth time out is allowed without penalty for an injured player, who must be removed immediately. A fifth time out or more is allowed for an injury and a five-yard penalty is assessed if the clock was running. Additionally, if the clock was running and the score is tied or the team in possession is losing, the ball cannot be put in play for at least 10 seconds on the fourth or more time out. The half or game can end while those 10 seconds are run off on the clock.
  3. If the defensive team is behind in the score and commits a foul when it has no time outs left in the final 40 seconds of either half, the offensive team can decline the penalty for the foul and have the time on the clock expire.
  4. Fouls that occur in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter as well as the last two minutes of the first half will result in the clock starting on the snap.

Now, it doesn't state why these rules are in effect, but common sense tells me it is to make sure that teams don't try to buy themselves time by intentionally committing fouls that stop the clock or by faking injuries to get timeouts. This is where football almost resembles the legal system with precise definitions and sentences that are confusing.

Look at the second point. It basically says that if a team in possession of the ball is losing the game or is tied cannot get another time out by getting a penalty to stop the clock. If they do that, the clock should run off ten seconds. There were only ten seconds left in the game, so it appears by rule that the Cowboys should've won the game.

However, I looked at Charean Williams blog posted here: http://sportsblogs.star-telegram.com/cowboys/2010/12/10-second-runoff-rule.html and I found out that the rule applies to penalties that are used to stop the clock.

That's where it gets specific. It applies to penalties that stop the clock. Penalties that would stop a clock from moving between plays would be false starts or encroachments because they happened before the ball is snapped.

The illegal formation happens as the ball is snapped and in play so technically, there is no real intent to stop the clock before a play and therefore the ten-second runoff is not applicable. If the player had false-started and not been in an illegal formation, the Cowboys win the game.

If it sounds confusing to you, you are not alone. I'm able to understand it because I took a pre-law course, so I can decipher the complex sentences. Even Jerry Jones said he thought that Dallas had won the game at the time. A lot of the players were going to the locker rooms because they thought the game was over, but the referees got the call right.

That doesn't mean I agree with the rule though. It's a legal loophole, and I'm not sure if it should be there. The NFL may take steps in the offseason to address that rule because it definitely is complicated, and it is much easier to just say that if you commit a penalty, regardless of what it is, there should be a ten-second runoff on the clock.

However, according to my interpretation, the referees did not "screw" Dallas at all.

And even if they had, you can't say that the Cowboys should have allowed themselves to be put in those circumstances. They had numerous times to put the game away, and they didn't, and I'm not going to ask for the guillotine on one call that, the way I see it, is the correct call.

It is not like this is Super Bowl XL, where it looked like the referees were intentionally favoring the Steelers. This is one call on one play.

The game was Dallas' 10th loss of the season, and yet, the Cowboys still had some interesting milestones like Jason Witten getting his career-high eighth touchdown catch in a season. He has 90 catches, and if he gets five more, that will break his single-season record of 94. He had eight catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

DeMarcus Ware recorded his 13th sack on the season, Stephen McGee had a very good first outing for Dallas. He went 11/17 for 111 yards and a touchdown. Kitna, despite those two interceptions that I repeat weren't his fault, threw well. He went 12/20 for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Felix Jones had 16 rushes for 77 yards, Tashard Choice had four for 16 yards, and Miles Austin had six catches for 115 yards and a touchdown.

Overall, a game I will remember because of the clutch plays made by Fitzgerald and Ware. It is definitely a game to show Cowboys receivers about how you can make your quarterback look plain awful on a stat sheet if you don't catch those balls that are aimed right at you.

Comments

I love that we can sit in the silence together and know that silence is ok!

The comments to this entry are closed.

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