- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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IRVING, Texas -- Sometimes, the numbers lie. Sometimes, the numbers allow an owner such as Jerry Jones to lie to himself.
Sometimes, the numbers make an average offense appear to be good. The 2013 Dallas Cowboys were a perfect example of that.
If the Cowboys' offense had been good, the team would've made the playoffs this season, despite a historically bad defense.
That's the truth.
After all, we're talking about a team that finished 8-8, even though it gifted games to Detroit and Green Bay, and was positioned to beat Philadelphia.
Obviously, this is all a bunch of woulda, coulda, shoulda, but it's important to note -- because the worst thing an organization can do is lie to itself. Unfortunately, Jerry excels at that.
He's the ultimate optimist -- a man who has a warehouse full of rose-colored spectacles for any occasion.
So you know Jerry is going to look at having left tackle Tyron Smith, receiver Dez Bryant, tight end Jason Witten and running back DeMarco Murray in the Pro Bowl from a team that averaged 27.4 points -- fifth in the NFL -- and think everything is OK.
Much of it was a mirage.
Jerry will only see that Tony Romo passed for 3,828 yards with 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, Bryant had 1,233 yards receiving with 13 touchdowns, Murray had 1,124 yards rushing and an offensive line that ProFootballFocus.com considered one of the best in the NFL.
The owner is going to see all those numbers and believe it's all good.
But the game is about more than numbers. Look beyond the gaudy stats and you'll see that the Cowboys' offense often struggled when it mattered most.
Understand, the only positive thing the Cowboys did on defense this season was create turnovers, which often positioned the offense to score points. Too many times, though, the offense didn't take advantage of those opportunities.
Too many times, Dallas kicked field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. That cost the Cowboys victories against Detroit and Green Bay.
The Cowboys' defense scored five touchdowns and gave the offense the ball 21 times in the opponents' side of the field. The Cowboys scored only seven touchdowns in those situations.
In the regular-season finale against Philadelphia, the Cowboys trailed 17-13 midway through the third quarter. Jason Hatcher and DeMarcus Ware combined on a strip-sack and fumble recovery that gave the Cowboys the ball at the Philadelphia 20.
A touchdown would've given the Cowboys their first lead and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Maybe the momentum swing would've been enough for the Cowboys to win the game and the NFC East.
Instead, the offense produced only two yards on three plays, and settled for a field goal.
The Cowboys still trailed, 17-16.
Former coach Bill Parcells used to say there's a moment in every game where one team can seize control. The good teams and good players recognize that moment and ratchet up their intensity.
The average teams, and bad teams, let the moment slip past them.
Against Detroit, the defense forced four turnovers and gave the Cowboys the ball at the Lions' 4, 35 and 31. Dallas scored one touchdown and kicked two field goals, allowing Detroit to hang close enough to steal it at the end with an 80-yard drive in the final moments.
We know Calvin Johnson had 329 yards receiving, second-most in NFL history, and the Lions gained 623 yards -- at the time, the most the Cowboys had ever allowed.
Still, if the offense had done more than gain five yards and take only 22 seconds off the clock before settling for a field goal after the defense stopped Detroit on downs with 1 minute 24 seconds left, Dallas still would've won.
Against Green Bay, the Cowboys' defense played one of its best halves of the season, and the team took a 26-3 lead at intermission. Of course, if the offense had scored a touchdown instead of a field goal after Sterling Moore's interception gave Dallas the ball at the Packers' 20, they would've led 30-3 at halftime.
And if head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan had managed the game properly and run the ball, protecting their raggedy defense, the Cowboys still would've won.
Instead, they lost yet another heartbreaker.
The numbers say the Cowboys' offense had a good season. Reality says it was average.
This team still needs much work on both sides of the ball. Hopefully, Jerry removes his rose-colored spectacles and pays attention.
Despite some gaudy numbers, the Cowboys offense lacked killer instinct at key moments -- something Jerry Jones can't afford to ignore