Commentary

It's hard to have faith in Cowboys

Listless loss to Eagles fails to reassure heading into NFC East showdown with Giants

Updated: December 24, 2011, 11:45 PM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A few positives emerged from yet another butt-kicking by the Philadelphia Eagles.

[+] EnlargeBrent Celek
Tim Heitman/US PresswireThe Cowboys defense didn't play much better the second time around, allowing Brent Celek and the Eagles 386 yards.
First, your Dallas Cowboys avoided being shut out at home for the first time in 165 games -- 7,405 days, to be exact. Tony Romo's right hand is bruised but not broken, and Felix Jones' hamstring is OK.

Oh, and your Cowboys can still win the NFC East. All they have to do is beat the New York Giants on New Year's Day.

Good luck.

They're going to need it. The last time the Cowboys played in a winner-take-all game to end the regular season, Philadelphia won by 38 points in 2008 in the most gutless performance in franchise history.

The Cowboys didn't do anything in Philadelphia's 20-7 win Saturday to make us think they can beat the Giants and secure the fourth seed in the NFC.

Once the Giants beat the Jets, 29-14, the Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs and the Cowboys knew they'd have to beat New York on the road to win the division.

So the game was meaningless, if you believe in that sort of thing, for both teams. Then again, we should never be surprised when the Eagles blow out the Cowboys.

Andy Reid's team has beaten the Cowboys 12 times by 13 points or more since 2000. FYI: The Giants and Washington Redskins, Dallas' other NFC East rivals, have done it a combined six times.

Romo, who took all of the first-team practice repetitions this week, left the game after throwing two passes when he banged his throwing hand on defensive end Jason Babin's helmet.

He should be fine for next Sunday.

The Cowboys' pathetic offense with Stephen McGee at the helm never game the team a chance.

McGee completed 24 passes for just 182 yards. In a league where average quarterbacks average 7.0 yards per attempt, McGee averaged 4.8. He completed just one pass of more than 15 yards.

The Cowboys punted on their first nine possessions.

McGee is an ideal third quarterback, much like Jason Garrett was during the bulk of his career, but he's not skilled enough to be the backup if Jon Kitna retires.

The best thing McGee did was not commit a turnover and drive the Cowboys 16 yards for their only touchdown with seven seconds left.

Garrett said the Cowboys defense played well.

It didn't.

Sure, it played better than it did a couple of months ago when the Eagles smashed the Cowboys 34-7, but that's not really saying much.

The Eagles totaled 386 yards, including six plays of 20 yards or more, and the Cowboys never slowed them down for an extended period.

Dallas must play better to beat the Giants in a game that has been moved to prime time Sunday night.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Giants rallied from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Cowboys 37-34 behind Eli Manning's 400 yards passing.

Talent won't determine whether the Cowboys beat the Giants.

This game is going to be all about the intangibles the Cowboys have routinely failed to display when it matters most. This game is going to be about heart and courage and toughness.

It's going to be about all of the things Garrett has been talking about since he took over last November.

See, there's no tangible evidence the Cowboys have what it takes to win a game with everything on the line.

After all, we're talking about a team with one playoff win since 1997. We're talking about a club that's one game over .500 in the same time frame.

Only Kansas City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Detroit, Buffalo and Houston have fewer playoff wins than Dallas since 1997.

This is the same team that lost the last game at Texas Stadium and the first game at their $1.2 billion dream stadium. They even lost the 2005 game in which Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin were inducted into the Ring of Honor.

That, friends, is reality.

As we embark upon a new year, it's not up to me to have hope and faith and optimism that the Cowboys will go to MetLife Stadium and do something recent history says they won't do.

It's up to this team's leaders -- Romo, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Witten and Bradie James -- to show their teammates how to practice with urgency and focus.

It's up to this team's playmakers -- Sean Lee, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones and Mike Jenkins -- to make game-changing plays.

Garrett and his players don't like discussing this team's annual December swoon. Each season, they insist, is different.

All I know is the Cowboys are 1-3 this month, and if they don't beat the Giants they'll miss the playoffs.

Again.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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