Commentary

Cowboys' character out of bounds

Comeback effort against Giants has no merit if lingering flaws keep costing games

Updated: October 29, 2012, 2:47 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Two inches. Maybe less.

That was the difference Sunday afternoon between exhilaration and disillusionment for the Dallas Cowboys. It was the difference between Jason Garrett getting the signature win of his 31-game tenure and just another close loss by the inconsistent Cowboys.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Rodger Mallison/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT/Getty ImagesDez Bryant was inches from rescuing the Cowboys, but last-minute heroics wouldn't be needed if the team didn't keep digging itself holes.
New York 29, Dallas 24.

With 10 seconds left, Dez Bryant's apparent 37-yard touchdown catch between two defenders was negated because he had parts of two fingers, if that, on the white boundary in the back of the end zone to brace himself as he fell.

It would've been a magnificent catch by Bryant, and we'd all be discussing whether this was his coming-out party. It would've been a magnificent comeback by Romo, who threw three first-half interceptions.

It would've been a testament to Garrett's process about playing relentlessly regardless of the opponent or the score.

Instead, it's just another loss at Cowboys Stadium, where the home team is a pedestrian 15-12 in its fourth season. In case you didn't know, the Giants are now 4-0 in the $1.2 billion stadium Jerry Jones built, but Eli Manning owns.

"To see the game end that way," said Brandon Carr, "was kind of heartbreaking."

No doubt, but the Cowboys have no one to blame but themselves. Who's surprised? We see this mess way too often.

See, no one cares about the way the Cowboys battled back from a 23-point first-half deficit since it was their own fault they were so far behind. And no one cares about the character they showed in nearly winning despite five turnovers.

Or how they'll clean up the turnovers. Or the positives they can build upon from this loss.

We've heard it all before. Every single word of it. Multiple times.

From the coach. And the quarterback. And the owner.

Heck, we heard it all two weeks ago when the Cowboys lost a game they dominated in Baltimore.

It's time for results.

In the span of 60 minutes, the Cowboys were abject. Then stupendous.

In the end, though, these Cowboys did what they usually do: They lost.

Tell me if you've heard this before: Romo threw three interceptions in the Cowboys' first four possessions.

On the first one, Bryant said he was off-balance at the top of route, so he couldn't cut precisely across the middle. On the second interception, Miles Austin let Corey Webster outfight him on a jump ball.

Then, Jason Pierre-Paul made a leaping pick of a pass in the flat and returned it 28 yards for a touchdown and a 23-0 lead with 13:05 left in the second quarter.

If not for a terrific performance from the defense, which allowed just 293 yards and 11 first downs, the Cowboys would've never had an opportunity to rally.

But they did.

The Cowboys took a 24-23 lead on John Phillips' 1-yard touchdown run with 3:43 left in the third quarter, and they had a chance to build on it when Danny McCray intercepted a pass on the next possession.

Anyone who's watched these two teams during the past couple of years knew the Cowboys were going to need more points because the Giants are the league's best fourth-quarter team -- and the Cowboys are among the worst.

Each team played to its pedigree.

Felix Jones lost a fumble on the Cowboys' first possession of the fourth quarter and Romo threw yet another interception on the next one. Fittingly, Romo's final pass sailed out of the end zone.

"We don't have time to be frustrated," tight end Jason Witten said. "No one cares. It's the part of the season where, ultimately, we have to find a way to be winners at the end."

Ten wins usually guarantees a playoff spot, and the Cowboys must go 7-2 in their last nine game to get there. These Cowboys, who have not won consecutive game this season, must go 6-3 to have any hope of making the playoffs.

"We ask our team all the time -- 46 guys for 60 minutes -- and there's no question 46 guys gave tremendous effort for 60 minutes," Garrett said. "We put our defense and our team in some really difficult situations with the early turnovers.

"Our team did a great job battling back and really scratching and clawing and fighting and making it manageable."

It wasn't enough.

It rarely is with this team destined to miss the playoffs -- in this era of NFL parity -- for the fourth time in five seasons.

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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