Cowboys fans need to face reality

ARLINGTON -- The natural inclination is to rip everything and everyone after the Dallas Cowboys needed a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey in overtime to beat the Cleveland Browns.

After all, your Cowboys barely beat a 2-8 team in the midst of a season going nowhere coached by a man who will be fired at the end of the season.

Dallas 23, Cleveland 20.

So fight the urge to rip coach Jason Garrett. Quarterback Tony Romo, too. The same goes for the raggedy offensive line that yielded seven sacks and no running game.

And don't bother criticizing punter Brian Moorman for an awful fourth-quarter punt that set up Cleveland's go-ahead touchdown with 1:07 left or a defense that made Brandon Weeden look like a good quarterback, when there hasn't been any tangible evidence this season to support that.

Instead, snatch off those rose-colored Ray-Bans and begin to deal with reality. Stop expecting these Cowboys to give you something they're incapable of giving.

They're not going to play mistake-free games and wow you with their offensive and defensive efficiency most weeks. Stop assessing style points to the Cowboys' wins and just enjoy them because we have no idea how many they're getting this season.

The Cowboys are a team with championship aspirations and not much else. Obviously, the players and coaches won't like that.

Too bad. It's true.

We all know it. And we all see it every time they play a game.

These Cowboys, the epitome of mediocre, are 2-5 against teams with winning records this season. They're a dumb team -- personal fouls by Orlando Scandrick and Jay Ratliff reinforced that point Sunday -- and they're not talented enough to consistently overcome the litany of mistakes they make each week.

They did this week because Cleveland, loser of 12 consecutive road games, is a football abomination. As usual, Garrett preferred to talk about building on the positives. And Romo refused to apologize for winning.

All of that's fine, but within the sanctity of the team's meeting rooms and the coach's offices, someone better be spitting truth like one starter did after the game.

"We should've lost," he said. "We ain't [expletive]. We can't beat anybody this way."

Listen to Garrett and he'll try to persuade you the Browns were among the league's best teams.

They're not.

The Browns ranked 24th in total defense (370.1 yards per game), 27th in run defense (132.2 yards), 22nd in pass defense (247.9) and 23rd in scoring defense (23.4).

They ranked 28th in total offense (312.0), 27th in rushing offense (89.2), 18th in passing offense (222.8) and 26th in scoring offense (18.8).

Don't forget, Garrett told us kick and punt returner Josh Cribbs was the "most talked about player" on the Browns' team.

FYI: A kick returner is never the best player on a good team.

That said, Cleveland dominated both lines of scrimmage. Frankly, the Browns did everything but win.

Give the Cowboys credit for battling and failing to give into a worthless emotion such as frustration, when they trailed 13-0 at halftime. Or when a Romo fumble with 5:01 left in the fourth quarter ruined an opportunity for the Cowboys to clinch the victory.

Or when the Browns grabbed a 20-17 lead with 1:07 left on yet another scoring play where the Cowboys were late getting their defensive personnel into the game. This team makes so many fundamental errors all you can do is shake your head most games.

But the Cowboys figured out how to win, and that's ultimately what's most important.

Romo drove the Cowboys to a game-tying 32-yard field goal as time expired, thanks to a 35-yard pass interference that Dwayne Harris drew. In overtime, Harris' 20-yard punt return set up Bailey's game winner.

Afterward, relief seemed more the mood than exhilaration.

"You've got to find a way to win games and it's not always going to be pretty," Garrett said. "I think in a lot of ways, games like this define what you want and who you are. The last 30 minutes really showed a lot about our football team.

"You've got to battle and fight through and find a way to win a game like this. We were able to do that."

The Cowboys are .500 again and remain in complete control of their playoff future.

All they have to do is get to 10 wins.