How many moral victories can a team obtain before the lesson has taken too long to work to that team's advantage? If that number is three, then the Dallas Cowboys can't afford another. If it's two, they're already in big trouble.
Technically, Dez Bryant's fingers cost the Cowboys a victory Sunday against the New York Giants. And this time it had nothing to do with how slippery said appendages were. This time, those fingers were the first and only part of Bryant's body that was out of bounds as the receiver made what would have been a game-winning, season-changing Hail Mary catch with only 10 seconds to play.
You'll hear about that play all week, of course. But it's not the only reason the Cowboys came up short. After all, they were forced to come back from a 23-0 deficit after the offense vomited all over itself throughout the first half, turning the ball over three times on the first four possessions of the game.
The "moral victory" side of things is that they nearly won despite those turnovers, a so-so pass rush and no running game at all. Their pass-run ratio was 68-15, which is flat-out ridiculous. But Tony Romo and Jason Witten found a groove together in the second half and Bryant and Austin began making plays for once.
They weren't given much of a chance in this game, especially with top defender Sean Lee out, but they pitched one of their top defensive efforts of the season anyway. They outplayed the defending Super Bowl champions for the second time in eight weeks, but that won't matter if they can't play well enough over the next nine weeks to earn one of six NFC playoff spots.
That's why it's concerning that the Cowboys have now been limited to "moral victories" twice in the last three weeks, despite outplaying all three of the opponents they've faced during that stretch. With the margin for error so low, that's close to unacceptable.
On a per-game basis, only the Chiefs have turned it over more than the Cowboys have thus far. That's the primary reason why this team is deep in a hole. They've played well outside of that, but now we have to wonder if or when the turnovers will be curbed.
Until that happens, the Cowboys won't have any excuses.