Redskins vs. Cowboys: Dallas Lacks Required Focus, Discipline to Make Playoffs

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistNovember 22, 2012

Nov 22, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) lowers his head as he leaves the field after a loss against the Washington Redskins during a game on Thanksgiving at Cowboys Stadium. The Redskins beat the Cowboys 38-31. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE

On paper, the Dallas Cowboys are still more than alive in the NFC East race, but after falling into third place in the division in another sloppy effort, you'd be crazy to think that the Cowboys have a reasonable chance to accomplish anything in December and January. 

For the second straight week, Dallas was embarrassingly flat early, this time against the Washington Redskins, falling behind 28-3 by the time halftime arrived. This time, though, there was no Thanksgiving magic at home for Tony Romo and Co. A comeback effort was thwarted late as the 'Boys were outworked, out-executed and simply outplayed by a team that's in just as bad shape as they are from an injury perspective.

So why should we care that Dallas' schedule is weak? This is a team that barely beat the three-win Eagles and the two-win Browns in the weeks that led to this matchup, and one of the league's most mistake-prone teams reverted to old habits Thursday, preventing it from being capable of making yet another second-half comeback. 

Three more turnovers for a team that already had more than all but one other team in the conference. Seven more penalties for a team that now leads the league in that category. Four freakin' false starts. 

Mental mistakes have plagued this team for the vast majority of this season. At this point, it's obvious that what killed them early this year wasn't an aberration. These aren't tough stretches for an otherwise talented team. 

This is what the Dallas Cowboys are. And it won't likely change between now and Dec. 30. 

This is a very skilled team, but they're also just too banged up right now. They haven't had a break since a Week 5 bye and lost two more starters Thursday, with Miles Austin and Bruce Carter both going down.

There was a question as to whether this roster could survive the losses of Sean Lee and DeMarco Murray, but throw in Austin and Carter and Orlando Scandrick and factor in Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman, Tyron Smith and Phil Costa and it's just impossible to expect such an unfocused team to overcome the bumps and bruises. 

The unfocused part is the key, though, and nobody is exempt. Romo had been playing so efficiently of late, but both of his picks Thursday were on him. Rob Ryan's defense continues to have embarrassing lapses. Dez Bryant didn't drop anything, but his fumble was more costly than a drop. The play-calling sucked again, too.

You know, there was a play Thursday that defined the Cowboys' season. Actually, it defined this entire era of Cowboys football. With Dallas down three scores and facing a 2nd-and-6 in the third quarter, Romo threw a six-yard, first-down pass to Jason Witten. The chains moved, but Jason Garrett called for a quarterback sneak anyway, believing it was third down and short. Romo pushed forward for a comically unnecessary two-yard gain on 1st-and-10.

For a play like that to be called from the sideline, relayed in the huddle and executed on the field, it's astonishing how many people have to be completely oblivious to what's happening. 

That, ladies and gentleman, is how you should remember the 2012 Dallas Cowboys. No attention to detail. No focus. No leadership.