The Dallas Cowboys may still be in the lead in the NFC East, but in blowing Sunday's road game against the Detroit Lions in the waning seconds, America's Team proved to still be mediocre.
Despite sporting one of the more talented NFL rosters and a viable quarterback in Tony Romo, the Cowboys can't seem to gain any traction. Pitiful late-game defense, a sideline temper tantrum and playing not to lose rather than to win cost Dallas in a 31-30 loss at Ford Field.
These things don't happen to organizations with sound infrastructure and consistency, but they happen to the Cowboys on a regular basis:
It's resulted in a pedestrian 4-4 record at the midway mark of the 2013 season. Being at the top of the weakest division in pro football is little consolation, either.
A Tampa 2 defensive scheme that is not suited for Dallas' personnel has exposed a horrendous secondary, which was lit up for 488 yards by Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Now of course, it has to be noted that Calvin Johnson went full-on Megatron and caught 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson is an extraordinary player, but it's not as though Detroit has a lot of other viable receiving options outside of him.
Monte Kiffin seemed oblivious to making any adjustments whatsoever, and the Cowboys let Johnson beat them almost single-handedly.
On offense, not much more could have been asked of Dallas, whose offense put up 17 fourth-quarter points to hang tough. However, pseudo-diva receiver Dez Bryant's antics once again caused turmoil.
Bryant got into a heated confrontation with tight end Jason Witten when the Lions took the lead for good with 12 seconds left in the game. Perhaps it was in frustration at blowing yet another high-profile contest, but it was precisely what Dallas didn't need.
What made it worse was that it was in the public eye, rather than confined to the locker room.
After the game, Bryant met with head coach Jason Garrett, while Witten met with owner Jerry Jones:
Garrett has been heralded for his offensive brilliance, but he delegated play-calling duties to Bill Callahan, whose passing game was torching the Lions at will early in the fourth.
Conservatism then kicked in, and it's likely to be met with heat under the intense microscope the Cowboys are always subjected to:
This was a golden opportunity for Dallas to notch a win away from home against a quality, playoff-positioned opponent. When everything was on the line, though, this Cowboys team once again faded in the face of pressure, and allowed itself to be attacked when it should have been the aggressor.
The defense remained on its heels, and an indecisive offense failed to finish.
Dallas may be a default postseason qualifier given the horrendous state of its division.
Until that awful defensive backfield adjusts, the distractions are amended and the fervor to fight to the final whistle spikes, this will indeed be the same old Cowboys.