If the Dallas Cowboys don't like being one of the most scrutinized teams in the league, they didn't do themselves any favors on Sunday night.
In front of a home crowd for their Week 15 matchup with the Green Bay Packers, the Cowboys let a 26-3 halftime lead slip through their hands en route to an astonishingly bad 37-36 loss.
ESPN's Mike Sando noted the rarity of the defeat:
Before today, NFL teams were 424-5 since 2001 (counting playoffs) when leading by 23 points in the 3rd quarter. #Cowboys— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) December 16, 2013
Cowboys beat writer Clarence Hill and Sports Illustrated's Peter Bukowski, meanwhile, attempted to sum up the atrocity:
This is the worst loss I've seen and I have been covering the Cowboys since 1997..— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) December 16, 2013
The Cowboys just lost back-to-back games against backup quarterbacks and terrible defenses. Like...that's indefensible.— Peter Bukowski (@BukoTime) December 16, 2013
Despite horrendous defense and questionable play-calling, the biggest target for criticism following the loss was, of course, Tony Romo, who threw for 358 yards and two touchdowns but also tossed two costly interceptions late in the fourth quarter.
His first, which came when he alluded pressure and probably should have just held onto the ball, set up Eddie Lacy's go-ahead touchdown:
To make matters worse, head coach Jason Garrett said after the game that a run was originally called, but Romo checked out and called a pass instead, via DallasCowboys.com's Rowan Kavner:
Garrett said Romo checked out of second down run play on first of two late picks in the fourth quarter at time when Cowboys led— Rowan Kavner (@KavnerDC) December 16, 2013
Then, with just over a minute remaining, Romo misfired and Tramon Williams made the diving pick to end the game:
While everyone was busy pointing fingers at Romo, the intended receiver on the play, Cole Beasley, was quick to take the blame for the interception. From ESPN's Tim MacMahon:
Cole Beasley took blame for last pick. Said he "throttled down" on route when that wasn't an option.— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) December 16, 2013
Of course, while Beasley was taking the blame, Garrett, in addition to what many are dubbing "throwing Romo under the bus," was quick to note that it was offensive coordinator Bill Callahan calling the plays, via NBC's Newy Scruggs:
"Bill calls the plays," Jason Garrett on the playcalling at the end of the game. #leadership— Newy Scruggs (@newyscruggs) December 16, 2013
Those comments led K-TWIN Vikings analyst Sean Jensen to make this joke about jolly ol' St. Nick:
If someone doesn't stop him, Jason Garrett is going to throw Santa Claus under the bus next... #bahhumbug— Sean Jensen (@seankjensen) December 16, 2013
Lana Berry then summed up the thoughts of most Cowboys fans at the moment:
please fire jason garrett please fire jason garrett please fire jason garrett please fire jason garrett please fire jason garrett please fir— Lana Berry (@Lana) December 16, 2013
Back to the play-calling, which was a disaster. The 'Boys took a huge lead into the second half and DeMarco Murray was gashing the Packers defense (7.4 yards per carry), but for whatever reason, the run game was essentially abandoned.
Pro Football Focus' Mike Clay puts a number on the ludicrous, head-scratching play selection:
In fact, Cowboys had a 17:3 pass:run ratio after the Dan Bailey field goal to start the 2nd half. Wow.— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) December 16, 2013
The loss seemed to hit wide receiver Dez Bryant—who tallied 11 catches, 153 yards and one unbelievable late touchdown grab—especially hard, as he departed for the locker room before the final whistle, refusing to participate in the postgame handshakes.
Bryant, who is known for sometimes being too emotional to a fault, gave his reasoning after the game:
I walked back to the locker room because I was emotional...it had nothing to do with my teammates we had it... We fought and didn't finish— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) December 16, 2013
Things are tumultuous (to say the least) right now in Dallas, but after all of that, the Cowboys are still 7-7 and within striking distance of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
With the way things are going, though, fans in Dallas probably shouldn't hold out hope for the postseason.