Winning Cures All Ills – Sort Of. OR Hope for America's Team

Steve HartlineCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2009

IRVING, TX - JANUARY 13:  Owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones smiles on the sidelines before the NFC Divisional Playoff game against the New York Giants at Texas Stadium on January 13, 2008 in Irving, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I woke up the day after a Cowboy game feeling good for a change; probably for the first time in a month. Not only had the Cowboys won in December, and put to rest the December Doldrums “at least for this week” as Tony Romo stated in his post game comments, but they managed to do so against the New Orleans Saints, who Deion Sanders has dubbed “America’s Hope” for the 2009 season. This win also ended the Saints improbably run at a perfect 16-0 record. The fact that they did so in the Superdome makes the smell of success even sweeter. I had a little skip in my step going into the kitchen to get a cup of joe as it dawned on me: the Cowboys are still in the play-off hunt and control their own destiny. One of my holiday wishes had been granted.

But before I get too far along into this Feel Good-a-thon, I want to briefly get into what was bad about the game and out of the way right now.  For the past month, my blog has been uber critical of the blunders, mistakes, and constantly monitoring the Sack Wade Campaign. I still stand by comments that the Cowboys need to make and advance deep into the play-offs or some Heads Are Gonna Roll.  So to summarize; the bad last night manifested itself in two areas:

1.        Nick Folk has run out of excuses

2.       Jason Garrett pulling a Lieberman and switching his allegiance to the Conservative Party.

Nick Folk missed a critical late fourth quarter 24 yard chip shot that would put have essentially put the game out of reach for the Saints. He Gone.  And in spite of a brilliantly executed offense for most of the game, Jason Garrett’s decision to kill the clock late in the game with the Cowboys in the Red Zone instead of taking AT LEAST ONE SHOT to the end zone that WOULD have put the game out of reach for the Saints. Why did you get all gun shy Jason? Did your Winchester jam? I’d love to hear this discussed.

So, for the first 50 minutes of the game, the Cowboys looked every bit like a championship caliber team.  The defensive game plan Wade scripted was run to perfection.  The Saints first two possessions resulted in three and outs and allowed the offense to make its mark.  Through 3 quarters the defense smothered the latest installment of the Greatest Show On Turf and held them to THREE POINTS. They hassled Brees enough to throw off his timing. Ware on third downs was a stud.  Jenkins was in a groove.

On offense, Miles smoked the secondary and ran one in from mid field, and the Barbarian ran an end around (???) to scamper into the end zone, both accounting for 14 points in the first quarter. The delayed draw against a susceptible Saints line and line backing corp. was working to perfection. TE Philips surprised with Hands catches and Tony showed flashes of the old Improvisational Romo to make positive yardage on busted plays and miscommunications. The Cowboys were rolling. What lit such a fire?

Perhaps it was owner Jerry Jones who inspired.  I tuned into the NFL network at 4 PM and watched all of the pre game coverage.  The highlight was definitely when Jerry appeared on the set and was candid and charismatic as only Jerry can be:  By his own words, he was “Nervous as a cat” (laughs from all). Putting the entire season on the line, he wasn’t “cavalier”, and shared a personal side of himself that a national audience probably has never seen.  He is superstitious, wearing his father’s cuff links for the game; although these were “retreads”, apparently having worn them before (laughs from all). When asked about the Saints, he indicated his first impressions of head coach Sean Payton were that he was “silly” (laughs from all). But more revealing, when asked when he had last addressed the team, he stated “last Sunday night, after the loss to the Chargers”.

He related how he told the locker room that about 15 years before he bought the team he had his credit cards cut up in front of him while trying to rent a car. “Hard Times even for Dallas”. His point didn’t exactly play out well in the interview, but I think everyone understood.  I did:  Stay focus and never give up.  All things are possible if you apply yourself. I know in the retelling it gave me goose bumps. I imagine it had the same effect to most of the staff 6 nights earlier. It gave me hope that the Cowboys were primed and ready for this game, ready to execute.

So enjoy this win folks.  It was HUGH. The Cowboys played like we thought they could. The game plan management scripted for the Saints was brilliant. The execution outstanding for the first 50 minutes and the last 18 seconds (hey, I don’t care who you are; you cannot contain the Saints for 60 minutes).  If the organization can remain this focused for the rest of the season, they will make the play-offs. There is Hope for America’s Team. Just keep wearing those cuff links Mr Jones.