All of Cowboys Nation is in mourning today.
The Cowboys' 2009 campaign came to crashing end on Sunday thanks to a 34-3 demolition at the hands of the No. 2 seed Minnesota Vikings in the NFC Divisional Playoff game at Mall of America Field.
In the week leading to the game, the Cowboys were the toast of the NFL, having beaten the Philadelphia Eagles in the regular season finale 24-0 to claim the NFC East title, having won their first regular season finale in quite a few years, and then the very next week beating those same Eagles in the NFC Wild Card round 34-14 for their first playoff win since Dec. 28, 1996 over—ironically—the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 40-15.
The Cowboys had hoped to further capture some magic and keep their best campaign in recent memory alive by winning a road playoff game for the first time since the 1992 NFC Championship game and add to franchise postseason history, which included the "Hail Mary" play from 1975 when Roger Staubach connected with Drew Pearson on the infamous "push off play" for a game winning touchdown that propelled the Cowboys all the way to Super Bowl X.
There was no such drama on this day, much to the delight of Vikings fans in the raucous Metrodome.
Tony Romo, pictured above, endured punishment of the same for the entire game. He was beaten and bullied by the seemingly superior Vikings defense.
Much to the chagrin of fans who will not forget his miscues: Three fumbles with two lost and an interception to Vikings LB Ben Leber deep in his own territory.
Hardline Cowboys fans will not easily remember this was Romo's best season since taking over as starter in 2006 with him breaking his own record for passing yards (4,483), QB rating (97.6), and fewest interceptions (9).
The offensive line could do little against the vaunted Vikings defensive line as the Cowboys gave up six sacks and were held without a touchdown in the playoffs for the first time since a 1991 divisional playoff loss to the Detroit Lions by a score of 38-6.
The glaring frame that will stand out in not only my mind but the minds of Cowboys' faithful everywhere was on the Cowboys' second possession on 4th and 1.
Instead of going for it and keeping the drive alive, Shaun Suisham is sent on to try a 48-yard field goal that goes wide left and ultimately shifts momentum to Minnesota.
The defense got after Brett Favre (three sacks) as expected, but they could do little as Favre found receiver Sidney Rice (before this game, I didn't know who he was!) for three touchdowns which proved to be too much, with Rice making the exclamation point on the game as he out-muscled the Cowboys' secondary all day long.
It also didnt help as the offense kept turning it over or going three and out and leaving the defense with short fields to defend against a quarterback who, even at 40 years old, still has what it takes to win in the NFL.
With their season in the books, the Cowboys don't have as many questions heading into the offseason as last year, but the question will remain.
Can Romo truly lead the Cowboys to a Super Bowl championship, like Aikman and Staubach before him?
Or will he be more of a Danny White, who broke records and produced crazy numbers but couldn't win a Super Bowl?
As a Cowboys fan, you have to have reason for optimism because the core of this team is still young.
They were picked to finish 3rd in the NFC East and go 7-9. But with an 11-win season and their second NFC East Division title in three years, a December to remember with wins over previously undefeated New Orleans, and then shutting out both Washington and Philadelphia in consecutive weeks and a seemingly long elusive playoff win under their belts, this team under Wade Phillips and Tony Romo is headed in the right direction and the future indeed looks bright in Arlington, Texas.