2014 DRAFT GUIDE
Cowboys can't shake gloom of late-season flops

    2012-12-31 18:04

(Eds: Updates throughout with quotes, details. Stands for FBN--Cowboys-Wrapup. With AP Photos.)
By SCHUYLER DIXON
AP Sports Writer

IRVING, Texas (AP) - Tony Romo sat alone on the Dallas bench, his stare frozen at the ground on a cold night in Washington.

Any number of things could have been going through the mind of the Cowboys quarterback in the final minutes of a 28-18 loss to the Redskins on Sunday night - his third playoffs-or-bust failure in five years in a finale against an NFC East rival.

Maybe it was his latest big mistake in a huge moment, an interception that helped Washington clinch the win. Or his famous flub on the hold for what could have been a game-winning field goal in his first playoff game six years ago at Seattle. Or that the Cowboys still had a chance so late in a season notable for the death of a teammate and injuries to so many key players.

``It stings,'' said Romo, who dropped to 1-6 in elimination games with Dallas. ``You put your heart into this thing for so long, throughout the year, this offseason. We had to overcome a lot of stuff just to get ourselves in this situation.''

The words of tight end Jason Witten when he arrived at training camp - ``can't be the same old story'' - haunt the Cowboys now because it was. Mistakes and poor game management cost them some wins early in the season. Interceptions - nine of them - piled up on Romo in two losses. After winning five of six to regain control of their playoff fate, the Cowboys dropped the last two.

In the recent series of winner-take-all finales, the Cowboys have been swept by their three division rivals. Philadelphia blew them out in 2008, and the New York Giants took a 21-0 lead in a 31-14 victory last season.

Romo had the ball 85 yards from the end zone against the Redskins, with plenty of time to lead a scoring drive that could have ended a two-year playoff drought. Instead, he floated a pass that leaping Redskins linebacker Rob Jackson grabbed, and now Dallas is missing the postseason for the fourth time in Romo's six full seasons as the starter.

Dallas has become the definition of mediocrity, finishing 8-8 for the second year in a row and now holding a record of 128-128 since the start of the 1997 season. That means 2013 will be the third straight year with a record that starts at an even .500 going back more than a decade. Dallas has one playoff win in that span.

``If we don't do a good enough job then it is the same old story,'' Witten said Monday in a quiet and mostly empty Cowboys locker room. ``We've just got to stomach it up and get better because of it. That's the only way to get to the top.''

Much has changed since Dallas was 3-5 and facing early playoff elimination. In the midst of the 5-1 stretch that vaulted them to a tie for the division lead, the Cowboys had to play through the death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown in a car accident that led to intoxication manslaughter charges against nose tackle Josh Brent.

The wreck happened hours before Brent was supposed to be on the team plane to Cincinnati, where he was expected to start in place of injured Jay Ratliff. Dallas scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and beat the Bengals 20-19 on a field goal by Dan Bailey as time expired.

That turned out to be the first of three straight games decided on the final play, with the Cowboys splitting back-to-back overtime games at home by beating Pittsburgh and losing to New Orleans.

Questions about coach Jason Garrett's job disappeared as he steered the team through the death of Brown and the wins kept coming. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones lauded Garrett's leadership, and while Jones hasn't directly said Garrett will return, he has said he was never really considering an alternative.

Now the question is whether these Cowboys will be remembered for perseverance or another failure.

``I think we'll probably remember it for both of those things,'' Garrett said. ``These players and coaches went through a lot this year, overcame a lot of adversity, handled things the right way, got stronger as a result of it and that's really a special thing to be a part of.''

Injuries picked part the Dallas defense most of the season, but it was the offense's turn against the Redskins. Receivers Dez Bryant, Miles Austin and Dwayne Harris were sidelined at various times, and Bryant spent the night in a hospital after injuring his back late in the game.

Bryant, who had a breakout season with 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns, was moving gingerly on crutches at team headquarters Monday. Austin and Harris had sprained ankles.

The defense, which gave up 200 yards rushing to Washington rookie Alfred Morris, will eagerly await the return of inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter, along with three other starters who missed significant time. Several waiver wire pickups played plenty of snaps late in the season.

``Eventually, we're going to get this thing right,'' said cornerback Brandon Carr, who signed a $50 million free agent contract this year. ``This offseason is going to be turned up a few more notches than last offseason. I don't accept losing and none of the guys in this locker room accepts losing and we're tired of this feeling.''

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Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lschuylerd

Fantasy Football Player Notes RSS FeedPLAYER NOTES

Giovani BernardOct 31 11:12a

Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard (hip, shoulder) is unlikely to play in Week 9.

Trent RichardsonOct 31 10:32a

Indianapolis Colts RB Trent Richardson (hamstring) is not on the injury report for Week 9, and should be able to play Monday, Nov. 3.

Rashad JenningsOct 31 10:12a

New York Giants RB Rashad Jennings (knee) is aiming to return for the Week 10 game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Ronnie HillmanOct 31 09:12a

Updating previous reports, Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (shoulder) is expected to have his normal workload in Week 9, despite his limited practice repetitions.

DeAngelo HallOct 31 08:52a

Washington Redskins CB DeAngelo Hall (Achilles') tore his Achilles' again at home and had surgery to repair it Thursday, Oct. 30.

Ron JohnsonOct 30 08:22p

Seattle Seahawks CB Richard Sherman (back), DE Michael Bennett (toe), C Stephen Schilling (knee), CB Tharold Simon (knee), CB Byron Maxwell (calf), LB Malcolm Smith (groin), DT Jordan Hill [ More ]

Patrick WillisOct 30 07:52p

San Francisco 49res CB Tramaine Brock (toe) and LB Patrick Willis (toe) were limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Jimmie Ward (quadriceps) and CB Chris Culliver (hamstring) practiced in full.

Chris MatthewsOct 30 07:42p

The Seattle Seahawks re-signed WR Chris Matthews and TE Brett Brackett to their practice squad Thursday, Oct. 30.

Scott WellsOct 30 07:42p

St. Louis Rams OG Rodger Saffold (shoulder), CB Janoris Jenkins (knee), DT Aaron Donald (shoulder) and S Cody Davis (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Rodney McLeod [ More ]

Luke JoeckelOct 30 07:22p

Jacksonville Jaguars OT Luke Joeckel (concussion) has recovered nicely from the concussion he suffered in Week 8, and he could play in Week 9 against the Cincinnati Bengals. Joeckel [ More ]

Pierre ThomasOct 30 07:22p

New Orleans Saints RBs Khiry Robinson (forearm) and Pierre Thomas (shoulder) are both inactive in Week 9 against the Carolina Panthers Thursday, Oct. 30.

Arian FosterOct 30 07:12p

Houston Texans RB Arian Foster (knee) was limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Johnathan JosephOct 30 07:12p

Houston Texans LBs Brian Cushing (knee), Brooks Reed (groin) and Jeff Tarpinian (knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. RB Alfred Blue (ankle), LB Jadeveon Clowney (knee), CB Johnathan [ More ]

David HawthorneOct 30 07:12p

The New Orleans Saints have declared LB Austin Johnson, LB David Hawthorne, C Jonathan Goodwin, RB Khiry Robinson, WR Nick Toon, RB Pierre Thomas, CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste inactive for Week 9.

Amini SilatoluOct 30 07:12p

The Carolina Panthers have declared OG Amini Silatolu, CB Bene Benwikere, OT Byron Bell, RB Fozzy Whittaker, WR Philly Brown, FS Thomas DeCoud, OG Trai Turner inactive for Week 9.

Justin TuckOct 30 06:42p

Oakland Raiders TE David Ausberry (foot), WR Vincent Brown (hamstring), CB Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring), CB Keith McGill (groin), CB Carlos Rogers (knee) and WR Kenbrell Thompkins (non-injury) did not [ More ]

Anthony CollinsOct 30 06:42p

Tampa Bay Buccaneers OT Anthony Collins (foot) and LB Brandon Magee (knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. C Evan Dietrich-Smith (knee), WR Trindon Holliday (hamstring) and DE Michael Johnson (hand) were limited.

Brian RobisonOct 30 06:32p

Minnesota Vikings DT Shariff Floyd (ankle, knee), TE Chase Ford (foot), CB Jabari Price (hamstring), CB Josh Robinson (ankle) and DE Brian Robison (glute) were limited in practice Thursday, [ More ]

Louis VasquezOct 30 06:22p

Denver Broncos S Quinton Carter (hamstring) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Lamin Barrow (concussion), TE Virgil Green (calf), LB Steven Johnson (ankle) and OG Louis Vasquez (illness) [ More ]

Ronnie HillmanOct 30 06:22p

Denver Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman (shoulder) was limited in practice for the second straight day Thursday, Oct. 30.

Billy WinnOct 30 06:22p

Cleveland Browns WR Rodney Smith (hamstring) and DE Phil Taylor (knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DE Desmond Bryant (wrist), S Jim Leonhard (ankle), LB Barkevious Mingo (shoulder), [ More ]

Jordan CameronOct 30 06:12p

Cleveland Browns TE Jordan Cameron (concussion) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30.

Chris JohnsonOct 30 06:12p

New York Jets RB Chris Johnson, who carried the ball just three times for seven yards in Week 8, said he's frustrated with his limited role in the offense. [ More ]

Tom CrabtreeOct 30 06:02p

The New Orleans Saints waived TE Tom Crabtree Thursday, Oct. 30.

Patrick PetersonOct 30 05:42p

Arizona Cardinals S Tony Jefferson (head) and TE Troy Niklas (ankle) were limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. DE Calais Campbell (knee), LB Kenny Demens (knee), S Rashad Johnson [ More ]

Cyrus GrayOct 30 05:22p

Kansas City Chiefs CB Jamell Fleming (hamstring) and LB Josh Martin (hamstring, knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. S Eric Berry (ankle) and CB Christopher Owens (knee) were [ More ]

Demario DavisOct 30 05:22p

New York Jets CB Darrin Walls (calf, knee) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OT Oday Aboushi (shoulder), CB Phillip Adams (groin), LB Antwan Barnes (knee), OG Willie Colon [ More ]

Keenan RobinsonOct 30 05:12p

Washington Redskins S Ryan Clark (ankle, shoulder) and OT Trent Williams (knee) were limited in practice Thursday, Oct. 30. LB Ryan Kerrigan (wrist), LB Trent Murphy (knee), CB Tracy [ More ]

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 05:12p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) practiced in full for the second straight day Thursday, Oct. 30.

R. Griffin IIIOct 30 05:02p

Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III (ankle) will start against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 9, barring any setbacks this week in practice, according to head coach Jay Gruden. [ More ]

Mike PounceyOct 30 05:02p

Miami Dolphins OG Daryn Colledge (illness, back) LB Chris McCain (foot) and TE Dion Sims (toe) did not practice Thursday, Oct. 30. OG Nate Garner (neck), LB Koa Misi [ More ]

Andre BranchOct 30 04:42p

Jacksonville Jaguars CB Will Blackmon (finger), DE Andre Branch (groin), DE Chris Clemons (non-injury), LB Geno Hayes (non-injury) and DT Roy Miller (non-injury) didn't practice Thursday, Oct. 30. CB [ More ]

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