ARLINGTON - Cowboys lore says “The Hole In The Roof'' - at Texas Stadium before and AT&T Stadium now - exists so "God can watch His team.’’ So when it started raining in Arlington just as problems were plaguing the home team against the visiting Eagles … what?
“We’ve got to get together,’’ said defensive lineman Jeremy Mincey after Dallas’ 33-27 OT loss, “and figure out a way to stop the madness.’'
The “madness’’ of six straight losses to drop the no-Romo Cowboys to 2-6.
The “madness’’ of needing to rely on “almosts’’ and “flukes’’ and “goofs’’ to stay alive here, including Dez Bryant’s “Hail Monkey’’ … er, “Mary’’ catch and Dan Bailey’s “doink’’ field goal to send it to a fifth period.
The “madness’’ of being basement-bound in a mediocre NFL East, a position that doesn’t even allow the ever-optimistic Jerry Jones to talk about a postseason goal with a straight face.
“We have to look at not a lot of ‘playoff talk’,’’ the owner said after a loss that sends coach Jason Garrett to 1-5 against the Eagles at home, “but just a way to beat Tampa Bay next week.’’
Good for Jerry. He’s offering perspective while the bullets are flying all around him. Meanwhile …
Critics of losing teams toss around the word “accountability’’ in an accusatory manner but it’s rarely a tangible thing … until a reporter enters a defeated locker room and watches self-proclaimed leaders shrivel.
After the game, too few “stand-up guys’ ' stood up. Maybe some were too emotional to speak; Darren McFadden, who dueled ex-Cowboy DeMarco Murray admirably (McFadden rushed for 117 while Murray had 161 yards total offense) managed to utter a single sentence before excusing himself. Bryant didn’t meet the press. Most of the offensive linemen didn’t make themselves available. Rolando McClain wouldn’t speak. Terrance Williams disappeared. Greg Hardy — in some ways the “face’’ of this defense, for better or worse, and once again receiving support via Jones’ “second-chance’’ platform — never appeared in the postgame locker area.
And lest you misunderstand, this isn’t about the players “owing’’ anything to reporters; this is about the players owing explanation and conversation to you, the Cowboys “stockholder.’’ It’s about professionalism (as making oneself available for interviews is an NFL rule). This is where “leadership’’ and “accountability’’ and “teamwork’’ can actually be gauged, because if Greg Hardy doesn’t make himself available, he leaves somebody like linemate Nick Hayden to have to answer for him.
“We don’t pay attention to that,’’ Hayden obligingly responded when peppered with questions about Hardy’s assorted and sordid domestic-violence-related headlines. “We’re here to play football.’’
The Cowboys are here to do so, but not well enough. Bryant is back, good for five catches and 104 and an impromptu score, but Romo isn’t back until Nov. 22 at Miami (at best) and that ain’t soon enough. When one thing goes well for Dallas (say, Cole Beasley catching nine balls for 112 yards and two scores) two things go poorly (say, Matt Cassel’s ill-advised pick-six interception and Sean Lee’s concussion).
So Cassel, Bailey, Beasley, Jason Witten, Tyrone Crawford, Barry Church, JJ Wilcox and Brandon Carr took the bulk of the media bullets.
Questions that needed to be fielded by Dez were fielded by undrafted rookie Lucky Whitehead.
Questions that needed to be fielded by Hardy were fielded by ex-Chiefs practice-squadder rookie David Irving.
The Cowboys aren’t 2-6 because they lack “character.’’ Rather, they seem to lack character because they’re 2-6. But this is exactly how, and exactly when, teams crumble.
“It’s one or two plays each Sunday that come back to haunt us,’’ said Carr, and of course this “haunter’’ comes courtesy of the Jordan Matthews 41-yard catch-and-run for the OT win. “We still have half the season to play and we’ve got to clock in every single day.’'
Heal your wounds and clock in.
Or shed your tears and punch out.
The choices are as clear as the skies above “The Hole in The Roof’’ were cloudy.