Thanksgiving Loss Leaves Familiar Taste

As I sat in front of the TV Thursday following a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends, helplessly watching the Cowboys get destroyed at the hands of the Miami Dolphins, I couldn't help but flash back to another game at Texas Stadium a few years ago that was eerily similar to what we saw in the 40-21 loss.

On the date in question, the Cowboys were set to return to the playoffs after a brief one-year absense. They were poised and ready to show the world they had returned after finishing the season a perfect 8-0 in the division and wrapping up a successful 10-6 regular season campaign under first year head coach Chan Gailey.

The Cowboys, a veteran team with veteran players and post-season experience unmatched by any other in the playoffs, were hosting a young, 9-7 Arizona Cardinals team that had to beat the hapless San Diego Chargers less than a week before in the closing seconds just to get into the playoffs. Nothing could go wrong for Dallas. Except, it did.

On that day, a young quarterback named Jake "The Snake" Plummer came into Irving and blew the doors off any hopes Cowboy fans had of their team competing for its illustrious sixth Super Bowl title almost immediately into the game.

I could have counted on one hand the number of times I ever remembered seeing the Arizona Cardinals win a game at Texas Stadium coming into that day. I still can. But for three hours, none of it mattered. Not on that day.

I won't lie. I cried that day. I cried hard, and I cried a lot, because it hurt. Sitting there with the same frozen look on my face as the visiting team came into our house, shutting us completely down, all the while knowing the entire world was watching it and loving every second of it. Moreover, even worse knowing there was nothing we could do to stop it. Nothing.

In many ways, that game scarred me. I was emotionally depressed for days on end and never really got over it until the 1999 opener at FedEx field when Troy Aikman found Rocket Ismail on a blown-coverage bomb to give Dallas a 41-35 overtime win against the Redskins.

Now, flash-forward to over four years later. I'm watching the game, and suddenly the same feeling I felt in the Arizona game in January of '99 comes over me. The same feeling of dread, of sorrow, of watching your team get destroyed and knowing there is nothing you can do to stop it comes over me, almost from the beginning.

I don't know if I can say for certain when I began to feel that old feeling. Maybe it was the game's first play. Maybe it was Ricky Williams' forward progress being stopped. Maybe it was Derek Ross' fumble. Regardless, the real kicker was right before the half, knowing if the Cowboys' defense could somehow stop Jay Fiedler just once before halftime, we'd be going into the locker room down by only three points in the game.

Some say Jason Taylor stripping Quincy Carter and rambling in for the Dolphins first score of the second half was the back-breaker. For me, the chain of events was set in motion long before, possibly on the 30-yard pass interference call right out of the gate.

Fortunately, there is one essential difference in the '99 playoff game vs. Arizona as opposed to the Thanksgiving loss to the Dolphins: This loss to Miami, as painful as it is, is not the end to the Cowboys season.

With a little luck, it is just beginning.

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