The Blame Game

IRVING, TX. -- Assorted musings from atop my barstool on what was the most roller-coaster-ey of Monday nights at Texas Stadium.

We're not much for The Blame Game.

Check out the way every level of government is now finger-pointing at other levels for the breakdowns in hurricane emergency relief, and you'll see why it sickens us. The city says it was the state's fault. The state says it was the Feds' fault. The Feds say, I guess, they were too concerned about whether to pull the plug on one American (Terry Schiavo) to concern themselves with life-and-death situations involving thousands of Americans.

The Blame Game would have us pinpointing Jose Cortez as the Monday night goat for his missed field goal. Or pinpointing Drew Bledsoe for his errant late-game throws. Or ripping the offensive execution that failed to eat up any clock in the final minutes. Or pinpointing Roy Williams and the secondary for allowing Santana Moss his two first-class, round-trip cross-country flights in the final four minutes of this crushing 14-13 home loss to the eminently hateable Redskins.

The Blame Game is especially fond of picking at play-calling. Our view? We recognize that if a flea-flicker pass works, the offensive coordinator is a creative genius, a Michaelangelo of the gridiron. ... and that if a flea-flicker doesn't work, the offensive coordinator is the supervisor of a "finesse team'' full of fancy-boy fops.

But we will play a quickie version of The Blame Game on one sequence: You're up 10 points. You are at the Washington 27. Half-a-quarter to go. And you either a) have an inordinate amount of confidence in your defense or b) an inordinate lack of confidence in your offense.

So with 8:08 left, you run up the middle on first down. And with 7:25 left, you run up the middle on second down. And with 6:39 left, you run up the middle on third down. The three plays net you 4 yards. The three carries are to Tyson Thompson. They are his first-ever NFL carries. He is a rookie. He is your fourth-string running back.

By eschewing even thinking about going for a touchdown, you forfeit a chance at a commanding 17-0 lead. You forfeit the chance to move the chains and gobble up another couple of minutes. And you send another of those "bus-driver'' messages to your quarterback and your offense.

The Cowboys, before and after the dreaded 56:14 mark, didn't "nurse'' that 13-point lead -- unless what "Misery'' freak Kathy Bates did to James Caan is your idea of "nursing.''

There was plenty that went wrong late. There are plenty of candidates to be drawn-and-quartered in The Blame Game, if that's your style. Hey, with 4:18 remaining, how does a Washington fourth-and-2 become a 20-yard pass to James Thrash? And as odd as that was, how does it happen again, with a fourth-and-15 and Moss going for a 39-yard touchdown? And how does fate frown on the Cowboys when, with 3:17 remaining, Keyshawn Johnson's 17-yard catch is erased by left tackle Flozell Adams' holding? And then on one play, Mark Brunell finds Moss again and for a 70-yard touchdown connection? And then two more possessions for Dallas. ... and nothing, series that features an inexplicable fourth-and-4 completion for two yards.

But in the end, we won't play The Blame Game. We'll simply say that Dallas -- as exemplified by that Tyson Thompson possession -- got what it bargained for here. Coach Bill Parcells' decisions here smack of wanting a defense that he is (was?) clearly quite proud of to somehow win games 2-0. Coach Parcells' style here reminds us of the guy at the bar who is too conservative to ask the hot chick to dance. ... so he waits in the corner until closin' time and hopes some skank comes to him.

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