Parcells Said It Best

IRVING, Texas -- "You Got Sucked.'' Last week, in preparation for the New Orleans-at-Dallas showdown, Cowboys coach Bill Parcells dismissed the importance of some bit or another of Terrell Owens tomfoolery by browbeating a reporter into submission with a funny, crude, artful retort.

"You Got Sucked.''

At the time, Parcells' words were shorthand for "you got sucked into believing that some T.O. joke was a T.O. truth.'' Now, after witnessing the football disaster that was Saints 42, Cowboys 17, "You Got Sucked'' resonates in a louder and broader manner.

In believing that Dallas was a superior mirror image of the cute little feel-good story that is the usually-sadsack Saints, Parcells, "You Got Sucked.'' Dallas Cowboys, "You Got Sucked.'' Cowboys media and fans and other observers, "You'' -- that is, "We'' -- "Got Sucked.''

"I'd like to apologize to everybody,'' said linebacker Bradie James, an acknowledged team leader. "We had stars on our helmets, but we didn't show up.'

' I'd like to apologize, too. The Dallas Morning News' Rick Gosselin recently ranked the Saints above the Cowboys. I scoffed. You scoffed.

I'm sorry. I Got Sucked.

By the time this nationally-televised battle for second place in the NFC (and an all-important first-round playoff bye) had mercifully wound down, the Saints were. ... well, merciful. New Orleans marched all the way down to the 4-yard line and almost certainly would've scored again against a clearly demoralized Dallas defense. But Saints Sean Payton, the Parcells disciple, called a series of kneel-downs that had the accidental effect of apparent pity.

It was like a stud son allowing his senile grandfather to score a basket on him in the driveway. A pity basket.

Before that, though, Payton and his collection of Cajun Cowboys -- there is an obvious Texas flavor, Cowboys influence and Parcellsian style about the now 9-4 Saints -- demonstrated no mercy. A Reggie Bush reverse on fourth down. Play-action to all-but disembowel poor Roy Williams. Reliable Jason Witten dropping a TD pass. A successful onside kick with the Saints up 35-17 with six minutes left in the third. The Saints missing assorted injured starters but simply turning to nobodies like fullback Mike Karney, who'd never before scored an NFL touchdown but was good for three of them here. Total offense of 536 yards. Parcells himself botching the handling of the red challenge hanky, throwing it illegally in the final two minutes of the first half and costing Dallas 15 yards.

Everything you need to know about Bill Parcells is encapsuled by his "my fault'' explanation: "It is my fault for doing that because you're not supposed to (challenge with the flag) in the last two minutes,'' Parcells said.

"My fault,'' he said. Would he leave it at that?

"One of my coaches upstairs says 'challenge it!' and you have your instincts. ...''

Ooops. Not Bill's fault. One of his coaches' fault. Oh, and Bill's instincts' fault.

Amazing. A 42-17 loss, and Coach doesn't know that there is plenty of blame to go around? We Got Sucked. Sucked into thinking that the Cowboys would be primed for a huge game that had such buzz around it that I don't remember Texas Stadium ever lighting up with first-snap flashbulbs as it did Sunday night. Sucked into thinking that Dallas' running game would be the foundation of the gameplan (I was told that by a Dallas assistant) when in fact Julius Jones' 77-yard game-starting TD run was one of just 10 of his carries and Marion Barber had no carries in the first half and just two for the game. Sucked into thinking that Pupil wouldn't beat Teacher, because while Payton knows Tony Romo and the Cowboys' trends, surely Parcells knows Payton's habits even better. ... right?

Win this game and Dallas is in the playoff driver's seat. A first-round playoff bye. A second-round home game. A decent chance of the NFC title game being played at Texas Stadium. Especially after contender Seattle lost on Sunday afternoon, I found myself daydreaming about who's who in the NFC, about how high Dallas could climb, about the vulnerability of the Bears, even about the vulnerability of traditional AFC powers like Indy and New England, both of whom lost Sunday, both of whom would only face the Cowboys in the playoffs if Dallas returned to the Su. ...

Nope. My fingers can't type it.

Instead, 42-17 ranks as one of the low points in Dallas Cowboys history. Meanwhile, T.O. keeps granting bizarre bipolar-test-worthy interviews, defensive linemen keep fighting teammates instead of opponents, the coach insists his gameplan was brilliant but his players moronic, and the quarterback -- who long ago was billed privately as Drew Brees-like -- gets exposed as being Tony Romortal.

Going in, I truly believed that the Cowboys and the Saints were not in the same class of teams.

And even though I Got Sucked, I was kinda right about that. The Cowboys and the Saints ARE NOT in the same class.

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