Leaking Oil

IRVING, Tex. - The Cowboys' Super Bowl Express is now leaking oil -- anointing oil, that is.

Coach Bill Parcells is the man in charge of the anointing (not to mention the man most anointed by others, and in a way, by himself). Cautioning the media and fans to "put away the anointing oil'' for a player who performs well is one of Parcells' more creaky cliches. He is also the man in charge of repairing those oil leaks, which came spraying from the Express in numerous directions during Monday's Christmas Day 23-7 home loss to the Eagles.

Said cornerback Terence Newman, in an indictment of virtually EVERYBODY in this organization: "I think we have more talkers than players, to be blunt about it.''

Grab a monkey wrench and especially grab some duct tape, InfalliBill, cancel your five press conferences this week, and get to fixin':

* A leaky defense that permitted the Donovan McNabbless Eagles to litter the game with assorted scoring possessions of 80-plus yards.

* An early short-yardage goalline conservatism that saw Marion Barber get plugged on second, third and fourth down -- and yes, this sounds like classic second-guessing until you recall that NBC's John Madden was all but screaming for Dallas to run play-action against Philly's clog-the-middle defensive alignment.

* An offensive line that crumbled at just the wrong time -- and, incredibly, on five consecutive snaps. With just under five minutes left in the third and Dallas down 16-7, it was time for the Cowboys to flex whatever muscles they had. But on first down came a shotgun snap that wobbled over the head of Tony Romo. On second down came a false start from Marc Colombo. On the next snap, another false start, this one from Flozell Adams. On the next snap, everyone in the building knew Dallas would run a draw, which netted only three yards. And on third down came, inevitably, a sack.

* A shockingly unproductive and uninspired effort in the passing game. Terrell Owens' incongruous grin was wide-open, as usual. But for one TD catch, he rarely was. As if to further symbolize his disconnect from the team and its goals, Owens conducted his postgame press conference while wearing a Santa Claus hat. T.O. had a couple of drops, Terry Glenn contributed nothing, and the Cowboys managed just 14 largely innocuous pass completions.

"Every team I've played with gets me the ball early and often," Owens said by way of laying blame on the play-calling.

* A front seven that was completely bullied by the Eagles. Oh, Demarcus Ware made a play, and I bet film review shows that Jason Ferguson played well. But Philly spent most of the day rushing for five-yards-plus per carry and swallowed up Dallas' collection of supposedly budding stars. Said a miffed owner Jerry Jones: "I've been guilty of a lot of things: not having a lot of parts, underestimating, overestimating. But I don't think we're overestimating our talent level on defense at all, not when you look at the legitimacy of what we paid and where we drafted.''

* The BMOC attitude that continues to define the 2006 edition of the Dallas Cowboys. In the mainstream media, this is a widely ignored angle, but I'll keep pushing it in this space. You know, I was just kidding a few weeks ago when I debunked the Romo-Jessica Simpson rumors and then mentioned that maybe every other twangy pop singer from Dolly Parton to Carrie Underwood would be angling for Romo's digits. Next thing you know, there's Underwood, the former "American Idol'' cutie, on the field before kickoff, all-but canoodling with the QB. Hey, if you didn't like T.O.'s recent birthday party in Hollywood, you're obliged to dislike the idea that other players are involved in People magazine photo ops IN PREGAME WARMUPS, right?

Want to chew on that Newman quote again, just to know that at least one guy in the locker room won't argue with me? "I think we have more talkers than players, to be blunt about it,'' Newman said, using words that should resonate with everyone from Parcells on down.

* The assumption that the Cowboys are a tick behind the Bears as an NFC title contender. I'm as guilty of being as leaky as anyone in this department, but the fact is, Dallas -- while still playoff-bound -- is now a threat to finish 9-7. The Cowboys opened the season on a lose-one-week,-win-the-next teeter-totter, and Parcells has his 'Boys right back in that same playground here in December: They beat the Giants in New York, lost to New Orleans at home, won in Atlanta, and now they lose at home to a Eagles team that faced the rare challenge of playing a roadie on Christmas Day.

Teeter. Totter.

"I'm as disgusted as I've been in years,'' Jones said. "A game like this indicts us (all the way to) the top. ... Tonight was about the total organization.''

Jones gets it. Newman gets it. Anybody else?

"I know what we're playing for,'' Parcells barked during his high-profile postgame presser. "And they know what they were playing for."

Yes, Coach, we will "put away the anointing oil'' -- except to use it in defiance of your creaky old cliches.

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