Cowboys Win, Create Gray Hairs

One of the horrible side effects of middle age is what I call the "Bad News/Worst News'' factor. As in, "The bad news is that I've got a lot of gray hair. The worst news is that some of it has decided to announce itself by sprouting from my ears and nose.''

There is an upside to my middle age, though: I'm rickety enough to possess an historical perspective on things like Cowboys-vs.-Bills.

My buddy Nick Eatman over at the Cowboys website previewed Monday night's game by writing, "Unless Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas are getting back in uniform this week, the Cowboys aren't losing to the Bills.''

Historical perspective? Once upon a time, Buffalo DID have Smith and Thomas in uniform, and surrounded them with Super Bowl talent. And, um, they still lost both their title meetings with Dallas.

So Bruce Smith or Howard K. Smith or Smith & Wesson or The Smiths, it wasn't going to make any difference.

And Thurman Thomas or Isaiah Thomas or Clarence Thomas or Thomas The Tank Engine, it wasn't going to make any difference.

Cowboys 25, Bills 24 in a thriller, and though it took the full 60 minutes of game time, in the end, undefeated Dallas exited as it entered: Owning every physical and psychological edge.

Oh, there was the occasional moment that almost caused me to choke on my Buffalo wings and spit up my Molson. (That's what I would've dined on had I been in Western New York watching the game. Instead, I ate a salad and a Nutri-System granola bar, but that's another column.) In fact, there were 59 minutes and 59 seconds of gag-inducing occurences.

"I put us in a hole,'' said Dallas quarterback Tony Romo.

Once Buffalo intercepted a Romo pass and returned it for a TD to open the scoring, the physical and psychological edges should be erased, right? How about if Romo throws it to the wrong jerseys again, the Bills snaring the ball in the end zone for another score? How about if Romo turns the ball over again. … and again. … and again. … and again?

"My confidence doesn't waver,'' Romo swore after his five-interception/one-fumble performance. "Not everything's going to go your way. You gotta keep going.''

How about if the Bills add to their almost-unheard-of turnover margin of plus-5 by scoring on a kickoff return? I mean, does a team with six takeaways and three non-offensive touchdowns EVER lose?

They do if they're the Bills. They do if they're playing the Cowboys.

At quarterback, Buffalo is exactly where Dallas was before Romo Was Built In A Day; the Bills' search for a QB has in recent seasons caused them to acquire Drew Bledsoe, hand the reins over to a rookie in J.P. Losman, and now ask a third-round rookie, Trent Edwards, to give it a go.

(Sound familiar, Cowboys fans? Ryan Leaf, Quincy Carter and Clint Stoener, answer your phone. It's Ralph Wilson calling.)

Edwards and the Bills were unable to establish anything against the Cowboys defense, which now seems capable of tossing a shutout in any given week.

Is it physical? Is it psychological?

Somewhere in the NFL Films archive, there is a great soundbite of a coach inspiring his team by yelling, "This is a game of the heart! Focus, and finish!''

Hmmm. It's a game of the heart. … so use your brain?

But the contradiction works. Monday night's was a "game of the heart'' because so many players took it upon themselves to seek revenge for their goofy genius of a coach. Wade Phillips had once been wronged by the aforementioned owner Wilson, underappreciated and unceremoniously dumped after a decent run as head coach. (ESPN's shots of Wilson, overseeing this slow disaster as if he was Montgomery T. Burns watching Homer Simpson burn down Springfield, were priceless.) Most of these Cowboys were in grade school when that happened. But somehow – and conveniently, because with New England on the horizon the woeful Bills could have otherwise been overlooked -- the notion of revenge was tucked into their collective psyches.

So Dallas, down eight with less than six minutes to play, gets a Crayton touchdown. Then T.O. fails to hang on to a 2-point pass try. Then an onsides kick caroms off the head of Sam Hurd and into the paws of Tony Curtis. Then T.O. drops another pass, requiring Romo to work quickly, completing two shorties in a 13-second span, setting up rookie kicker Nick Folk for a game-winning 53-yard field goal.

It's good! … But wait. The Bills "pull a Shanahan,'' getting a momentum-stealing timeout just before the Dallas snap. So the kid's gotta do it again.

Folk is a baby. He wasn't around for Cowboys-Bills title games. He likely knows little about the history.

But he knows he plays for Dallas. He knows he's playing against Buffalo. He knows he's supposed to help win the game for the Cowboys. So he does. Said Folk: "I know my leg.''

The "leg bone'' is connected to the "physical bone.'' The "physical bone'' is connected to the "psychological bone.'' The "psychological bone'' is collected to the "heart bone.'' I've been around long enough to have that figured out. … even though my "physical bone'' and my "psychological bone'' and my "heart bone'' all probably have hairs sprouting from them. And gray ones, at that.

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