'Boys-Pats: Seeking a Dr's Advice

IRVING, Tex. - Three pieces of medical advice for the emotionally (and maybe otherwise) hungover Cowboys fan, courtesy of Dr. Fish: 1) Head-On. Apply directly to the forehead. 2) Head-On. Apply directly to the forehead. 3) Head-On. Apply directly to the forehead.

And now, some more extensive and detailed prescriptions I'll scribble out for Dallas itself, likely a physical and emotional wreck after Sunday's 48-27 failure against visiting New England.

DR. FISH PRESCRIPTION No. 1: A decade should be long enough to overcome the heartburn. The heartburn, that is, of Dallas' 1998 Draft insanity of passing on the "troublesome'' Randy Moss to instead select Boy Scoutish Greg Ellis. Instead we've added a third personality to the controversy – or rather, "The Original 81'' added himself – creating a football manage a' trois.

Moss loved the Cowboys, but the Cowboys decided to love Ellis. So Moss decided to hate Dallas (and punish the Cowboys mercilessly every time he faced them). And then Terrell Owens arrived in Dallas, seeking love and claiming to be the only No. 81 we'll ever need.

Each of the fellas (even Ellis) tried to charm us with chocolates and roses. Ellis' sack of Tom Brady created a fumble returned by Jason Hatcher for the Cowboys' first TD. Terrell did his thing, capping a sweet before-intermission drive with a blitz-beating underneath route and a short touchdown to cut New England's lead to 21-17.

But Randy Moss was the same Randy Moss he always is against the lover who spurned him. An inspired Moss remains one of the scariest weapons in football history, and unrequited loss can always fuel passion, no? The stat sheet says Moss contributed six catches for 59 yards and a TD. But if you saw the game, you saw Moss come very close to making a spectacular deep catch for a score and almost snaring another one (both negated by the zebras). He's a freak, I tell you, in a vastly different way than Ellis, and even in a different class than the gifted Owens. Moss' career numbers now against Dallas? In seven games, he has 26 for 734 yards and seven TDs. Oh, and his teams are 7-0.

"I didn't want to feed off what he'd saying,'' Moss said of T.O., "and the hype over the two No. 81's.''

No, he didn't need to feed off that. He's got the 1998 Draft to feed off.

DR. FISH PRESCRIPTION No. 2: Dallas needs to cure its case of the runs. Or rather, the non-runs. The Cowboys and Patriots join the Colts and maybe the Packers as maybe the best four teams in football. (Maybe even the only four GOOD teams in the NFL.) And guess what they all have in common?

They violate one of the hoariest edicts in sports: Run first. Run to set up the pass. Run to win.

New England doesn't bother. With Brady at the controls – and threatening to complete a preposterous 80 percent of his passes this year – the New England offense feels comfortable throwing so often that Wes Welker is being transformed into Raymond Berry. In the first half alone, the diminutive Welker – who played at Texas Tech after having gone unrecruited out of high school – was good for six catches and 94 yards and two TDs. (Welker ended with 11 for 124.) A third guy, Donte Stallworth, was good for seven-for-136.

It's cute and it's pretty and it's largely effective, of course, for The Big Four. I mean, Brady and Tony Romo are both on crazy-number paces. (Make Brady's brand of crazy a double: He was 31-of-46 for 388 yards and five TD passes.) Dallas and Green Bay are 5-1, Indy and New England are undefeated. Over the course of the next 10 weeks or so, the teams who develop some sort of a running game might pull away from the pack.

Can that team be Dallas? Not based on what we saw here. Oh, JuJu ran hard on his six carries, and Marion the Barbarian ran ever harder on his eight. Granted, it's difficult to stick with ball-control while the other team is flooding you with almost half-a-hundred. But long, clock-eating drives will still help, right? Keeping the ball away from the opponent will still work, right? Not throwing the ball around the yard in the wind and snow of December will ultimately be rewarded, right?


DR. FISH PRESCRIPTION No. 3: Wear your Sunday best. And no, I'm not talking about Bill Belicheat opting to leave his ratty sweatshirt back home in the laundry basket while instead donning a Pats polo shirt that actually looked clean.

I'm talking about being prepared to bring it like this every Sunday (and Monday, and Thursday) …. For the rest of the season. I'm talking about selling out, completely, not only physically but in terms of play-calling as well. I believe the players did that.

And the Dallas coaching staff, despite the loss – and the stupid decision to kick a late field goal notwithstanding -- gets credit for having done that here, too.

One for instance, from the defense: The trick-‘em-dick-‘em use of Demarcus Ware, positioned all over the field, wherever the Cowboys thought the Pats might attack. It didn't always work, but from variations on the zone blitz to Ware sticking with receivers swinging out of the backfield to Ware creating problems for New England as a pass-rusher, it was a special effort. Which was required against a special team.

Brady almost never gets sacked; Dallas got to him three times. It's a start.

Another for instance, from the offense: It was whispered to me before kickoff that the Cowboys had spent the week of preparation perfecting a reverse pass featuring the throwing arm of receiver Patrick Crayton. Dallas never used it because coaches never found the right situation for it. But its existence in the playbook is an example of how loaded up the Cowboys were for this huge regular-season meeting.

Romo last week threw five picks; against ball-hawking New England, he threw just one, and that in a desperation situation. It's a start. In other words – and this is more frightening as it regards the Patriots than it is satisfying regarding the Cowboys – Dallas actually played pretty well. Really.

"We've got a lot of work to do,'' Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. "We wanted to be one of the elite teams. But obviously we're not.''

I disagree. This secondary gets shredding against top-notch throwers and this running game needs work and they all need to take two aspirin and call me in the morning.

The problem, though, isn't that Dallas is ill. The problem was that the New England Patriots are, as the kids say . … ill.

CowboysHQ Top Stories