What was thought to be a season of destiny -- one that would end in a Super Bowl run for the first time since 1995-- has ended in abject failure. Again.
After going 13-3 and having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Cowboys and their NFL record 12 Pro Bowlers are one and done in the playoffs. Again.
The Cowboys are 0-6 in their last six playoff appearances, tying the longest losing streak in NFL postseason history, and they haven't won a playoff game since 1996.
Owner Jerry Jones said this is his biggest disappointment since buying the team in 1989.
"I'm painfully disappointed for our fans," Jones said. "You had every reason to believe we would be in the NFC Championship Game."
Yes you had every reason to believe if you saw the Cowboys win 12 of their 13 games in largely blowout fashion. They looked like the second-best team in the league behind the New England Patriots and had every reason to believe that this would finally be the year they would return to prominence.
Of course, you might have thought something different if you watched the Cowboys at the end of the season. They lost two of their final three games and haven't played a good brand of football since Nov. 29 against the Packers. They entered the playoffs with no momentum and rife with controversy.
Wide receiver Terrell Owens was touch and go for the playoff game after suffering a high ankle sprain that kept him out of the season finale. He practiced just two times in the last three weeks.
And quarterback Tony Romo had to deal with questions about his bye week trip to Cabo with celebrity girlfriend Jessica Simpson in the days leading up to the playoff game. Romo did not play well in the last month of the season and many fans thought Simpson was a distraction.
Romo didn't lose the game on Sunday. But he looked nothing like a Pro Bowl quarterback with several balls slipping out of his hands, a drive-killing intentional grounding, an interception in the end zone on the final play and a 64.1 passer rating.
"It hurts," Romo said. "You know that your team is on the cusp. We felt like the cusp was this year. We felt like we could make a run. When you don't, it's hard."
Romo is 0-2 as a playoff starter. Asked how the loss compared to last year Seattle when he had the bobble on a game-winning field goal try, he said they both suck.
Romo said he has no regrets about the trip to Cabo.
"I think it's going to be a tough week," Romo said. "I will take the blame. I will take the criticism."
Owens broke down trying to take up for his quarterback.
"This is not about Tony," Owens said. "You guys can point the finger at him and talk about the vacation. But it's really unfair." Owens began to cry before continuing, "It's really unfair. He's my teammate, my quarterback ... we lost as a team. We lost as a team."
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Cowboys tied a franchise record with 13 wins. They rejuvenated the franchise with record-setting performances from Romo, Owens and tight end Jason Witten. Romo proved he was the team's quarterback of the future with the best statistical season by a Cowboys quarterback and a second straight Pro Bowl performance. He was signed to a $67 million quarterback extension.
"I think we've definitely turned this organization in the right direction," Romo said. "We will be back in a lot of these games in the future."
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Cowboys had a lot of fun under new coach Wade Phillips and enjoyed a loose environment. But the Cowboys again didn't finish at the end of the season and ended with another playoff loss. The offense that averaged more than 30 points a game when they were winning 12 of their first 13 games ended the season averaging 12 points in their last four games. Phillips was brought in to fix the defense, but that unit consistently gave up big plays in the passing game and was gashed on the ground late in the season. Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams has become a non-factor. He was often exploited for big plays by opposing teams. The Cowboys began taking him off the field on passing downs.
GAME NOTES: RB Marion Barber replaced Julius Jones as the team's starting running back for the playoff game. The Cowboys hoped to get off to an early start with a spark from Barber, who rushed 27 times for 129 yards and a touchdown. It marked the 16th time a Cowboys running back eclipsed 100 rushing yards in a playoff game.
--QB Tony Romo completed 18 of 36 passes for 201 yards with one touchdown and one interception against the Giants. His 64.1 passer rating was his third worst of the season. Four of Romo's five worst passer ratings came in the past five games, including Sunday.
--WR Terrell Owens returned from a high ankle sprain but had little impact. Owens caught four passes for 49 yards and a touchdown. But he was nothing like he was during the regular season when he caught four touchdowns against the Giants.
--WR Terry Glenn returned to action against the Giants for the playoff game but he was largely a non-factor and now he could be on his way out of Dallas. Glenn has another year on his contract but he missed 15 games with a knee injury and could be facing more surgery in the offseason.
What Went Wrong?
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