America's Team is Sent to the Beach

It made for a cute-‘n'-snarky New York-generated storyline: The Cowboys' identity is based on guys who sleep in Michael Jacksonesque oxygen beds, guys who bask in the arrogant glory of being "America's Team,'' guys who almost spent the week on the Physically-Unable-To-Perform list because they were busy digging the beach sand from their britches.

It's "an All-Pro Team vs. an All-Joe Team," said New York's Antonio Pierce as his way of previewing Sunday's Giants-at-Cowboys playoff game.

Agreed teammate Osi Umenyiora: "To be honest with you, it (bothers the Giants) because I'm not sure that they have that many better players than we do."

Well, sorry, New York. … but Dallas DOES have that many players better than you.

But, sorry, Dallas. … New York performed better than you, advancing to the NFC Championship Game with a 21-17 upset win Sunday at Texas Stadium.

"We thought this was two evenly-matched teams,'' said Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, now the face of the top love-‘em-or-hate-‘em franchise in sports. "But we thought we were a little better.''

There is no way to establish that there was any adverse effect on this game resulting from the headline-grabbing activities of Romo and Owens and the ‘Boys, or coach Wade Phillips' oh-fer postseason history, or Dallas' now-annual December dropoff.

Terrell Owens wept as he tried to explain that to the media after the game.

"We came up short today, but we're still a team,'' he said, becoming teary-eyed as the discussion turned to Romo and his much-publicized decision to spent some off-days in Cancun with Jessica Simpson. "You guys can point the finger at him, you can talk about the vacation, and if you do that it's really unfair, really unfair.

"That's my teammate, that's my quarterback, and if you guys do that it's unfair. It's unfair. We lost as a team. We lost as a team. … We didn't execute. We knew to win this game we had to put some points on the board and we didn't do that.''

Owens is correct. It is most logical to suggest that the Giants showed up for the second half. And that the Cowboys did not.

Of course, that logical approach won't keep people from wondering about how the hell this happened. … and we will wonder it FOREVER.

"I don't (have) regrets,'' said a despondent Romo, who handled his media session with great class. "I won't be hearing about it because I don't read or listen (to the media), that's just the way I operate. … But it's going to be a tough week. … and I'll take the blame.''

It took two-and-a-half games, but New York finally found a way to bother Romo; in two previous meetings, he'd been sacked a total of two times, but in the second half of this game, he carried around New York pass-rushers like they were 270-pound fanny packs. New York found a solution to Owens, who had zero second-half catches despite running routes against Giant second-teamers. ("He got doubled a lot at the end,'' Romo said.) And New York found a solution to Marion Barber, the freshly-minted starter who rushed for 101 in the first half but joined his offensive line by fading in the second.

Result? Dallas scores three points in the final two quarters.

And now? Romo has appeared in two career playoff games. He ended his first by fumbling a probable game-winning snap. He ended this one with a bad interception. Phillips is 0-4 as a playoff coach, this time a loser as a home-field 7.5-point favorite. Dallas is the first NFC No. 1 seed to lose an opening game since the present structure began in 1990, and has now gone since 1996 without winning a playoff game.

Yet. …

The Cowboys outgained NY 336 to 230. They out-possessed 36:30 to 23:30. They limited the Giants to three scores. And they had the ball in Giants territory, poised for the game-winning TD, TWICE in the final four minutes.

But, as Phillips said, "we didn't play well enough. And we didn't coach well enough.''

The critics this week got a lot of mileage out of Romessica, of T.O.'s unorthodox behavior and the Cowboys' overall glitz. It's funny that nobody seemed to notice the opponent's pastimes.

QB Eli Manning is now busying himself peddling Oreos. Defensive end Michael Strahan seems to allow himself to be interviewed by Pam Oliver 24 hours a day. (If Strahan would've spent as much time with his missus as he spends blabbering to Pam, he might have avoided that pricy divorce.)

And isn't this the same Giants squad that birthed obnoxious attention hog Tiki Barber?

That may be the best evidence in support of the argument that silly storylines really don't matter – because the Giants have plenty of silly storylines themselves, and THEY somehow won. The essence of the Cowboys isn't about who Romo and Witten double-date, any more than the essence of the Giants is about what Manning double-stuffs.

But it's over now. The Giants have a pass to go to the NFC Championship Game in Green Bay. And the whole of America's Team can go to bed. Or to the beach.

CowboysHQ Top Stories