The sign in the Texas Stadium crowd said it all, "Just Play." Everyone had grown tired and wary of the continuous, non-football antics out at Valley Ranch. Somewhere it was written and holds true today, there is no room in football for "feelings." Yes, emotions are in need and on display every weekend, but hurt feelings and personal agendas need to be checked at every locker room door. So, for those fans who hang on every story line, plot and scam falling under the reign of the famed Blue Star, like the famed television drama Dallas, the "who done it" aspect still remains. Sort of, but the real question should be:
You're left to make your own decisions following the contrived or perceived make-up session orchestrated by Andrea Kramer and the NBC affiliates at mid-field following the victory over the Giants, but you didn't have to wait that long to determine which side the 63,000+ paying patrons favored. Offensive player introductions revealed Jason Witten and Tony Romo remained in the good graces of the fans, but the star wide receiver was a different reception all together. Terrell Owens heard it directly from the fan base, and they were not happy with his involvement or orchestration of "Whose My Favorite Target?" As if written into the script itself, Tony Romo earmarked Owens for a deep-out on the second play of the Cowboys first possession, and right on cue, the apparent culprit let a perfect throw slip right through his hands (a scene too-often repeated in these parts), and the attending crowd once again voiced their grandiose displeasure with Terrell Owens.
In what has become as comical as his antics and general paranoia, was his reaction to the crowd's outpouring of general dissatisfaction. He intimated he didn't care, and the only thing that concerned him was his family. Hey, T.O., which family is that? Your immediate family or your team family? See, there is some doubt as to T.O.'s standing within the latter-mentioned family. He actually might be ousted like a gossiping Aunt Ruth or a back-stabbing Cousin Joey. Put this one in the bank. When the chorus of boo's rained down from the Texas Stadium crowd, it hurt Owens. It hurt him badly, and don't let him tell you otherwise. The guy's need to be liked, check that, "worshiped" is both true and tragically sad. He is an immensely-talented, game-breaking, contest-altering wide receiver who also doubles as the most spoiled and jealous 35-year-old known to man. Just like the fan's plea for the team to "Just Play,' there should have been an equally-challenging post of "Grow Up" on someone's placard.
Here are the facts. The Cowboys need Terrell Owens to win and succeed. They just don't need him as badly as he thinks they do. He's simply a piece of the puzzle, but that's not good enough for the never-satisfied egomaniac. In his mind, he must be viewed as the centerpiece and focal point of every contest, if not play. A suggestion for Owens' next children's book might be "T.O. Learns It's a Team Game." Now, that could be a bestseller on many shelves. Would that be stocked under Fiction or Non-Fiction?
The Cowboys might be better positioned to confront and counter the Owens' antics if his heir apparent was more…..??? Lord, where do we start here? Visible? Productive? Impactful? Relevant? Dependable? Feared? Respected? Ladies and gentlemen of the fandom, where is Roy Williams? Didn't Jerry and the organization just shell out millions of dollars to rescue this guy from bottom-feeding Detroit, resurrect his fledgling career and promise him a spotlight and role he's craved since leaving the Forty Acres? Again, I ask you, "Where is he?" Please, please, please tell me he isn't being kept purposely under wraps so as not to ruffle more T.O. feathers??!! Lord help us all if this is any part of the thought process out at Valley Ranch. For if there is no legitimate reason behind Roy's "Casper, the Friendly Ghost" routine, then Jerry best revisit the Ford family for some type of rebate or refund. This one needs some "splaining" from someone out at The Ranch.
This season may come down to being truly defined by one play. Jason Witten's third and nine conversion against the Giants was basically every story and challenge of the 2008 season rolled into a single play. There was determination and an attempt to right the ship in every step of his effort to convert and keep the Cowboys rolling; not only on the drive, but for the remainder of the season. Witten's end-of-the-play reaction told the entire story. They'll "will" this thing to happen, one way or another. No, your writer is not taking sides in this Metroplex drama of "He Said, He Said." Jason Witten's commitment to "team" football is second to none, and he is a grinder. He will stick his nose and body into anything for the good of the cause. Not only does this team need more Jason Witten's, society could use a few million as well. Jason Witten is a football player, and his peers know this. Welcome to another Pro Bowl, Mr. Witten.
Folks, your beloved quarterback had to find himself in the hot tub or in one packed completely with ice. The Giants game film review may have been tough for many, mainly Dallas' offensive line. The Giants' front seven was leaving nothing back for their Week 16 match-up with Carolina. If the Cowboys were to beat them, they were going to do it under immense pressure. Tony Romo took a beating. He, like counterpart Eli Manning, were tossed around like rag dolls. Fortunately for Romo, Manning took the brunt of the Cowboys' angst. Maybe the back feels a little better knowing Manning was under constant siege and under many piles that seemed to form at his feet. Tony better get used to being a chew toy for defensive dogs over the next couple of contests.
No one likes to see their quarterback subjected to abuse, but what better training ground for potential post season play. In the span of four weeks to conclude the 2008 season, Romo will have faced four of the very best defensive fronts in all of football. The Ravens will enter Texas Stadium Saturday night with the same froth-at-the-mouth intensity, and Jim Johnson and his high-flying Eagles know no other way to play. The selections were Andre Gurode and Leonard Davis to this year's Pro Bowl, and rightfully so, but there is one piece that always seems to go overlooked and underappreciated, and that's Marc Colombo. If Jason Witten epitomizes the grit and determination of this team, then Colombo has to be the offensive line's spiritual leader, and that has absolutely nothing to do with religion or whether or not Marc is a "believer." He sets the tone for everything they do, and his most endearing trait is sheer nastiness. If you desire a good comparison, he's the white Erik Williams. Feisty to the finish. Hats off to the Cowboys' RT; you're a true warrior, Brother.
Your back-to-back MVP for the last two weeks, and maybe a third to come, could easily be #23. Tashard Choice has simply "stepped up" in a determined and willing way. He has filled in admirably for a banged up MBIII and a missing Felix Jones. Cowboys' fans, you have to feel good about your running game for several years to come. Choice, another fourth round RB gem unearthed by the Cowboys' scouting department, is simply another Jason Witten-like football player. His back-to-back ACC rushing title efforts were apparently no fluke. If the Cowboys can continue finding their clock eaters and chain movers in later rounds of the Draft, then some chances can be taken in the early rounds in an attempt to fortify this offensive line for years to come.
While we're passing out a few accolades to the new guys, I've been meaning to write about Martellus Bennett for weeks now. This single move was the biggest head scratcher for me during this year's Draft, especially with the Cowboys' parting ways with Parcells' Mark Bavaro clone, Anthony Fasano, the night before the Draft. And not only did they select Bennett in the second round, they moved up to get him. Then came "Hard Knocks." What had the organization done? Holy Moses, the guy walks slowly, is aloof, doesn't want to tuck his jersey in, is combative to coaching, and then came the killer of all words….LAZY. Even our own beloved Roy Philpott was on record asking, "What have the Cowboys done here?" But Roy was right; the early signs were not good. However, at this juncture, I have to say he is one of the most intriguing talents on the roster, and I would really like to see him more involved as the season progresses. Yes, there are still questions about his maturity and consistency, but this guy possesses some rare talent, mainly speed, for a guy his size. It's hoped there are a few up-the-sleeve trick plays being held for post-season play. Keep an eye on Bennett. He could be something in years to come.
It's going to take sheer guts and emotion to do away with a rabid, visiting Baltimore Ravens team. They will hit you on every play, and their emotional lynchpins, hailing from an institution known only as "The U," will have their defense ready to play. I personally believe Safety Ed Reed is the best all-around defensive player in the League today. These guys will give the Cowboys a test of tests. The "X" factor in this one? It could very well be the 63,000+ residing in the stands. It was surprising to see very few Giants' fans in attendance Sunday night, and it's highly doubtful the Ravens would draw more. They don't travel like the Steelers' faithful. See, it's closing night for The Lady.
Cowboys fan or not, everyone knows Texas Stadium, or at least they know the sight of Texas Stadium. If Sunday night was any kind of preview to what Saturday night holds, then the Ravens better don some extra padding, to include ear plugs. In what was sure to be a precursor to Saturday night's tribute, Sunday's 63,000+ went to "frenzy" status when they started showing Texas Stadium highlights and memories over the years. Folks, it was emotional. Being the father of two young gentlemen who have seen their fair share of Cowboys' memories, mainly Emmitt Smith's record-breaking performance against Seattle, some of the clips sure brought back memories, but they also moistened the eyes on more than one occasion. I've been beyond blessed to see some wonderful moments in the grand old Lady that is Texas Stadium. Don't underestimate the power and raw emotion of a full house, especially a full house that is there to pay tribute to one tremendously-special venue.
It stands to be a night to remember, but there would be no better way to pay tribute than to knock off a rock-solid playoff contender and possible Super Bowl participant. Another blood bath is about to ensue, and emotions will be riding sky high come Saturday evening. Our Cowboys are in for a test of wills, but remember this. Over the course of four weeks, in what of late has been deemed "dreaded December," this Cowboys team is sharpening its saw against four of the League's toughest and deadliest squads, all potential post-season participants, and is there any better training ground for their ultimate pursuit? Even if they were to roll out of December with a 2-2 record, it's a .500 proposition with a whole lot of girth and momentum.
Peaking at the right time?
Only time will tell, but if the Cowboys can weather this storm, with marked improvement, then which opposition team wants to draw this battle-tested (on and off the field) squad when all the chips are in the middle of the table? I like their chances, and a victory in the curtain-closing, evening hours of Saturday night would be majestic in more than a hundred different ways. Good-bye Texas Stadium and thank you for housing and hosting America's greatest team. Ol' Girl, you have been one hell of a hostess!! Here's to YOU! Go Cowboys!
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