Adding Insult to Injury

IRVING, Tex. - There were a lot of things about the Dallas Cowboys' loss Sunday to the San Diego Chargers that hurt: DeMarcus Ware's neck … Nick Folk missing a field goal for the fifth consecutive game … the Cowboys' inability to score when they had first-and-goal from the 4-yard line.

But among the most painful results from Sunday's game came after San Diego's 20-17 victory. As reporters swarmed players in each locker room, one of the hot topics among the media was the Cowboys' failed attempt to score from close range by running Marion Barber through the right side of the line … four consecutive times.

In the victorious Charger locker room, inside linebacker Tim Robbins said he and his teammates knew Barber would get the ball, in part because Barber's contract is far richer than that of a lead blocker. The Cowboys, Robbins said, were going to either pound Barber or go to some kind of play-action pass.

Robbins said, "We knew (Barber) had to get the ball. He's not getting paid to block. Everybody knows that — everybody in the stands knew that. We knew it was going to be a flip or a dive, one or the other."

If the "we know what you're doing before you do it" revelation wasn't enough, Robbins took one more shot at the Cowboys' offensive strategy.

"I don't know if they watched film, or what."

It's one thing for players to tout their own team's coaches and scouting staffs by suggesting they had a good idea of what plays are coming. But there's a code that stipulates players don't insult opponents — players, coaches or anyone else. The theory is that eventually, the teams will meet again, and players and coaches have long memories.

To suggest that the Cowboys possibly had prepared for the Chargers without watching film — which, of course, is ludicrous — amounted to a direct slap in the face to Dallas head coach Wade Phillips and his staff. By saying as much, Robbins basically suggested that Phillips and his staff had done little (or perhaps nothing) in preparation for the Charger offense.

If a team is well-prepared and gets beat because of poor execution or inferior talent, that's one thing. But to suggest — even in jest, which surely is how Robbins' comments were intended — that a team simply didn't prepare crosses the line. It calls Phillips and his staff into question, implying that they simply didn't do their jobs.

The fact is that the Cowboys, like every team, do watch film — hours of it. They know the Chargers and San Diego head coach Norv Turner and his staff. They know the Charger players and the coaches, and have a pretty good grasp on the tendencies and philosophies of each. It's true that they didn't score when they were knocking on the door of the San Diego end zone, but not because of a lack of preparation. Question the play-calling, and surely the execution. But to say what Robbins said suggests that Phillips and his staff either were unprepared, or maybe had read too many stories suggesting they would be replaced at the end of the season, and had mentally checked out.

Talk to Phillips and anyone on his staff, though, and it appears that just isn't the case.

Now the Cowboys head to New Orleans to face the undefeated Saints. They'll face the league's most potent offense, perhaps without Ware, on the road and in a short week (the game is Saturday night). If there is anything to what Robbins said about a lack of preparation or focus or creativity — call it what you want — the Cowboys need to correct that before the weekend if they are to have any chance at all to pull off an upset.

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