Their hopes of making their first Super Bowl run since 1995 went up in flames against a team that was built to win the Super Bowl in a 34-3 loss to the Vikings.
It was the fewest points scored by the Cowboys since a 12-0 loss to the Patriots in 2003. It's the team's worst loss since a 44-6 loss to the Eagles that ended last season in embarrassing fashion.
But that's where the similarities end. Last season's final blowout loss fostered soul searching and an offseason of change for the Cowboys.
This time, the Cowboys don't plan on changing anything as the loss didn't dampen the success of the season that owner Jerry Jones hopes to build on for the future. Jones wants to maintain continuity and build on this season's success, including the return of coach Wade Phillips.
"We got to get better than we were (Sunday)," Jones said. "But I don't have near the feeling I had at the end of last year in Philadelphia. This is not an indictment on the progress we made. This is totally different. We got a foundation we can build on. We got talent on the way. We have a chance to keep continuity and I'm going to do that."
Said quarterback Tony Romo: "I think this team is all about improvement. We didn't show a lot today but we will take things from this game, find a way to improve and go forward. Hopefully, we continue to get better. We need some players to step up and others to work their butts off in the offseason. That is what we will do from this point."
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Cowboys changed perceptions about the their team, their coach and their quarterback with a four-game winning streak to end the season, winning the NFC East title and winning their first playoff game in 13 years. The Cowboys finally won in December because of better chemistry and team unity fostered by the departures of divisive players such as Terrell Owens, Pacman Jones, Tank Johnson, Greg Ellis and safety Roy Williams. They had a winning record after Thanksgiving Day for the first time since 1996. It helped secure another year for maligned coach Wade Phillips. Quarterback Tony Romo showed he could play well in big games and was playing as well as any quarterback in the league down the stretch. The Cowboys found cornerstone players for the future in cornerback Mike Jenkins, receiver Miles Austin, linebacker Anthony Spencer and running back Felix Jones.
"We know what it takes to get this point," Phillips said. "And we have to get to this point next year. Maybe play a home game and take it from there."
WHAT WENT WRONG: The Cowboys opened the season so strong at kicker that they kept a kickoff specialist and a placekicker. Rookie David Buehler proved to be their best draft pick as he was a beast on kickoffs. But Nick Folk was awful on field goals and proved to be the team's Achilles' heel. Shaun Suisham, cut by the Washington Redskins for missing a 23-yard field goal, replaced him and was ultimately no better. He missed two field goals in the playoff loss to the Vikings. Not having a reliable kicker impacted the Cowboys' ability to call plays and make decisions.
--LT Flozell Adams suffered a strained calf in the second quarter and missed the rest of the game. Adams was replaced by Doug Free, who promptly gave up a sack and a forced fumble on his second play.
--QB Tony Romo had his lowest quarterback rating since the Week 2 loss to the New York Giants. It was also his first game with three turnovers since the loss to the Giants.
--RB Marion Barber played against the Vikings after missing most of last week's game with a swollen bursa sack in his knee. He rushed for 14 yards on eight carries. Felix Jones got the bulk of the load with 14 carries for 69 yards.
--WR Roy Williams was blanked against the Vikings. It was the third time this season that the $9 million receiver was blanked. He had four other games in which he had just one catch.
--LB DeMarcus Ware's sack upped his career postseason total to four to break a tie with Ed Jones and Harvey Martin (three each) and tie Chad Hennings, Leon Lett and Russell Maryland for fourth all-time in franchise postseason history.
Season of change
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