The Cowboys have now lost three straight games where the team needed to win in order to make the playoffs. Appropriately, those losses have come against Dallas' three biggest rivals: Philadelphia in 2008, New York in 2011, and Washington in 2012.
Not coincidentally, Tony Romo was the starting quarterback in each game. With the exception of last season, when Romo posted a 106.0 passer rating (when he was injured), Tony has been miserable. Against Philadelphia Tony had a 55.8 passer rating and turned the ball over three times (two fumbles and one interception), and tonight Romo barely surpassed that number with a 55.9 passer rating while throwing three interceptions.
Among the many words that will be associated with Tony Romo following this debacle, a few will likely be:
Folds under pressure
Perhaps the word that should be associated the most with Romo, however, is unfortunate. If not for the stellar play of Tony the last two months, the Cowboys would have been out of the playoffs a long time ago. Romo put the team on his shoulders and carried them to the divisional title game. When he needed help, though, he received none.
The story of Tony Romo is far from completely written. It is said that it is darkest before the dawn: well consider this a very dark hour Tony. It is difficult to defend the last two interceptions, as they appeared to be horrendously bad throws. Quite frankly, it is difficult to defend Romo's performance in these elimination games where he is now 1-6.
It is unfair to lay the entire blame on Tony Romo. The defense held Washington to 21 points through 57 minutes of play, and the special teams made some plays, so it would seem that it was the offense that let this team down tonight.
The offensive line performed as well as could be expected considering the low standard it has established throughout the season. The running game was effective, averaging 4.55 yards per carry on 22 rushing attempts.
The inability of the receivers to gain separation when engaged in single coverage doomed this offense and this team. The first interception seemed to be yet another screw up by a receiver: this time Ogletree. Injuries to Austin (again) and Bryant left this team devoid of playmakers in the fourth quarter. Those injuries served to amplify the early errors Romo made, essentially robbing Dallas of the opportunity to take a substantial lead in the first quarter.
When analyzing the game, it is difficult to understand the final two interceptions Tony threw against the 30th ranked pass defense coming into the game. Aside from interceptions from Romo, the Redskins collected 16 interceptions all season: approximately one per game in the other 14 contests. Versus Dallas, Washington snatched 5 interceptions in 99 pass attempts: or more than one every twenty passes. There were also three other passes that Romo threw that could have easily been intercepted in the 2012 regular season finale.
As Jerry Jones admitted, Washington was the better team this evening. It will be a long off season that begins tonight. Dallas has the 18th selection in the 2013 NFL draft. Offensive and defensive line appears to be the most pressing need on this team, but safety and wide receiver should also be strongly considered. Depth at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, and running back is necessary due to the injury woes that seem to perpetually limit the starters.
That is an unexpectedly long list of needs for this team. Finding two offensive linemen (a high quality center and either a starting quality guard or right tackle), at least one disruptive defensive lineman (either a nose tackle or a 3-4 defensive end), a quality wide receiver that can gain separation in man coverage, a play making safety that can tackle in the open field, and several competent back-ups will be nearly impossible to draft in 2013. Finding rookies at those positions that can come in and immediately contribute is even less likely.
Considering that the team is roughly $20 million over the cap sans Anthony Spencer, it is doubtful that much help will be gained through free agency. In addition, there will be considerable changes made to the roster. Combining the needs with the only avenue available for improvement, the draft, it seems that this Cowboys team is more than just one season away.
The window for this group of players may have closed. The product of poor drafting and poor coaching during the prime of their respective careers (from 2007 through 2010) has led to this outcome: it is truly a pity.
Or should I say that it is unfortunate.