Cowboys Can't Make Playoffs; End Season With 28-18 Loss At Washington

Rob Carr

The Cowboys had a chance at the postseason sitting on a plate in front of them, but let the Redskins run the football down their throats instead.

None of it matters. The injuries, the countless number of injuries, rose again. Doesn't matter. The Cowboys entered the final game of the 2012 NFL regular season with the opportunity to put themselves in the tournament and put an end to some of the most ridiculous over-generalizations that exist in the league. Instead, they only confirmed them. Dallas came into Washington a game back of the NFC four seed, and leave it in third place in the division and home again for the playoffs. This one happened to the tune of 28 to 18 after a game-sealing Alfred Morris touchdown, his third of the game on his 200th yard. 200 yards.

Tony Romo, hot the entire second half of the season, threw three interceptions on the game. The third was a back-breaker, coming after Dallas had shrunk an 11 point lead to 3, and got the ball back with three minutes remaining on the heels of their first sack of Robert Griffin III. Tony Romo looked to dump a pass off to DeMarco Murray, but instead was picked off by a leaping Rob Jackson. It was the quintessential gut-punch to a team that had come back over and over again this season. It was the Romo play that every single one of his detractors had the utmost confidence would eventually happen. And it did. And the season is over.

The Cowboys offense was out of sync from early in the game. Dwayne Harris gave the Cowboys beautiful field position after a punt return but WR Kevin Ogletree ran a route to short and didn't look for the pass leading to an interception. The Cowboys defense then began a game-long trend of barely doing anything to prevent the Washington offense from making them their play toys.

The Cowboys got the ball back after the Redskins missed a field goal, and decided they wanted nothing to do with the possession. Romo lofted a deep bomb to Miles Austin, only it appeared more for Josh Wilson who had the inside positioning. A second first-quarter turnover queued up every Romo detractor from early in the game, and justifiably so on that throw.

The Cowboys defense held again, though, and gave the ball back to Romo and the offense. They appeared to get the kinks worked out, driving 89 yards and punching it in on a Romo to Witten connection where Tony had over eight seconds in the pocket while Witten juked the covering linebacker. Dallas' lead was short-lived however as Washington's offense finally got on track.

Alfred Morris could not be stopped. Washington ran the ball right at Dallas and promptly marched the field. Morris scored his first TD getting around the left edge with the utmost of ease for a 17 yard score. No edge setting on this play.

The injuries to the Cowboys defense up the middle showed time and time again as Morris was fed the ball repeatedly. When he wasn't gaining big chunks up the middle, a gimpy, slowed RGIII was making a one-armed DeMarcus Ware look silly. The outside linebackers had to maintain their edge integrity and they never did, allowing Griffin to gain first downs despite running at what appeared to be 75% or less. Griffin ended up only throwing for 100 yards but that mattered little when the team ran for 274 yards on 42 carries. He didn't do it all by himself; Dallas had several instances of shoddy tackling attempts and undisciplined play.

After trading punts to start the second half tied at seven, Washington scored touchdowns on their next two possessions. Dallas could only muster a field goal, and continued to lose key players. Dez Bryant, who was in a hotly contested battle with DeAngelo Hall for much of the game, injured his back and never returned to the game. Miles Austin was already out with an ankle injury, leaving Dallas with Kevin Ogletree, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley as their top receivers.

After finally getting themselves another second half stop, Dallas was able to inject some hope of another cardiac comeback when Harris pulled out his second huge punt return of the game. It would have been a touchdown if the Redskins punter didn't try to decapitate him along the left sideline. The Mash Unit scored on a beautiful pass to Ogletree in front of the pylon, and then cut the lead to three with a two point conversion to Harris. It was another great pass by Romo and all of Cowboys Nation had hope that another comeback was in store.

Washington returned the kickoff to midfield, but on third down Dallas finally got to RGIII, collapsing the pocket where Anthony Spencer finally took down the rookie signal caller. Dallas would get the ball back with over three minutes to go, but it just wasn't meant to be. Romo's interception effectively ended the season and started the doubt as to whether he will ever exorcise his elimination game demons.

Dallas was thoroughly dominated for much of the game, on both sides of the ball. At the end of the day though, it will be placed on the quarterback and the head coach, because that's just how it goes. Garrett didn't attempt a 50+ yard field goal before half when his kicker had struggled in that direction during pregame warmups, but fans weren't privy to that information and it will be quickly forgotten as the doubting moves into the offseason.

Despite being above .500 for his career after taking over a 1-7 team midseason, Garrett's team failed in a "Win and In" situation for the second year in a row. All of the great fight the team showed in their late-game comebacks will fall by the wayside as his failures are magnified and people question whether he has the ability to call a winning game anymore.

Romo will not be able to escape the fact that so many of the folks behind keyboards and in front of cameras had started to give him credit, and now have the ammunition to fire at will once again.

The loss hurts, but this was simply the Cowboys script for 2012. Better luck next year.

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