Ed. note - Here a reasonable facsimile of Wade’s press conference. I pushed together some of the Q&A because the press returned to a lot of similarly-themed questions.
Wade: Very disappointing ending to a very good year. After watching the tape, I feel like the best team lost the game, we outplayed them and we lost. Some of that goes to the coach I accept that. We exceeded everyone’s’ expectations with the games we won, it raised the level of expectation and we came up short, losing in the final eight. The fans of the Cowboys and the team’s expectations are high every year and I realize that. Anything short is disappointing. That’s the way it is every year. Disappointing that we didn’t go any further than the final eight. I’m proud of the team, they worked hard, good team on and off field, we won more games than predicted, as we won the expectations get higher, but if your goal isn’t to be the best you won’t get there. We hung in well as a team, we learned some things from the losses we had, only four losses obviously. Hard to get over the last one, and it’s hard to see the good in this year now. The previous team was 9-8 and we went 13-4 and that’s the real truth. We improved offensively and defensively, 12 guys in the pro bowl, and those players are playing better than in the past. Players are disappointed but there were positives.
Message to team?
Same as I just said, I went into more detail about some of what we accomplished. When you lose that’s a bad feeling and it only happened 4 times but it happened in a big game.
Areas in the game that cost you?
We outplayed them, we gave up 57-yards the second half, we were tied at the half and gave up 57-yards in the second half and got beat. In close games you always feel one play could change the game, as a coach.
Drop off in performance over the last month of the season?
I think we knew in some areas we didn’t do as well. We pushed the running game and stopping the running game. We pushed that in bye week, and improved, we held them to 94 yards rushing and had 151 yards.
Tremendous job to get the opportunities by the defense. Penalties hurt us, we had 6 in the second half. (Describes long drives of the first half and 3rd quarter). Then we had a big penalty on the next drive that moved us back to the 7 and changed the flow of the game. I think we outplayed them, anytime you make 336 yards and they get 230 and hold the ball for more time, you should win the game but we didn’t. Penalties hurt us.
Defensive sequence at the end of the first half?
We played the coverage we thought they would run the pass on and they ran that pass. Two of them. We need our players to execute then.
I don’t know that we went way down. We won 13 games, when you lose three games is not as relevant. I was worried that we didn’t win by bigger margins and we lost to Philly at home. We’re a young team, 4th youngest in the league, that’s some of it, some is just playing well. Playing one or two plays better.
Learn from this loss?
When you outplay a team you have to put them away. Going into the half we needed to make plays to keep them from scoring.
Any point where you thought we let them off the hook?
At 14-7, we just had a 100 and a 90 yard scoring drive. The drive before the half was key.
Wade: I want to commend Terry Glenn and Terrell because they played injured. It showed up in the second half, they wore down. But I want to commend them because they played injured, not in pain, but injured.
Romo falling off at the end of the last two seasons?
We raised the level so high we weren’t able to keep it up. We were scoring 30 points a game and we can’t keep up with that. We just weren’t as effective throwing the ball. We decided to get back to the running game and we did and almost won.
Do you still trust your team now in light of the stupid penalties?
They weren’t stupid penalties, the intentional grounding there was no one near him, the penalty for Leonard, the guy hits a guy while the play is going on, he just blocked him. Penalties that are stupid are the ones after a play, taunting and stuff, we got a face mask and that hurt us before the half. Part of what I try to do is prepare them. It’s not an ‘on your own team’, the coaches do a good job, I thought we were ready to play. They called an offsides that gave them a first down on the first possession, I didn’t think he was offsides.
Complacency down the stretch and in this game?
I don’t know, I understand our offense didn’t have as many points, but the defense played better down the stretch. Our front seven improved, we got 3 more sacks on Eli, only gave up 140 yards passing. I still see improvement. We’re ahead 14-7 and played well but gave it up before the half, played well in the 2nd half but didn’t finish. 4th quarter we stopped them twice on 3 and out, but we didn’t finish.
Are you worried that Jerry Jones might make rash changes?
We’ll discuss everything for the team. But overall, we won 13 games had 12 pro-bowlers, we have good players and we’ll try to improve, try to get to the Super Bowl. That’s what he wants and we all want that.
Do you think the team is missing something, or a player, to get over the hump?
We’ll go into that and evaluate every player and all our coaching. We put in a new offense and defense this year, the players will get better. That’s what we do, analyze the personnel and what we’re doing.
Expectations from you on the season?
I try to get them to play as good as they can. I didn’t know a lot of them, I got a better feel now, we got a lot of really good players, we utilized them pretty well. That’s what I try to do. Before the season you never know.
How difficult is this loss for you in comparison to others?
This is the most difficult, I expected to win. I thought we had a better team, we proved it twice, thought we’d do it a third time. They made enough plays to win. That’s why stats aren’t everything. They won the game. I thought that if you have such a big stat differential and have the ball for 36 minutes, you’d usually win.
This team was 9-8, now it’s 13-4. It went to the final 12 last year and to the final 8 this year. We improved offensive and defensively, improved as a team, the arrow is pointing up. Next year in the same system we can improve. Improvement would not be winning 13 games, but getting back to #1 and win in the playoffs.
4th quarter failures?
We believed we would win the game. We had some opportunities, we had penalties in both situations that we didn’t overcome. We tried to make plays but didn’t.
Tony’s a winner, he got us here. I can’t believe in a QB more than Tony. He’d like to do a little better but he made plays and had three tremendous drives. He’s a young QB with season and a half of experience. He’s getting better and better, a tremendous year this year that will carry-over, this team is on its way up. He’s level headed and wants to be coached. He needs to get better like all of us. He learns as he’s goes, learned from the Buffalo game and he’ll learn from this one.
They sacked us twice and we got them three times. I thought they hit us with some blitzes that we didn’t handle well. We had time to throw at other times and with the running game I thought they wore them down.
He gave us a spark, 100-yards at half. That’s what I thought he would do. I thought he deserved to start after the season he had. Coming into this ball game, we rewarded him, not against JJ but for MB3, he did a great job all year. I thought he deserved the start earned the right in the regular season. We wanted to try and run the ball, the Giants only give up 94 a game, but we wanted to run the ball and thought that would help us more in the passing game. The running game had been going down. I thought he played very well, I’ve liked him all along, he proved himself to me, he’s in the Pro Bowl. He’s definitely a starter, don’t know why he wouldn’t be.
T.O. injury slow him down in the second half?
Both got worn down (including Terry Glenn). Looking at ourselves we should have got it to him more. They’re both tremendous athletes that can play for a long time. Both had legitimate injuries that younger players will get, but age is not a factor with those two guys.
What happened on the play where Crayton slowed down at the end?
Pat slowed down but Tony saw him running and he made a good throw. They just didn’t connect. (Why did he slow down?) I don’t know why, ask him.
(Disclaimer: These press conference recaps are just paraphrases of what Wade Phillips says and aren’t vetted for total accuracy on quotes. I shorten and condense things he says but try to get across the intended meaning. Occasionally, what I post loses the context of something Wade said and may appear counter-intuitive. If you have questions about something from the press conference, feel free to ask in the comments.)