Other than the Jets' defensive efforts and the shootout in Arizona, this string of NFL playoff games has seen its fair share of blowouts. And the Cowboys have seen both sides of that compass.
Looking forward, the argument can be made that this team has progressed. Tony Romo learned to take better care of the ball. Young players such as Miles Austin, Anthony Spencer, and Mike Jenkins emerged as potential new stars. The defense found a way to close out games. Coach Joe DeCamillis breathed life into the special teams units. The team's new players: the free agent acquisitions, as well as some of its low-round rookies, came in to have an immediate impact throughout the season.
Looking back, the Vikings exposed those weaknesses that concerned many of us this past year. The offensive line is not dominant - speed rushers can beat these tackles and the interior guys lose ground to bigger D-linemen. Chase Tony Romo around enough, and you may eventually force a turnover. The offense gains yards, but that does little if it doesn't translate those yards into points. Having bad placekicking luck doesn't help either. And the defense can only hold them down for so long.
The direction in which this team is headed is debatable and dependent on how the Cowboys choose to correct what's wrong. Surely, we all would have loved for the Cowboys to have had another shot at the Saints. It just wasn't meant to be. They got their butts kicked.
The long and winding offseason begins now. As Ed Werder reported earlier, Wade Phillips will remain the head coach of the Cowboys. Jerry Jones considers "continuity" as something that will help this team grow.
"We have players that have a lot of will and we have a staff that has the incentive to get better," Jones said. "We have a good group here. I think that’s the history of things when you have that and you keep continuity, you have a chance to get better. And I’m confident we’ll get better," Jones added.
More VRR after the jump.
In regards to unrestricted free agency, the Cowboys do not have the pressure to re-sign any stars - thanks to Jerry Jones inking out a deal with DeMarcus Ware earlier this season. They do, however, have some key restricted free agents. Obviously, they will have to make quick decisions on starters like Miles Austin, Marcus Spears, and Gerald Sensabaugh.
The only unrestricted free agent on the roster is guard Montrae Holland, who was inactive for every game.
Wide receiver Miles Austin, cornerback Alan Ball, defensive end Stephen Bowen, defensive end Jason Hatcher, wide receiver Sam Hurd, tackle Pat McQuistan, center Duke Preston, center Cory Procter, safety Gerald Sensabaugh, nose tackle Junior Siavii, defensive end Marcus Spears, kicker Shaun Suisham and safety Pat Watkins are restricted free agents.
Coach Phillips on Gerald Sensabaugh's coverage during Sidney Rice's first TD catch:
"He was running right with him," Phillips said. "But he never saw the ball. Didn't even know he caught it. That was the strangest play I've seen in a long time. If he turns around, he could have intercepted or knocked it down. It's amazing that happened ... He said he didn't know they threw the ball or that the guy caught it. He didn't even try to tackle him. He thought the play was over."
Go for it on 4th-and-one or kick the field goal? Rob Phillips debates...
Yes, Suisham has had shaky moments this season, both as a Redskin and a Cowboy. But entering the game, he was 6-of-6 from 40-49 yards this season. He's made those kicks, and watching him in warm-ups, the only miss I saw was a 54-yarder. He looked ready.
"It's a (48)-yard field goal," head coach Wade Phillips said. "You've got to make some of those and we didn't."
The fallout? Brett Favre hit Sidney Rice three plays later for a 47-yard touchdown and the Vikings led, 7-0.
A frustrated Roy Williams sounded off some on his lack of opportunities yesterday. All indications point to the WR returning for another season as a Cowboy.
"I didn't get a ball today, and I didn't get a look at today. It just happens," Williams told ESPN Dallas. "It's frustrating. It pisses me off, especially when we lose and especially when I feel like I have a mismatch. I got a 5-10 corner [on me] but hey, you know, I will continue to work hard in the offseason and it will come back around."
Williams always seems to miss the big picture. Tony Romo didn't have time to find him, and Williams hardly inspired confidence all year. Due $12.95 million next year -- ($12.95 million!) -- Williams doesn't believe he'll be cut. In late December, he said, "Now, next year, if this is the same thing going on, then I'll be like, 'Oh [expletive], I've got to get my [expletive] together.' But right now, no. It's play ball. I'm good."
Williams may be right, because the Cowboys owe him $9 million even if he's not on the roster.
Hat tip to Dr.Cowboy for the FanShot.
Don't blame Romo for this one! That's what JJT says.
Hit any quarterback hard enough and long enough and he will succumb whether it’s Romo, Troy Aikman or Roger Staubach. Minnesota sacked Romo six times, forced three fumbles — he lost two — and intercepted him once.
Defensive end Ray Edwards, who abused Colombo, finished with four tackles for loss, three sacks and a forced fumble. Oh, he also hit Romo six times.
Actually, the Vikings hit Romo so often that he began sensing pressure on the rare occasion he did receive protection, which made him tentative on some plays, while he rushed others.
Gil Lebreton says that Romo "made mistakes, not plays".
But while it may not seem fair to judge Romo on what happened Sunday, road games in the playoffs and ferocious pass rushes are what teams often encounter in the NFL postseason.
Favre had no fumbles and threw no interceptions. He kept finding a way to make plays. Romo has that ability, but he was left Sunday with mostly questions — questions about the future, questions about what the Cowboys’ post-Thanksgiving success really meant.
Losing starting LT Flozell Adams did not help the Cowboys, but Doug Free, his replacement, didn't hinder them either.
Free, like most tackles, had trouble with All-Pro DE Jared Allen. Free did not get dominated, though. Allen had one sack, and that came on a play that was designed to have TE Jason Witten blocking him one-on-one. That's poor strategy, not a problem with the left tackle. The Cowboys paid with a turnover when Allen jarred the ball loose with a violent hit on Tony Romo's blind side.
But it was Ray Edwards, the other end, who really gave the Cowboys fits.
The Vikings did to the Cowboys what the Eagles could not do.
One, the Eagles certainly didn't get the kind of pass-rush pressure from their front that the Vikings got yesterday, particularly the inside push that always seems to mess up timing and get quarterbacks moving hesitantly.
"Nobody has had that kind of pressure on us the whole year," Phillips glumly concluded, after his team failed to score a touchdown for the first time since the 44-6 loss that ended its 2008 season, at the Eagles. Dallas hadn't been held to three points since a 2003 loss to the Patriots.
Two, the Eagles never show the kind of commitment to balance, even when the run game isn't working, that kept Dallas from teeing off on Favre in the second half the way the Cowboys teed off on Donovan McNabb last week.
"It's always important to be able to beat on people up front," Childress said. Adrian Peterson's 26 carries netted 63 yards yesterday, a hefty 2.4 yards per carry. "We didn't have any desire to let them play a rush-the-passer game."
Pat Williams called the Cowboys "cocky". Huh.
"They overlooked us," Pat Williams said, "and that’s fine. Basically, that’s how they ride down there. I don’t blame them, I guess. They’re young. They can be cocky. They’ve got a cocky owner, so that’s how they ride. But they came into this dome, and it was hostile for them. "
That dominating defensive effort by the Vikings' defense has helped DC Leslie Frazier in the running for the Bills' search for a new head coach.
Frazier, 50, interviewed for the Bills' job two weeks ago along with former Bills defensive coordinator and interim coach Perry Fewell, who took himself out of the mix by joining the New York Giants as their defensive coordinator. T
he only other person believed to have had an interview with the Bills is Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh. CBS football insider Charley Casserly reported on the NFL Today pregame show that the Bills not only interviewed Harbaugh, they offered him the job, which he didn't accept.
So for now, Frazier looks like the only viable candidate.
One coach that has already left the Cowboys is (now) former defensive line coach, Todd Grantham, who has started his new job as defensive coordinator for the University of Georgia.
UGA still has two openings on its defensive staff after hiring Grantham, who said late Friday that he and head coach Mark Richt "will be working throughout the weekend and next week to iron some of those things out. But anything like that would be premature at this time."
The Cowboys have hired Paul Pasqualoni as his replacement.
Post-game interviews with Patrick Crayton, Bradie James, and Keith Brooking here.
The Cowboys thank their fans for their support in the story below.