Perhaps no play this season is more emblematic of the 2010 Dallas Cowboys than a fourth and goal play from the one-yard line just before halftime in their abysmal 35-17 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In a lost season, the Cowboys lost an opportunity to become competitive in a game, and did it in a way that it is perfectly symbolic of this current team. The Cowboys have been a team that couldn't get out of its own way all season, a team that doesn't take care of the little things, and those in turn become big things, things that lose football game. A simple dive play with a pulling guard is one of the most basic plays in the Cowboys, or any team's, playbook. Dallas couldn't even run that right. Jon Kitna looked to turn the wrong way, expecting Marion Barber to go right, all of the blocking and Barber were going left, the result was a collision in the backfield, and ultimately a play that feel short of proper execution. It brings to mind one the best quips ever in pro football: Once, after a particularly brutal game, a reporter asked Bucs coach John McKay what he thought of his team's execution, McKay deadpanned "I'm in favor of it."
To understand the futility of this season, you can expand on this play for a variety of reasons. For a little context, step back one play when Dallas had virtually the same situation and tried virtually the same play. This time there was no collision in the backfield, just the failure of the blocking to impose its will. Two Dallas blockers met a single Jacksonville player in the hole, but the Jax player was able to hold his spot, forcing Barber to adjust his run and fall short of the goal line. One measly yard at the goal line, and the Dallas run blocking wasn't up to the task. Just as it hasn't been all year. The Cowboys running game has been a no-show all season.
Dallas is in the position of having to start Jon Kitna because of a failure to recognize a defensive blitz and consequently gave Tony Romo an early vacation. Maybe if Romo is handling that play, there's no collision. But Romo wasn't there because of a mental breakdown. Same as it ever was in 2010.
Lost among the futility of that play is the broader fact that they shouldn't have even been attempting the play. If Dallas wasn't 1-5 and basically in a "throw caution to the wind" state of mind, if there was something still to play for, they probably take the three points. Wade Phillips was right to go for it there, the Cowboys might as well given their current state. But if this team was competitive, if they were playing for something, they probably take the three points and go into halftime at 14-6. That's the percentage play. No such luck this year, the play is symbolic of a team that has fallen apart, that has to take huge changes just to stay in a football game. Even that hasn't helped.
There are a lot of things to talk about in this game, the run defense was shredded once again, Alan Ball and the secondary we toasted by a quarterback who was widely viewed as disappointing, even by the team's own fanbase. The Dallas defense turned David Garrard into a fantasy star on this day.
The Cowboys offense was also in a giving mood, as in giving two interceptions right to the Jacksonville defense, a defense that hadn't had a turnover in four straight games. Here the Cowboys are presented with a defense that ranks among the worst in the league, and they turn them into fantasy stars for a day.
The list could go on and on, but it truly becomes repetitive. The Dallas Cowboys are just a bad football team. A team that can't get out of its own way, even on the most basic of football plays.