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Cowboys @ Packers: Sweet Season Leaves A Bitter Aftertaste, But Don't Blame The Refs

When opportunity knocked on the door in Green Bay, the Dallas Cowboys answered the telephone.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

One of the first things that I heard being discussed in the wake of the Dallas Cowboys playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers was that a bad decision by a referee had resulted in the Cowboys being eliminated from the the post-season. Strangely that statement came from a Packers fan, who is also a client of mine. I have to disagree. Sure it is easy to assess blame to the men in the stripes when looking for a crutch to help bear the disappointment of the bitter defeat, but the truth is that the Cowboys had opportunities to place themselves in position to take that one call out of the equation. They did not avail themselves of those chances.

One of the first posts that I penned after joining the front page staff here at Blogging The Boys addressed the fact that Jason Garrett has always preached the necessity of seizing the moment, and cashing in on the chances the football gods grace you with. Garrett and his team did not do that. As a result, the Green Bay Packers were the team who lived to fight another day, while Garrett and his staff will now turn their attention toward bettering the Cowboys for 2015. They let victory slip from their grasp on Sunday and the only ones they have to blame are themselves.

The slipping started right before halftime. Holding a 14-7 lead, the Cowboys took possession of the ball at their own 19-yard line. There were just over five and a half minutes on the clock when Dallas began moving the ball down the field and it looked like the team was going to add another score to start driving the dagger into the Packer's chances. The team instead let momentum swing back toward the home-standing squad on the other sideline. With just under a minute to go in the half a botched third down snap in the shotgun formation resulted in an incomplete pass to Terrence Williams. Dan Bailey then trotted out to salvage the drive by tacking on three points that would allow Dallas to enter halftime with a double digit lead.

Bailey missed the attempt from 45 yards out. The Cowboys caught a break thanks to a false start penalty; the most accurate kicker in history would have a second chance from 50 yards away. The second kick was partially blocked and the Cowboys would go in to the locker room with no more than 14 points. Green Bay would have 29 seconds to attempt to close the gap Unlike Dallas, the Packers would not let opportunity slip away. With three seconds remaining on the clock Mason Crosby lined up in field goal formation and then split the uprights. That shift of momentum proved ominous.

Dallas could have entered the mid-game break solidly in control with a comfortable fourteen point advantage, but instead they were clinging to a tenuous four-point margin.  With that shift, the whole game shifted as well. Green Bay knew that they had dodged what could have been a huge hole to climb out of. Aaron Rodgers and his cohorts came out and did what Dallas could not: they seized the opportunity that fate had given them and they did what successful football teams must do. They took hold of the chance they were given and fought back. It was as if they borrowed a page from what Dallas had done all season. They battled back and eventually regained the lead. It was at that moment that the Dallas Cowboys made a referee's decision a relevant factor in the game.

They have no one to blame but themselves. Had they finished the fight on an earlier drive, had they closed out in the first half, there is little reason to believe that Dallas would have even been in a situation to where Tony Romo would have been forced to attempt a game-winning drive. Perhaps we would have still seen the same play with the same result. I don't know. What I do know is that it would not have been a deciding factor in the result. That responsibility cannot be pinned on the officials, it was not them who faltered before halftime.

In closing I want to say this, it has been a helluva season and I have enjoyed being along for the ride. Dallas exceeded my wildest expectations. The end will leave a bitter taste in my mouth, but I cannot complain. My team had its chances, but did not cash in. The sun will rise tomorrow and we will start looking towards the draft. Twenty-four other teams would have loved to reach the heights that Dallas did this season. Let's bask in the success rather than dwelling on the failure. Forget about the "If only". In the words of the late Cowboys quarterback  Don Meredith:

If if's and buts were candies and nuts wouldn't it be a Merry Christmas?

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