Let's face facts, being a fan of the Dallas Cowboys in the 2000's is not easy thing to do. The football gods have demanded more than a pound of flesh in return for the past glories that grace the team's illustrious history. Of late, success has been hard to come by, at times there have been moments where they have teased us with hopes of success. One thing that stands out is the 2007 season that saw a Wade Phillips-led team finish the regular season with a 13-3 record and a NFC East crown. That was the year the New York Giants emerged from the Wildcard Round to defeat the Cowboys in the Divisional game as the G-Men went on to claim their third Super Bowl ring.
Two years later, as Dallas celebrated the franchises 50th season of football, Coach Phillips once again lead the squad back to the post-season dance. This time the football gods were a little less cruel. Dallas was once again matched up against a division foe in a playoff game. Wildcard Weekend was witness to a 20-point victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. One week later the powers that control the football universe reversed course and the 'Boys went down in a 31-3 loss in Minnesota. Cowboys fans went from the top of the world to the depths of despair in just a week's time. You will never convince me that the football gods were not laughing at us with this turn of events.
That win over Philly was the high-water mark and cruel fate once again taught us humility. You remember the 2010 season don't you? After the torture of the season's start we were witness to a change at the helm once it was too late to turn the tide. That was the start of what turned in to a three-year torture test. The Cowboys entered week 17 of each season with a chance to win the division only to be turned away during the final game of the regular season. It was tough on a fan's heart.
Fast forward to 2014. The Cowboys raced out to one of the hottest starts in the league. Many of us were thinking playoffs early on. I am guilty. Unfortunately, the Eagles were right there keeping pace. They also gave us a beatdown on Thanksgiving day. There was cause for concern that the wheels would fall off, and they did...in Philly. Dallas clinched the division with a week remaining to play.
After the first quarter of the Cowboys return to the post season it was beginning to look like fate was going to take another cruel turn. It was, in the words of the late Yogi Berra, like deja vu all over again. I was starting to get a few texts from friends all over the country loving the fact that Dallas was getting ready to break my heart all over again. I don't know about you, but my heart was pounding from the opening kickoff and as the game wound on it only got worse. Only a Tony Romo to Terrance Williams touchdown strike gave any glimmer of hope.
Something changed at halftime. The team that had never given up under Jason Garrett once again found something that would once again battle back. Dallas came back out to play some come-from-behind football, the type that made a legend of one Roger Staubach. This time it would be Tony Romo playing the role of Captain Comeback.
The game still had that feel that someone was going to screw it up. Dallas drove into the red zone early in the third stanza only to come away with no points. Perhaps it was the effect of Joe Buck referring to Dan "Split 'em" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in history or maybe the football gods were being cruel once again. Either way Bailey missed the kick. Eventually Dallas fought their way back and took their first lead. The bad news was that the team left Matthew Stafford, a Dallas area native, with a lot of time for a game winning drive. Coming down to the two minute warning the Cowboys, in the person of rookie DeMarcus Lawrence, recovered a Lions fumble that would put the game firmly in the hands of the home team. It was not to be and DLaw responded with a fumble of his own that gave Detroit new life. At this point it seemed pre-ordained that there would be some last minute heroics that would seal the Cowboys fate.
As matters turned out there were. The same rookie that fumbled away the opportunity to close out the game got an opportunity for redemption. It came in the form of his first career sack. Not only did he get to Stafford on fourth down and make what would be the victory sealing play, Lawrence also forced a fumble, which he recovered. For the first time all day, Cowboys fans were able to breathe easy. All that was left was to run my favorite play, Tony Romo taking a knee, and watch the clock wind down.
I was a nervous wreck all day, and experienced many flashbacks to blown opportunities past. Watching the game has left me exhausted. I'm sure that many others shared similar experiences. I don't know how much more my heart can take. It might be time for me to start keeping a cardiologist on call. How 'bout you?