Cowboys' troubles are self-inflicted

There’s been shaky quarterbacking by Tony Romo at critical junctures, poor performances from the...

There’s been shaky quarterbacking by Tony Romo at critical junctures, poor performances from the secondary in must-stop situations, and some really lousy decision-making by the coaching staff, particularly head coach Jason Garrett in the closing moments of games. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:56 PM ET

The Dallas Cowboys are behind the 8-ball in their quest to win the NFC East Crown and it’s their own damn fault.

There’s been shaky quarterbacking by Tony Romo at critical junctures, poor performances from the secondary in must-stop situations, and some really lousy decision-making by the coaching staff, particularly head coach Jason Garrett in the closing moments of games.

It has led to five — count ‘em, five — blown fourth-quarter leads, the latest one a 12-point lead that went up in smoke in Sunday’s crushing 37-34 loss at home to the New York Giants.

The loss left the Giants and Cowboys in a tie, both teams at 7-6, with the Giants by virtue of their win, holding the tiebreaker.

It forces the Cowboys to win at least two of their final three, including the rematch against the Giants on New Year’s Day, the final Sunday of the regular season.

The Cowboys will start their three-game sprint to the finish line with a soft game as they travel to Tampa Bay to take on the reeling Buccaneers, losers of their past seven games. The following week they play host to the Philadelphia Eagles.

One issue owner Jerry Jones wanted to clear up following the loss against the Giants was that he wasn’t about to sack Garrett, that his job was not in danger.

“Well, that’s not a question that’s in my mind, kinda worth responding to,” Jones said Tuesday morning on radio station KRLD-FM. “But the answer is no and we’re just getting started here.”

The Cowboys have lost two in a row starting with the debacle in Phoenix against the Arizona Cardinals when Garrett iced his own kicker on the final play of regulation time, negating what would have been a game-winning field goal. The Cowboys went on to lose in overtime.

“I would have liked to have been closed out right now,” Jones said. “If we had won the last two games, that would have happened.”

Instead, control has now shifted to the Giants.

“It shouldn’t surprise us, here we are leading the league, and I’m not being facetious, but leading our division, but we got to fight it out, right down to the wire,” Jones said.

Good teams, though, close out games. They don’t let opponents wriggle off the hook. It has left the fan base antsy.

“I do understand they’re concerned and I would agree we’ve had a difficult time this year closing out,” Jones said. “And we’ve had some games we should have, if you look back at it, won.”

GIANTS IN CONTROL

The Giants breezed a, well, giant sigh of relief with their triumph but know that they have to tighten up defensively, especially their secondary, if they want to march on and clinch the division.

“Grave concern. I can’t express that any more,” head coach Tom Coughlin replied when asked if he was worried about the big plays the secondary keeps giving up. “We continue to work with it. You have technical errors. You have just physical breakdowns where one person is able in a certain way to win on a certain play over another. You have those kinds of things that happen as well, but the thing that I’m most discouraged about is when we do have a breakdown in communication and we do have some type of a error that gives up a big play. And that should not be happening and we’re continuing to try to eliminate those things.”

The Giants, who lost four in a row before downing Dallas, have been overly reliant on the play of quarterback Eli Manning. From here on in, though, he needs some help, especially from the secondary.

The Giants can clinch by winning two of their final three as long as they win the Jan. 1 rematch.

First up is a home game against the improved and playing tough Washington Redskins. Following that is a game against the Jets and finally, the Cowboys.

With the win, the Giants have walked back from the edge of the cliff and need to keep their focus on the Redskins.

“It would be a shame if we wasted this and didn’t build on this,” was how Giants guard Chris Snee put it.

A shame indeed.

QUICK HITS

The NFL has suspended Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison for one game for his hit last Thursday night on Cleveland Browns quarterback Colt McCoy. The helmet-to-helmet hit by Harrison has created quite a stir regarding the Browns, who have come under fire for sending McCoy back into the game with concussion-like symptoms. It is the fifth time Harrison has been punished by the league for an illegal hit ... Following the season-ending injury (fractured ankle) to running back DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys have brought in former Texas Tech running back Sammy Morris to serve as Felix Jones’ backup. Morris, 34, was released by the Patriots in training camp. Jones was the only running back left on the roster prior to the move ... Carolina coach Ron Rivera is losing patience with his team blowing leads, the latest example occurring in Sunday’s loss to Atlanta. The Panthers have won just four games but have held leads in 12 of the 13 games they’ve played. “We’ve got to grow up and get past a lot of things,” Rivera said. “We’ve got to get past ‘it is what it is’ because it’s not. We are better than that. We have to start playing like it.”

COUNT VEGAS AMONG THE CONVERTED

Tim Tebow is not only winning games for the Denver Broncos with last-minute comebacks, but along the way he is piling up the converts.

You can add the sharp guys in Las Vegas plus NFL analyst Merril Hoge to that list.

Following their 1-4 start with Kyle Orton as their quarterback, Vegas had the odds of the Broncos winning the Super Bowl at 150-1, the longest odds on the board.

But after winning seven of their past eight with Tebow running the show, the odds have dropped to 22-1.

For the majority of the season, Hoge has been among Tebow’s biggest critics but now he has seen the light.

“The lessons that (the Broncos) are showing (are) what sports are about,” Hoge said recently. “I’ve been obviously very hard on Tim Tebow, very critical of him as a quarterback and his skill set.

“I’ve been wrong on a lot of levels with (Tebow). I’ve lost the ability, or the opportunity, I should say ... to shed light on what an amazing story (about) how he has worked, persevered, changed — his diligence — all those things that you try to teach young people ... (what) sports are really about.”

Hallelujah!


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