It appears the Dallas Cowboys have now taken on quarterback Tony Romo’s infamous ‘Good Tony, Bad Tony’ pendulum-swinging personas.
How else to explain the Cowboys’ inexplicable, heartbreaking, 31-29 loss on Sunday to the Ravens in Baltimore?
At times the Cowboys looked like world-beaters. Mere seconds later, sometimes even before the next snap, they would beat themselves.
On offence? Huge gainers followed by false starts or other senseless mistakes.
On defence? Tackles-for-loss, or great pass coverage, followed by crucial passes given up to uncovered receivers.
On special teams? A mostly solid day undermined by a way-too-easy kickoff return for a touchdown.
In so many ways, the Cowboys could hardly have played better against one of the NFL’s best teams. They hogged the ball for 40 minutes. Romo was 25-of-36 for 261 yards and was sacked only once. And running backs DeMarco Jones and Felix Jones ripped up the Ravens defence for 93 and 92 yards, respectively.
But in so many other ways, they looked like the 2-3 team they now are.
Dallas’ manic see-sawing only intensified in the final minutes of the game.
Down 31-23 with 4:41 left, Romo was heroic in leading the Cowboys to a touchdown on an 18-play, 80-yard drive. The drive in reality was 110 yards long, because Dallas overcame three penalties: a false start, holding, and a personal-foul chop block.
The latter should have been a drive-killer but Romo and company overcame.
Enter the day’s most manic Cowboy – wideout Dez Bryant. He caught the TD pass that brought the Cowboys to within two points. But he dropped the two-point conversion pass, when he tried to arm-cradle the ball.
‘Good Dallas’ recovered Dan Bailey’s perfect onside kick with 30 seconds left, keeping the Cowboys’ hopes alive.
Wideout Kevin Ogletree then dropped a perfectly placed bomb from Romo. The saving grace was Ravens’ corner Chykie Brown being flagged for pass interference.
With 26 seconds left, Romo hit Bryant on a short pass for one yard down to the Ravens’ 33. Even though he was in the right, Bryant argued the spot, and argued … as the clock kept ticking, and ticking.
The whole Dallas offence was disorganized. Romo tried to rush everyone into position for another play.
Finally, Romo accepted the futility of it and called timeout with six seconds left.
That was as bad as Bad Dallas got. Where was the urgency? The Cowboys should have been able to run at least two more plays there before attempting a game-winning field goal.
As it was, Bailey’s 51-yard attempt with two seconds left was wide left.
It was enough to infuriate Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
“I am sick about losing this game,” he said. “This is a very tough place to play.”
The Ravens had no illusions they earned the victory.
“We’ll get the hell out of here really quick, go home and fall asleep and wake up the next morning with a win,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. “I don’t know that we necessarily deserve to win this game but we’ll take it.”
Next up for the 5-1 Ravens, an AFC showdown in Houston, a team that was undefeated heading into Sunday night’s game against visiting Green Bay.
Next up for the 2-3 Cowboys, a visit to Carolina. After a visit to the shrink, maybe.
“It’s just hard when you do a lot of good things well, and you don’t come out with a win,” a devastated-looking Romo said post game. “It eats at you. It just sits there in the pit of your stomach.”