Cowboys continue annual tradition of playoff disappointments

With all due apologies to the triumphant Green Bay Packers, we have gathered to bury the Dallas Cowboys.

The Packers absolutely walloped the Cowboys 48–32 on Sunday in Dallas. The game was not remotely as close as the score. The Packers’ victory was a moment of ascension for quarterback Jordan Love and redemption for embattled coordinator Joe Berry and his defense. The win affirmed Matt LaFleur as one of the NFL’s shrewdest game-planners and exorcized whatever Aaron Rodgers demons were still lurking in the shadows of Lambeau Field’s locker room.

When a team defeats the Cowboys in the playoffs, however, it becomes a mere thread in a larger tapestry, because all NFL stories are Cowboys stories. Cowboys playoff losses are ritualistic and symbolic. They are as important to our national identity as public sacrifices were to ancient civilizations. Cowboys playoff losses are America’s annual Pageant of Hubris. Each year, the Cowboys must abjectly embarrass themselves in a way that cleanses the nation of its sins.

The Cowboys looked cathartically ridiculous on Sunday. Dak Prescott threw two interceptions before halftime, one of them a pick-6. He bounced at least two other potential interceptions off defender’s hands and spent most third downs scanning the field in bewilderment before taking off on unproductive scrambles. 

Mike McCarthy’s head-scratching game-plan involved running the ball early and often against an opponent with a porous pass defense. The Cowboys defense, which bullied weaker foes throughout the season, had no answers when the Packers maintained run-pass balance in the first half, then just surrendered and allowed gashing runs in the second half. Prescott and top receiver Ceedee Lamb appeared to be having some sort of spat throughout the first half, because no Cowboys morality play is complete without some dissension in the ranks to call into question the team’s character and leadership. 

The Packers led 27–0, then 34–10, then 48–16. Jerry Jones sneered down at it all from his owner’s box until the bitter end, but most fans were headed home by the time Prescott and the offense crammed two late touchdowns onto the stat sheet like lazy students scribbling down a few paragraphs the morning the term paper is due. 

Sunday’s loss was the prologue to a Cowboys offseason that promises to be full of familiar storylines. Jones is rumored to be as dissatisfied with McCarthy, as he usually was with predecessor Jason Garrett. Bill Belichick looms in the shadows, because Jones and the Cowboys are always connected to every available big-name coach or player, if only by the gossamer threads of idle gossip and wishful thinking. Prescott’s contract expires after the 2024 season, and his cap hit for next year is a colossal $59-million and change. Jones might extend Prescott, trade him, or threaten to trade him before extending him for more money than most observers (possibly Jones included) thinks he’s worth. No matter what Jones decides to do, he will inevitably talk about it, publicly and frequently, pouring accelerants on even minor controversies and harming his own cause like a tipsy poker player who keeps waving around his cards. 

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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