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No playoffs for error-prone Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips walks along the sidelines during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against Philadelphia Eagles Sunday.

Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips walks along the sidelines during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game against Philadelphia Eagles Sunday.

Terrell Owens sent an early morning pep text to Tony Romo to let the Dallas QB know he’s still behind him.

The mercurial wide receiver won’t get the chance to do it again this season.

“No matter what, I’m still the same guy that shed tears for him in last year’s press conference and I’ll do it again because that’s the type of person I am, regardless of what anybody thinks or says about me,” Owens said.

The Dallas Cowboys might have to reach the playoffs for Owens to shed those tears again.

He sported no shades for this news conference; no crying, either.

Worst of all for Romo, Owens and those Cowboys once dreaming of the Super Bowl — no postseason.

All the Cowboys needed to do was beat the Philadelphia Eagles and they would at least salvage a playoff berth in a season stuffed with controversy. Romo couldn’t lead them into the end zone, and was sacked, fumbled and benched in their disastrous 44-6 loss to the Eagles on Sunday.

“It just kind of summed our season up,” Owens said. “It was just terrible.”

According to multiple media reports, Romo suffered a rib injury late in the game and collapsed in the shower after. He had to be helped to his feet by teammates. Romo had X-rays and was able to meet with reporters, though he blew off questions about his health.

Now it’s up to owner Jerry Jones to decide if he really wants coach Wade Phillips to return.

Dallas moves into a new $1.1 billion, 100,000-seat stadium next season and there was plenty of speculation that Phillips wouldn’t be around to coach that first game.

Jones stood by his statement that Phillips will be back as coach next season, and Jason Garrett will remain in charge of the offense.

“We won’t have a head coaching change, no,” Jones said.

Jones, though, couldn’t have imagined this disaster.

“I didn’t think we’d have a score like we had tonight,” Jones said. “I’m aware this is the National Football League and you can fall short. This is going to be hard to take. I’ll evaluate everything — everything — thoroughly. I’m not in the mood to be making any changes, I’ve said that. But that’s far different then making changes on how we approach things, what we do, and all of that is very appropriate.”

Phillips is 22-10 in the regular season in two seasons with the Cowboys, the kind of regular-season winning percentage that gives Jones faith his beleaguered coach can succeed in Dallas.

“We had everything riding on this and we didn’t step up and play,” Phillips said.

The Cowboys fumbled on three straight possessions in the third quarter that led to 17 points. Romo fumbled on the third possession and was left kneeling on the grass, his helmet buried in his hands and unable to fathom how hard the team crashed this season.

Romo can book a vacation with Jessica Simpson this January and not have to worry about flying back to Dallas for a playoff game.

Dallas started 3-0 and appeared on the verge of living up to their advance billing as Super Bowl contenders. Loss by loss, controversy by controversy, the Cowboys unraveled all the way to the end of this finale flop. Make it 12 straight years without a playoff win for a team that bills itself as “America’s Team.”

Jones’ gamble on Adam “Pacman” Jones backfired when the cornerback was suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

There were reports of a rift between Romo, tight end Jason Witten and wide receiver Terrell Owens. Owens was reportedly jealous of the relationship between Romo and Witten and accused the pair of shutting him out of the playcalling.

Their play of the game came when Romo eluded a sack and lateraled to Witten, who connected with Owens for a 42-yard reception. It was the kind of play that might have saved their season had it sparked them to a comeback win.

It was merely a footnote once Romo fumbled when he was sacked by Brian Dawkins and defensive end Chris Clemons went 73 yards for a touchdown.

The next drive ended almost the same way when Dawkins forced another fumble, this time on Marion Barber, and Joselio Hanson sprinted 96 yards for a score to make it 41-3. Romo seemed to quit running after Hanson around the 25.

Romo fumbled one more time and was pulled with about 5 minutes left in the game. He was 21-for-39 for 183 yards.

“He can do things that other guys can’t do,” Witten said. “I support him and I wouldn’t play for any other quarterback because I believe in him.”

The Cowboys fell to 4-3 since Romo returned from his broke finger and the quarterback’s career record in December is 5-8. He’s 22-4 in September, October and November.

Owens can’t figure out why Romo is such a big-game bust.

“Not sure. I know the guy is competitive,” Owens said. “He wants to win. I can’t put my finger on it.”

The Cowboys went 13-3 last season and earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC, only to lose a divisional playoff game to the New York Giants. Romo caught some heat jetting off on a romantic getaway with Simpson before the game instead of sticking around Dallas during the bye week.

The loss made the Cowboys the first No. 1 seed in the NFC to lose its first playoff game since the current format began in 1990 and Dallas still hasn’t won a playoff game since beating Minnesota on Dec. 28, 1996.

The Cowboys had their chance at ending that drought next week at Minnesota. Now, it’s the Eagles who improbably get that shot.

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Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

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