It seems to have become a routine occurrence for the Cowboys in the Garrett Era: win one game, lose the next. One step forward, two drunken stumbles into the hot tub.
Don't heap too much praise on any one player, lest you're prepared to be let down the following week. This time, it was the Bears who came and vanquished the mercurial Cowboys, 34-18. The game was there for the taking several times, and the Cowboys refused each chance like they were speed-walking past an aggressive panhandler, pretending to be on the phone. It makes things even worse that Smarmalot himself was the one who got the victory.
Let's get to some observations and awards, then put this little scamp to bed.
Hooray For Real Refs: After Golden Tate became a hated figure in a second city, Roj Goodell and friends decided to quit messing with
casino profits players' safety and bring back the real officials. The difference? Not a whole lot, except for the fact that the reviews didn't take half an hour apiece. In fact, it was a pretty clean game flag-wise (6 penalties total, only 2 on Dallas). You can be certain that the overturned pass interference call on Brandon Carr in the 3rd quarter would have required a Street Shout-Out if the scabs had been calling the game.
Romo Out-Romo'ed Himself: He threw for 307 yards, but he threw for five interceptions. It seemed like anytime momentum flipped Dallas' direction, a key turnover or miscue would flip it right back. At least two of the interceptions, the pick-six by Charles Tillman and the Ogletree tip to Major Wright, weren't squarely on Romo. The flip to Lance Briggs for the long touchdown was a back breaker, though, occurring on the first snap after a Cutler fumble.
Borderline Troubled Receiver vs. Full-On Troubled Receiver: One of the obvious demarcations from this game was the performance of either team's star receiver. Dez Bryant, whose off-the-field antics seem to creep up at a regular interval, showed flashes of brilliance combined with moments of sheer ineptitude. His performance, along with Romo's, was a shrunken-down model of the Cowboys' roller coaster behavior the past couple years. Bryant would gash the Bears secondary for a big play, then let a key third down pass zip right through his hands.
Brandon Marshall, on the other hand, tore the Cowboys defense a new everything. The troubled Bears receiver -- whom the broadcast team kept reminding suffers from borderline personality disorder -- got better as the game progressed, showing the freakish blend of size, speed and strength that has made him a top ten receiver in the league for the last few years.
Small Town Of Chicago Shows Up For Their Team: As it became more and more evident that Cowboys fans were switching over to the Rangers game, Jon Gruden and Mike Tirico made a point to mention the overwhelming number of Bears fans in attendance at the game as if it were some huge feat. The Chicago metro area is home to roughly 9.5 million people, not to mention the millions who've moved away (perhaps to Dallas even!) and not abandoned their home rooting interests. It's not like Cowboys were playing a team from Zanzibar. Get over it and talk about football, or Gene Jones' killer art collection.
To The Awards ...
The "Just Kidding, You Know I Don't Suck Now" Player of the Week: Jason Witten. After sleep-walking through the first three weeks of the season, the Cowboys tight end returned to his dominant ways against the Bears. Tony Romo used Witten as a check-down multiple times, with the big target dropping only one of the 14 passes thrown his way en route to a team-leading 112 yards. It was encouraging to see him shake off the yips and get back to his old, reliable self.
The MacGyver Duct Tape and a Shoestring Award: Rob Ryan. It may seem foolish to give an award to the defensive coordinator of a be-smoked team, but follow me here. Take away the two Bears interceptions for touchdowns, and the Cowboys defense only ceded 20 points. Rob Ryan was already missing a starting safety (Barry Church), starting outside linebacker (Anthony Spencer) and starting Pro-Bowl nose tackle (Jay Ratliff). Then, in the first half, linebacker Bruce Carter was sidelined with a mystery injury. It wasn't the prettiest game for the defense, especially toward the end, but for a patchwork group Ryan threw together a solid scheme.
Fantasy Punter of the Year Award: Brian Moorman. Tell your sister-wives, we've got ourselves a punter! Picked up off the street after starting punter Chris Jones was injured, Moorman brought the fury in his three punts Monday night, two of which were downed at the Chicago six. Thanks to 4th Annual Interception Festival, Brian wasn't able to get many other chances, but his three leg-torpedoes showed massive potential. Let's just hope Jason Garrett isn't planning on calling a fake punt anytime soon.