Week 17 Woes

Jones Jinx lives on as Cowboys once again let major game slip away to end season

Jones Jinx lives on as Cowboys once again let major game slip away

Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant walks off the field disappointed as Dallas fails to make the playoffs. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Kyle Orton of the Dallas Cowboys
Backup quarterback Kyle Orton threw for more than 350 yards but Dallas still lost. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys
Save for a first-half fumble, DeMarco Murray played well on Sunday. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
John Kitna and Kyle Orton
John Kitna comforts Kyle Orton after the team's season-ending loss. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys bench
Dez Bryant and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys could only watch as their season ended in Arlington. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys defense
Dallas' defense was hit-or-miss against Philadelphia, getting sacks but also giving up big plays. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys
Jason Witten was Orton's favorite reciever.  Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys
Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys
Kyle Orton of the Dallas Cowboys
DeMarco Murray of the Dallas Cowboys
John Kitna and Kyle Orton
Dallas Cowboys bench
Dallas Cowboys defense
Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys

Turns out the Dallas Cowboys’ “win or go home” woes aren’t just tied to Tony Romo. As Kyle Orton’s final pass of Sunday’s 24-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles fell into the hands of Eagles cornerback Brandon Boykin, it became clear just how snake-bit this Dallas Cowboys team really is.

For the fourth time in six years, the Cowboys held their playoff hopes in their hands in a Week 17 showdown with a NFC East foe and for the fourth time they failed to win. All Romo could do was watch from the comfort of his home as he recuperated from his back surgery on Friday.

Perhaps these Cowboys are cursed when it comes to Week 17, where they are 2-12 in the past 14 years. If so, doesn’t it need a name? The Landry Curse? The Week 17 Hex? The Jones Jinx? Whatever you call it, it's clearly bigger than Tony Romo.

 Perhaps these Cowboys are cursed when it comes to Week 17, where they are 2-12 in the past 14 years.

Perhaps the issue is simpler. Perhaps it’s just the unlucky number 13.

That’s the number of turnovers the Cowboys have committed in those four “win or go home” games. And Romo didn’t commit all of them.

No, this is a team-wide problem and it always has been. This team cannot win close games when it really matters the most.

Sunday saw the Cowboys’ defense have its best game in two months. While giving up 131 rushing yards to Eagles back LeSean McCoy, he didn’t dominate the game. The Cowboys sacked Eagles quarterback Nick Foles five times and forced a turnover. Orton, playing in place of Romo, threw for 358 yards. Tight end Jason Witten caught 12 passes for 135 yards, and Dez Bryant caught 8 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.

But with these Cowboys it’s their mistakes that betray their gaudy statistics. Like DeMarco Murray’s first-quarter fumble that led to an Eagles field goal. Like Witten’s tipped reception that led to an Eagles interception and a touchdown two plays later. Like Orton’s interception that ended the game.

The Cowboys have played so many games decided by seven or fewer points during head coach Jason Garrett’s tenure that you think they would have the hang of it by now. But they don’t. In fact, this may underscore their inability to make the playoffs as much as their 13 turnovers in their four “win or go home” games. The Cowboys lost four games in 2013 by a grand total of five points.

A one-point loss to Kansas City in Week 2. Their sin that week? Committing two turnovers to the Chiefs’ none.

A one-point loss to Detroit in Week 8. Their sin that week? Giving up 329 receiving yards to wide receiver Calvin Johnson, despite forcing four Lion turnovers.

A one-point loss to Green Bay in Week 15. Their sin that week? Choking up the biggest lead in team history and committing two late turnovers.

There’s the trend, if you’re looking for one. This offense, no matter who is in control or calling plays, doesn’t keep a grip on the football. Not Romo, not Orton, not Murray, and not even Witten.

Looking for hope? Looking for change? No chance. All four of those players are under contract for next season, and it looks like Garrett is coming back, too.

This is who the Cowboys are, and it looks like this is all they’ll ever be. An exciting, compelling and hopelessly average team that just can’t seem to get out of its own way when the pressure is on.