Opportunities and Rally-Caps

Sports teams establish character by winning games where the hand of fate is slapping them in the back of the head. You are going to win games you shouldn’t win, and lose games you shouldn’t lose. Every team has games like this, no matter what sport, or what level. Dallas went into the most hostile environment the NFL has seen this season and came out of there with a victory. As far as a description of a ‘trap game’ can possibly go, it does not get any more picture-perfect for the under-dog than it did Monday night in Buffalo.

What did the 1-3 Buffalo Bills have to do last night in order to pull the biggest upset of the season? They needed Tony Romo to make bad decisions. They needed those bad decisions to go in their favor. They needed Dallas to be buying into the garbage media hype and to be looking at New England. They needed Dallas to buy into the garbage media hype that Buffalo should not have won a single game let alone another. They needed their own special teams to step up because of the losses on offense and defense. They needed their own defense to over-achieve as much as possible. And, they needed their offense to produce a tiny, little bit against what looked like a great Cowboys defense.

All of that was achieved, and more.

And they had the luxury of an 85 degree night, in the beginning of cold October, in front of the greatest fans in pro sports, and on prime-time television for the first time in 13 seasons.

What more could you ask for? It was a well-laid trap for a well-rounded team. Dallas wobbled and fell harder than Greg “The Hammer” Valentine doing his patented face-splat.

There were about 100 million Cowboys’ fans watching that nightmare unfold Monday night, either crying or angry or both. How could Buffalo possibly get that many breaks? And how could they possibly only have so few points to show for it?

Two reasons.

The first one is because the city of Buffalo is cursed. I went back through the web looking for anything in Buffalo’s past that may have yielded such a horrendous sports fate. I was looking for anything. Native American curses, old women hexing the city, anything. I didn’t find much. I saw one site drawing the connection to McKinley’s assassination, but Buffalo’s growth as a city went on for at least 50 more years after that. The bottom-line is that there’s no Cornstalk’s Curse, like there is in Point Pleasant, WV. Most of the Buffalo misery can be attributable to bad luck, and in the case of Monday night… questionable coaching.

Which brings me to point number two: Dallas taking advantage of opportunities. Those opportunities happen for a reason. Someone on the opposite team screwed something up. I cannot tell you in enough words how disgusted I get when coaches refuse to allow their quarterback to run the offense. You have got to throw the ball downfield, regardless of why your quarterback is out there, injury or not. Giving Trent Edwards an impressive completion percentage is not how you win the game. Throwing short passes to Robert Royal is not going to win the game, and neither is under-utilizing the running-back you drafted to be the focal point of what is essentially the worst offense in the NFL. You play to win the game. You don’t play to lose. And even though Herm Edwards does not follow his own matter-of-fact philosophies on football, the statement is still true. You play to win the game.

Hiring Dick Jauron because you do not want to pay a better candidate is NOT playing to win the game.

Buffalo made questionable coaching decisions which were more prevalent as the game wore on, and they were up against what may be the best staff in football, at least where ‘adjustments’ are concerned. The Dallas Cowboys have done absolutely nothing to give anyone the impression that they would lose that game in the press-box or on the sideline. When it came right down to brass tacks, this staff once again did what they did all season thus far, which was win the football game. Tony Romo had the worst night of his career and he still took advantage of Buffalo’s horrendous late-game defensive scheme and drove down the field to score that touchdown. He looked as good as any quarterback the NFL has seen. Dallas capitalized on a special-teams meltdown by the Bills and recovered that kick. Then they got into field goal range and won the game, twice.

The problems in Buffalo, sadly enough are like many of these franchises, and start and end in how the management handles the franchise. The woes of the Buffalo Bills will continue until there is mass replacement in the brains pulling the levers and twisting the knobs, which is a real shame.

You play to win the game, folks.

Speaking of ‘folk’, how about this segway? Nick Folk, rookie kicker from Arizona, wins the game twice from 53 yards. Who told ya to keep an eye on the Dallas kicking team? This guy right here, sports fans, Your Literary Hero.

Aside from the obvious commentary that needs to be brought up about Romo’s performance, is there any doubt as to who the feature running-back is on this team? Marion Barber is one of the toughest players in the NFL. And how many times was Julius Jones on the field at the end of that game? Defensively, they did fine, the whole game. Newman’s return was much needed even though the replacements played well. The defense was, though, thoroughly aided by Buffalo’s lack of a serious offense, but they played well.

New England has not yet played their bad game, like Dallas just did. They are going to play one sooner or later. Nobody is going undefeated this season. It is how you respond to that adversity, late in the game, that defines a team and defines a season. Any coach will tell you that on the first day of practice. Everyone saw what the Dallas players and coaches were able to do when backed into a corner. There is no doubt that Brady and the Patriots’ staff can do the same, have done the same, and will do the same again down the road. But this game is in Irving, and the Cowboys have the morale right now, after Monday night, to upset this so-called unstoppable team. They’re the under-dogs, at 5-0. Cleveland did a better job against New England than what anyone expected, and the Dallas’ defense is a lot better than Cleveland.

This is going to be a match-up of what is possibly the best coaching staff in the NFC versus the best coaching staff in the AFC, and it should not disappoint. Both teams can challenge the other’s secondary, but you cannot throw 20 interceptions in a game like this. Both teams have physical running backs from the University of Minnesota. They both have a loud-mouth wide-receiver. This is going to come down to game adjustments and coaching, and as hard as it is to bet against Belichick, the Patriots are on the clock, more and more each week, to play a poor game.

Maybe T.O’s rally-cap can inspire the team to win another tight one.

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