The Dallas Cowboys have had a pattern all year, if not the last several years. The Cowboys had a chance on Oct. 27 to get a big statement win over the Detroit Lions, get to two games over .500 and all but secure the NFC East. Instead, Dallas looked prosperity in the face and rejected it, as four last-minute plays and a sideline argument defined another statement loss.
The 31-30 defeat dropped the Cowboys to 4-4, and was their third failed attempt to get to two games over .500. Their losses have come to the 8-0 Kansas City Chiefs, 4-3 San Diego Chargers, 7-1 Denver Broncos and the now 5-3 Lions, while they still haven't beaten anyone with a winning record.
The Lions wouldn't have had a winning record if they lost, and they did almost everything possible to lose and waste Calvin Johnson's 329 receiving yards. Four turnovers negated Detroit's offense, which let Dallas rack up a 30-24 lead with under a minute left and no Detroit timeouts. Yet in the blink of an eye, two Johnson receptions and a 40-yard catch by Kris Durham got the Lions to the 1-yard line -- and then Stafford faked a spike call with time running out to run for the final yard himself.
In contrast with Johnson's near record-setting day, star Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant was caught yelling at Tony Romo on the sidelines in the third quarter, along with Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware and wide receivers coach Derek Dooley at other points. If the Cowboys had held on, it might not have been as much of a big deal, but now it is just one part of another revealing loss.
The bright side is that the Cowboys still have sole possession of first place in the NFC East, since the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins also lost. However, with the Cowboys at 4-4 and still safely in first, they look like the most embarrassing first place team in the NFL. A 5-3 record would have helped them belong in first on their own merit, but at this point, an 8-8 or even 7-9 record might be enough.
The Cowboys face the 1-6 Minnesota Vikings on Nov. 3, which should help them get back over .500. But a game against the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 10 should drop them right back to mediocrity, if their usual pattern holds.