Commentary

Mistakes send Cowboys into disarray

After another penalty-filled loss, playoffs are out of reach and coach's job is in danger

Updated: October 18, 2010, 2:42 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- It's time to stop saying the Dallas Cowboys are the most talented team in the league.

They're not.

Talented teams don't commit 11 penalties for 91 yards, which the Cowboys did Sunday, or compile double-digit penalty numbers in three of their first five games.

Talented teams don't fall to 1-4, which is the Cowboys' record after a 24-21 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeMiles Austin
AP Photo/Andy KingMiles Austin didn't learn from last week's celebration penalty, earning his own flag by leapfrogging Roy Williams in the end zone.

"Very surprised we're 1-4," receiver Roy Williams said. "Are we a 1-4 football team? No, but yes. We're undefeated in these losses. Cowboys are 4-0 [because] we beat ourselves. We beat ourselves in all of these losses."

What the Cowboys are is a team with the highest payroll in the league that is the most overrated team in the league.

Yes the Cowboys play with heart, guts and never give up.

It means nothing because they continue to make mistake, after mistake, after mistake.

The locker room following this mess of a game was terrible.

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware sat outside the locker room trying to find answers.

"We're like, 'What is going on? What is the deal?'" Ware said. "We're at that point. How can we correct these mistakes we're making? That's the main thing. That's the reason why we're getting beat."

Quarterback Tony Romo sat at his locker fiddling with his phone, head down, talking about how "it's the same thing every week."

After the game, nose tackle Jay Ratliff told two of his teammates he's going to let people have it when he gets on the team bus.

Right tackle Marc Colombo had no words for a reporter when approached about what is going on.

Wade Phillips, the man in charge of this mess, says the penalties are his fault. The won-loss record is his fault, too.

And while he's taking the blame for this on-the-field product, his team isn't close to reaching the postseason. His team is close to getting a top-10 draft pick.

"We're not thinking about playoffs," Phillips said. "We got another game. We got to get through this game. We got a lot of things we need to go over and try to get better on and go from there, and we're going to play one play at a time, one game at a time."

The NFC East was bad about two weeks ago, so the Cowboys felt they could right the ship in time to keep pace. The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles have overcome poor starts to forge 4-2 records.

What have the Cowboys done?

They've placed their coach's job in jeopardy. Owner Jerry Jones said he will not make an in-season change, but if the Cowboys fail to reach the postseason, Phillips' job status will be pushed into a critical state.

Here are some facts to view:

Since the NFL went to a 12-team playoff format in 1990, 240 teams have gone to the postseason, but just five made it after a 1-4 start. The last team to do it was the 2004 Green Bay Packers, who, by the way, won the NFC North.

The Cowboys have 11 games remaining in the regular season. It would appear they would have to win eight or nine more games to reach the postseason.

Many players said they will not give up. We don't believe this team will give up, but we wonder if this club is responding to Phillips.

Phillips says he's holding players accountable. Do the players listen?

Last week, Colombo drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty during a touchdown celebration against Tennessee.

Colombo's penalty eventually led to a touchdown for the opponent. You would think it wouldn't happen again.

Wrong.

On Sunday, receiver Miles Austin jumped over Williams following a touchdown, drawing another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

On the ensuing kickoff, David Buehler sent the ball out of bounds, giving the Vikings a huge field-position advantage.

Austin was also called for offensive pass interference, erasing his 68-yard touchdown catch. Austin clearly pushed off the defender to get separation. Maybe Austin thinks he can get away with a little push-off now and then.

We'll never know, because Austin didn't speak with reporters afterward to tell us his thoughts. Maybe Austin has no words for what is going on.

"Ok, what do we need to do?" Ware said. "There's no pep talks, no meetings or whatever you can call it. That's not doing nothing. It's the little things, the offside penalties, somebody holding somebody, a clip in the back, [opponent] making big plays on special teams. We got to stop all that."

Can they?

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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