|The Damn! Moment of Week 14||Good, bad, ugly from Week 14||MatchSport: George Clooney||King Colt|
By Skip Bayless
Bill Parcells knew he was in trouble.
Miss-the-playoffs trouble, for the second straight season. Legacy-tainting, owner-angering, job-threatening trouble. After all, Parcells works for a man who fired Tom Landry, then fired Jimmy Johnson after he won back-to-back Super Bowls.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did not make Parcells the NFL's highest-paid coach to watch him miss the playoffs in Years 2 and 3. Jones especially did not pay Parcells $5 million a season to have to sit up in the owner's booth on Dec. 11, 2005, and watch the Kansas City Chiefs, owned by Dallas resident Lamar Hunt, annihilate and humiliate Jones' Cowboys at Texas Stadium.
That's what was on the verge of happening with about four minutes left in Sunday's first half.
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The Cowboys couldn't stop what Parcells had called "the best offense we've seen all year." When Larry Johnson wasn't bulldozing the Cowboys the way Earl Campbell once did, Chiefs quarterback Trent Green was picking them apart as if they were so much cotton candy at the Texas State Fair.
The Chiefs led 14-3, but this thing had 40-10 potential. The 8-4 Chiefs, of course, needed this game as badly as Parcells did. They still have to play the New York Giants on the road before returning home for San Diego and Cincinnati ... and possibly losing a wild-card spot on the fifth or sixth tiebreaker.
Another loss would drop Parcells' team to 7-6 with upcoming trips to Washington and Carolina before finishing the season with what shaped up as a meaningless, unhappy-New Year's game Jan. 1 against the Rams in Dallas. Time for Bill the Thrill.
Time for Parcells to let down his blond-as-a-Cowboys-cheerleader hair. Time for the Tuna to set the hook in the team that thought it was reeling him in.
Second-and-7, Cowboys, from their 29. Bledsoe handed off to rookie Marion Barber, who has beaten out Julius Jones because he runs with more tackle-breaking authority than Jones. But this time, Barber broke no tackles.
He screeched to a halt and lateraled to Bledsoe. Time for the best name for any play in sports: Flea-flicker!
(Please don't e-mail me the origin of this term. I have made up my own story -- it involves a former high school quarterback with flea-infested hair in Big Sandy, Texas -- and I don't want the truth to ruin it.)
Yes, here came the two most horrifying words this side of Damn Moment to any defensive back. Oh my God, it's a ... flea-flicker.
Cowboys receiver Terry Glenn later said he was so confident when the play was called in the huddle that he glanced at the yard line before the snap so he could calculate how long the touchdown would be. Glenn took off for 5 yards, slowed up as if it were a running play, then floor-boarded it. Cornerback Patrick Surtain and safety Greg Wesley thought just long enough about bolting up to help stop the run for Glenn to build a 10-yard lead on them.
And that's when Bledsoe did the one thing he does better than any quarterback -- he hauled off and threw a pass that looked like Jerry Jones' Lear taking off. Bledsoe still shouldn't be trusted to make crucial late-game throws with paws swiping at him. But when he has trick-play time, can he ever wing it.
Glenn made the first of three good-ol'-days plays, and the Cowboys were back in it, 14-10. At 31, Glenn can still fly and catch. And at 33, Bledsoe still can throw vapor trails.
And at 64, Parcells can still push the right buttons -- even if they're panic buttons. Of course, Parcells' last trip to a Super Bowl was almost nine years ago, with Bledsoe and Glenn. It was beginning to look Sunday as if the three of them were finishing their final season together.
But the 71-yard flea-flicker appeared to remind the Cowboys that they had Parcells on their sideline and the Chiefs still had Vermeil, who cries easily and often plays not to lose. The flea-flicker told the Cowboys that Parcells would try to steal this game any way possible.
But here came the Chiefs' offense again, all the way to second-and-9 at the Cowboys' 9. That's when ex-Chief Scott Fujita sacked Green. He fumbled. Cowboys rookie defensive end Marcus Spears scooped it up and took off like a tractor-trailer going downhill without brakes. Fifty-nine yards later, the Cowboys had seized back the momentum.
Bledsoe whipped a 26-yarder to Jason Whitten for another touchdown -- and somehow the Cowboys led 17-14 at half.
Yet Parcells told CBS he was still scared to death, while Vermeil told CBS "they haven't stopped us yet, so we'll be OK."
And the Cowboys just kept making unsinkable, improbable, deficit-canceling, refuse-to-lose plays. Kansas City rolled up 493 total yards -- but Dallas had 445. The Cowboys showed the kind of guts and resilience they haven't all season. They looked like a team that really wants to make the playoffs.
A deserved holding call on Chiefs rookie linebacker Derrick Johnson saved them on a last-ditch fourth-down throw into the end zone. Then a snap malfunction saved them on Kansas City's last-second 41-yard field goal that fluttered short and right.
Parcells flicked the fleas out of his blond hair and stole a game he had to have.