Parcells disappointed over lost opportunity

Updated: October 27, 2003, 6:39 PM ET
ESPN

DALLAS -- Bill Parcells wasn't his usual chatty self Monday.

Still disappointed about how the Dallas Cowboys' offense collapsed in a 16-0 loss to Tampa Bay on Sunday, Parcells also was upset that they played so lousy when faced with a great opportunity to prove that their turnaround thus far was for real.

"That was a chance to really get ourselves established," Parcells said, "and we weren't able to do it."

A road victory over the reigning Super Bowl champions would've been quite a milestone for the Cowboys. It also would've stretched their winning streak to six games and given them more wins than each of the last three seasons with more than half the schedule left to play.

Dallas (5-2) still leads the NFC East by a game over Philadelphia, a team it has already beat. Parcells' focus remains on winning the division because that's the surest way to make the playoffs.

But none of that will be possible if the Cowboys play like they did Sunday.

"This was a combination of everything we could possibly do wrong," Parcells said.

Quincy Carter threw two interceptions and was sacked four times. The line that failed to protect him also did a poor job opening holes for running backs as Dallas ran for just 60 yards. The Cowboys failed to convert five snaps of third- and fourth-and-1.

While Parcells acknowledged that the Buccaneers' strong defense deserves plenty of credit, he still placed most of the blame on his players.

"We really looked like we really didn't practice for the game at all," he said, adding that he "would be hard pressed to find more than a couple of guys that played well."

The defense allowed only one touchdown, and it came on a drive that ended with a field goal until rookie Terence Newman gave the Buccaneers a first down by running into the kicker. Thus, add a special teams mistake to the list of woes.

This might be Parcells' lowest point yet in his Dallas tenure, but it's nothing for a 16-year coaching veteran. He's been through enough disappointments to know that he needs to wait until he's over the loss before making any personnel changes or other adjustments.

"This is not a good day to be making lot of decisions," he said.

Players also were still taking the loss hard on Monday.

Tight end Dan Campbell said he expected his anger to linger at least until Wednesday. He said watching the game film would feel like rubbing salt into a wound.

"I think it needs to hurt a little bit," he said. "It's a good reality check. I think it'll open our eyes. It should really let us know if we don't play a perfect game, we can't win."

There hasn't been much anguish around Valley Ranch since a season-opening loss to the Falcons. The mood Monday was far more somber because of how much expectations have risen since then.

During those good times, Parcells warned that bad times were coming. His main task now is to prevent this one loss from turning into several.

His first objective is to clean up the Xs and Os in time to face the Washington Redskins on Sunday. He indicated that many of the mistakes were ones he's been concerned about all season.

Avoiding a mental hangover is lower on his list.

"This isn't Psychology 101 here yet," he said. "We need to try to get back to playing a little better like we have in the past. If we do that, I think we'll be all right."

How the team will respond is already emerging as the theme of the week.

"Guys are hurt," defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said. "We've been cut a little bit. Now what? Are we going to come out swinging?"

Said Carter: "I stare everyone in the face and accept this as a challenge."< ^Extra points:@ Parcells insisted that it wasn't intentional that Troy Hambrick had no carries in the second half. "I didn't even know that," Parcells said. "I really didn't. Honestly." ... C Gennaro DiNapoli wore an air cast on his right ankle. Parcells would only say that "it looks like he might" miss some time. ... WR Joey Galloway returned punts and CB Derek Ross joined RB Aveion Cason on kickoff returns. Rookie Zuriel Smith was left in Dallas after dropping three kicks the previous two games. "I thought we'd try something else to keep that from happening," Parcells said. ... DT Leonardo Carson made his debut as the Cowboys went with eight linemen for the first time all season. Parcells wanted an extra body because of the heat; it was 82 degrees at kickoff.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index