Parcells: 'We were just awful'

Updated: November 28, 2003, 3:00 PM ET
Associated Press

IRVING, Texas -- Bill Parcells isn't having trouble expressing his emotions about his team this time.

Bill Parcells
Coach Parcells shows his disgust at the Cowboys' missteps.
The Dallas Cowboys coach went from pure elation to bitter disappointment -- in just five days.

With the traditional Thanksgiving Day game providing an opportunity to showcase all they have accomplished in their first season under Parcells, the Cowboys struggled in every aspect of the game and lost 40-21 to Miami. The Dolphins led throughout.

"I'm a little embarrassed by this ... go out here on Thanksgiving in a national game and play like this," Parcells said. "We were just awful, we really were."

The Cowboys were coming off an impressive 24-20 win over Carolina that put them in a four-way tie for the NFC's best record. The coach was so proud after Sunday's game that he choked up and couldn't express to his players just how much the win meant.

After the debacle against the Dolphins, he's not so sure about his team anymore.

"We've still got a lot on the line and I don't know whether we can do it or not," Parcells said. "I thought after last week we might be able to, but after this, I'm not sure. It's typical of being a young team, you get on a seesaw and sometimes you can't get off."

The Cowboys (8-4) have lost three of six following a five-game winning streak. They were shut out for the other two losses in the stretch.

"We can't let this beat us into the ground," tight end Dan Campbell said. "This is the push now. This is it, this is what it is all about, to get to the month of December with a chance to get in the playoffs. Even after as bad as we played, that's what we have."

Dallas plays three of its last four games on the road -- its next is Dec. 7 at Philadelphia.

Philadelphia has a half-game lead over the Cowboys in the NFC East. The Eagles, who are at Carolina on Sunday, have won six straight since losing Oct. 12 at Dallas.

Parcells still won't say the "P-word," but he knows what the Cowboys have to do to make the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

"We've got to probably win two out of four to get into the tournament," he said, adding they will have to win three or maybe all four remaining games for their first division title in five seasons.

"We still have a good opportunity," he said, "but frankly if we don't play a lot better than we played, it won't make any difference about the opportunity."

The Cowboys are assured of at least finishing .500 after three straight 5-11 seasons before Parcells. The loss to Miami prevented nine pre-December wins for the first time since 1995, the season of their last Super Bowl championship.

From the game's first play, Miami took advantage -- of a 30-yard pass interference penalty. Jay Fielder's 1-yard plunge made the Dolphins the first opponent in 22 games with a touchdown on an opening drive against Dallas. After the Cowboys got to 17-14, the Dolphins answered when Fiedler threw the second of his three TD passes to Chris Chambers with 10 seconds left in the first half. Then on the third play of the second half, Quincy Carter fumbled, and Jason Taylor returned it 34 yards for a touchdown.

"Just like you can't let a big win dictate how the rest of your season is going to go, you can't let an embarrassing loss do the same," defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said. "We've still got a shot."

Notes: OT Flozell Adams blocked his third extra point of the season ... Carter's 42 yards rushing were a career high. ... The five sacks allowed by Dallas was a season high. ... Rookie TE Jason Witten had team-high eight catches, matching the most by a Dallas tight end since Eric Bjornson caught eight at San Francisco on Nov. 10, 1996. ... The Cowboys aren't scheduled to practice again until Tuesday.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press