IRVING, Texas - Say this about the 2008 Dallas Cowboys: They sure do make things interesting.
A season that began with Super Bowl hype, then seemed lost because of sloppy play, injuries and infighting, was salvaged enough for Dallas to go into Saturday night's game against the Baltimore Ravens on the verge of a wild-card berth.
Getting an extra boost from the emotionally charged atmosphere of the final game at Texas Stadium, the Cowboys jumped ahead with an early touchdown - only to end up losing, 33-24.
"That's not what good teams want to have happen," tight end Jason Witten said. "Good teams find a way to win these games. To let that opportunity slip, it's unacceptable."
Thus, more drama - even yesterday, when Dallas wasn't playing.
The Cowboys (9-6) needed the right combination of wins and losses to remain alive and got all they could ask for. Now, if Dallas wins the finale next Sunday at Philadelphia, a wild card is all theirs.
"It's all just part of a full season," quarterback Tony Romo said. "We've got to find a way to grind it out and get into the tournament. If you get in, you have a chance. It's a matter of doing the things it takes to get you in position. We obviously need a little help now."
While Romo and Witten talked, the never-a-dull-moment theme played out around them in the locker room. Terrell Owens was munching on popcorn and team owner Jerry Jones kept repeating his own words while professing the job security of head coach Wade Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
"I don't have any inclination about any coaching changes. None. None. . . . I don't see that as an issue," Jones said. "It just doesn't make any sense."
Asked whether things might change if Dallas misses the playoffs, Jones said, "Let's try again [with this staff] if we don't make it. Seriously."
"I mean, you don't think for one minute that Bill Parcells Jr. is going to come in here and do any good, do you?" Jones continued. "Think about it. Think about it. . . . This is exactly how I feel right now, and it's not that fragile. It's just not that fragile."
Phillips and Garrett certainly wouldn't want their fate decided by the Ravens game.
Garrett's offense was out of whack the first three quarters, racking up more punts (six) than first downs (five). Baltimore had Romo fooled with a blitz scheme that sent someone at Romo without being blocked nearly every time he dropped back.
Things finally clicked in the fourth quarter and the offense began stacking up big plays. That's when the defense allowed even bigger ones. On the final two handoffs to an opposing running back, the Ravens tied the record for the longest run by a foe in the 313-game, 38-season history of Texas Stadium, then broke that record. Willis McGahee went 77 yards, then Le'Ron McClain went 82.
"Devastating," linebacker Greg Ellis said. "It was like, 'What the heck?' You're talking about back-to-back."