IRVING, Texas - It took 37-plus seasons for Texas Stadium to wear down and finally wear out. The current edition of the Cowboys managed to do it in one night.
Saturday's last call for football in the Irving river bottoms also signaled, almost definitely, the end of something else. Meaning this season, and all the early overblown hype associated with it.
Speaking of bye-bye, also please include the brief local coaching career of Wade Phillips, unless he can somehow blame the evening's sudden defensive collapse on his thrown-under-the-bus friend, Brian Stewart.
Mr. Fix It obviously bragged too soon on his defensive expertise and is now in a firing fix after a frantic Cowboys rally by Tony Romo was scuttled on - this is impossible - back-to-back touchdown runs of 77 and 82 yards late in the fourth quarter.
Then again, Jerry Jones is the dumbest general manager in the history of football, and there he was, postgame on Saturday, proclaiming he has no plans, no matter what, to fire Wade. See, it's real hard to find good puppets these days.
Overall, however, there was nothing fluky at all about the Baltimore Ravens' 33-24 dagger, which was played under must-win conditions for both clubs. As in, win both sides of the ball, win it with muscle, also win in special-teams areas, and then win the game. Pretty simple stuff for the Ravens, or at least it was almost simple Saturday night.
"This one really hurt us," said a despondent Phillips, displaying plenty of postgame misery. Actually, Wade, this one really killed you and your team.
History has been kind to the Cowboys in Texas Stadium. Two separate Super Bowl dynasties and five Lombardi Trophies established an unsurpassed NFL tradition under the hole in the roof.
Unfortunately, that was then.
Saturday night was more about now.
Actually, the "now factor" is defined as 11 consecutive seasons without a playoff win, unless there's some late December magic that allows the Cowboys to squeeze into January postseason play.
Phillips, the Mr. Softy of coaching, will get the blame for this Saturday night defensive collapse, and he deserves to fall. Meanwhile, Eldorado Owens and his locker room gang of backstabbers will certainly be finger-pointing for what went on Saturday night. Eldo, why don't you start with Wade this time?
But please remember that much has changed in the 11 barren postseason years, including five head coaches.
The one and only survivor of this Titanic?
Our captain of the ship, general manager Jones. Why won't this failure fire himself? No other GM in the league could survive this kind of ineptness, unless, of course, the team owner was in a coma. Now there's a thought.
Jerry the owner, for what it's worth, did have a grand goodbye moment planned for Texas Stadium, but unfortunately it was a postgame event. The place was well over half-empty when the great names of past years were paraded onto the field. Disgust, however, ended up being the most prominent final stadium memory.
But there's no question the team most deserving got the win. It was just shocking how it happened.
Expectations for a low-scoring defensive struggle certainly became reality through three quarters. With under seven minutes left in the third and the Ravens up by a 9-7 score, the Cowboys' demise seemed certain to carry heavy Romo blame. At that point, he overthrew a bomb to a wide-open and streaking Miles Austin, who with a catch would have been end-zone bound.
As advertised, the Baltimore defense was rugged, and had totally snuffed Romo & Co. But the
part is always overlooked. Tony was going to take the bullet for this.
"We just could not figure out what they were doing defensively," Romo said. "But then, all of a sudden, we did."
Romo engineered drives in the fourth quarter that produced 17 points, and his two touchdown passes breathed new hope into what had appeared to be certain defeat.
Not once but twice, when Romo had cut the Ravens' lead to two points in the last four minutes, the defense caved like a sand tunnel at high tide. Pathetic.
Any defensive coordinator should be fired on the spot. That's you, right Wade?
Phillips had a run blitz called when Willis McGahee burst up the middle untouched for a 77-yard touchdown.
Phillips had a run blitz called when lumbering Le'Ron McClain started outside, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, broke two more 5 yards later, and then just kept running. He stopped in the end zone, 82 yards later.