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Fifth Quarter, Week 14: The Cowboys are the NFL’s most maddening team

Jay Busbee
Shutdown Corner

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Welcome to the Fifth Quarter, the only NFL recap column you’ll ever need. It’s the only one to provide a full day’s supply of Vitamin C, after all. Here’s what was going on around the rest of the league while you were selfishly focused on your home team and your fantasy players.


The NFL needs the Cowboys to be a relevant team. So do you. And the Cowboys are not holding up their end of the bargain.

Why, pray tell, would the rest of us need that team of long-gone glory hounds with their insufferable fans to be good again? Because Cowboys football, played right, is everything that is right and wrong with the NFL all at once. Ambition, acclaim, bravado, ego ... they're even more fun to hate than they are to love, and that's why we need Dallas to be ... something.

You've heard the stats about Dallas having an almost perfect .500 record since their Aikman-Emmitt-Irvin heyday. It encapsulates the entire mediocrity of this franchise under Jerry Jones, the way that Dallas is that worst of all sports phenomena: the afterthought.

Monday night's game against Chicago was a perfect metaphor for this entire organization. The Cowboys had a chance to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles for the NFC East lead. Tony Romo, riding a wave of positive let's-reassess-him press, had an opportunity to burnish his resume against Josh McCown. Naturally, the Cowboys defense decided to keep pace with the Redskins and surrender 45 points. It wasn't Romo's fault; he played well enough not to lose but, as has so often happened during his tenure, his supporting cast steered the back half of this firetruck-on-fire right off a bridge.

Romo can't overcome his wretched defense, which surrenders a league-worst 426.8 yards per game. The offense is sliding, too, with passing ranked 12th as part of an overall 22nd-place ranking. It's not just that the pieces don't fit, it's that Dallas is trying to assemble a puzzle with pieces from seven different boxes.

The Cowboys aren't bad enough to laugh at and aren't good enough to appreciate. Their window for making any kind of noise this season is rapidly closing now that Philadelphia and Nick Foles appear to have found their footing. Even if Dallas is somehow able to reach the playoffs, would you give this team a chance against San Francisco or Carolina? Yeah, us neither.

Dallas has to get better ... or worse. Romo deserves better, and we want to have a quality Dallas team to loathe again. We're all sick of hating on the Patriots.


In which we recap every game in seven words. Ready ... go!

Jacksonville 27, Houston 20. Rock bottom? Nope. Houston finds more layers.
Baltimore 29, Minnesota 26. Four more scores since you started this.
Cincinnati 42, Indianapolis 28. "Bad" Luck showing up at wrong time.
Green Bay 22, Atlanta 21. Falcons now definitely going down-y for Clowney.
New England 27, Cleveland 26. Don't breathe on Patriots. It's a penalty.
New York Jets 37, Oakland 27. Rex Ryan, grinnin' his Geno-starting grin
Philadelphia 34, Detroit 20. Eagles now own the East; Lions spinning.
Miami 34, Pittsburgh 28. Steelers and sidelines are an uneasy match.
Tampa Bay 27, Buffalo 6. Thanks for playing, Buffalo. Seeya in 2014.
Kansas City 45, Washington 10. Worst game in Redskins history? Yeah, probably.
Denver 51, Tennessee 28. Peyton Manning can't play in cold? Sure.
Arizona 30, St. Louis 10. Too little, too late for the Cardinals?
San Diego 37, New York Giants 14. Replace "Cardinals" with "Chargers" in line above.
San Francisco 19, Seattle 17. Seattle lost, but 49ers remain the underdogs.
New Orleans 31, Carolina 13. Let's see how Carolina rebounds from beatdown.
Chicago 45, Dallas 28. Ditka makes us all feel like Chicagoans.


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Champ: LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia Eagles. What a game from Shady. A franchise-record 217 yards rushing in the snow against Detroit, including two monstrous touchdowns, might just have propelled the Eagles into the playoffs. And with any luck, they'll get snow in the first round of the playoffs, too; that's the only way the Eagles are going to slow down their likely first-round opponent of San Francisco.

Chump: Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins. Washington-Kansas City was quite possibly the worst game of the entire season, and in a year where we've had the atrocities of the Buccaneers and Jaguars, that's saying something. Griffin looked completely lost against the Chiefs, completing less than half his passes and pairing his lone touchdown with an interception, and as a result got benched for Kirk Cousins.


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(Getty Images)

Welcome to a look at the future. The NFL's new helmet, while fashionable and media-friendly, really doesn't look like it's going to solve the concussion crisis.

Got your own quality tailgate/party/fan photos? Hit us at and share.

There's plenty of good writing every day on the NFL. Here are a few choice reads to keep you busy while there's no football. Because the other alternatives are talking to your family or doing chores, and nobody wants that. (Send us your favorite words of the week.)

• Best of the week: Yahoo's Les Carpenter on Chuck Hughes, the only man ever to die on an NFL field. (Yahoo Sports)

• This was the wildest NFL week ever, and Sunday might just have been the best end-to-end day of football in the league's history, argues Eric Adelson. (Yahoo Sports)

• Sports Illustrated's Peter King spent a week embedded with NFL refs, and came out with some revelations about this much-maligned crew. (The MMQB)

• What books are the hardcore football statheads reading? Smart Football has the scoop for you. (Smart Football)

• A Seattle Seahawks player imitated Russell Wilson to get better reservations at restaurants. Sound plan. (Deadspin)

• Why Tom Dempsey's 63-yard field goal remains the gold standard for record-setting distance, regardless of whether it still holds the record. (Sports On Earth)

Each week, we’ll make a random Super Bowl pick based on trends, stats or general nonquantifiable gut feelings. One of these weeks, we’ll be right. Probably right after both conference championships.

New England vs. Seattle. Even when you beat Seattle, you come out feeling like you've just gotten whipped. By all rights, San Francisco should've rolled on Sunday, but it took a last-second field goal to hold down the Seahawks even playing at home. That's very, very bad news, since the Seahawks aren't going to be playing a road game in the playoffs until they travel to New York. As for the Patriots? Well, the NFL is totally rigging things for them to win again, so we'll pick 'em here.


Super Bowl picks, full season: Denver 5x, New England 4x, Seattle 3.5x, New Orleans 3.5x, Carolina 2x, San Francisco 2x, Indianapolis, Green Bay, Kansas City.

And that's a wrap for this week's edition of Fifth Quarter. Got a question? Comment? Concern? Rant? Hit me up at or on Twitter at @jaybusbee. We’ll run your words here or in Thursday’s weekly letters column. For now, enjoy the week. It's not long 'til more football!


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