Tony Curtis stopped and sunk his head.
He was defeated, just like his Dallas Cowboys. The first half wasn't over, but the 44-6
humiliation at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles was assured. The much hyped, Super Bowl-or-bust season would end without even a measly playoff berth.
Curtis had been blocking on a kickoff only to watch return man Pacman Jones foolishly and fruitlessly try to make nothing out of nothing in the final seconds of the first half. Jones was caught along the sideline by half the Eagles team photo. With nowhere to go he should've looked to avoid disaster. Instead he courted it, overconfident in his ability. He bopped around in a circle until he fumbled.
Philly recovered, setting up a gift field goal. Curtis showed up on the scene, looked at the pile, looked at the carnage of a play gone bad and a season gone worse and down went that head.
How 'bout them Cowboys?
The Detroit Lions became the first team to go 0-16 in league history but the most disastrous season in the NFL this year belongs to the Cowboys.
Detroit was supposed to be terrible, the predictable result of letting Matt Millen run the franchise for so long. The Lions' futility is historic, but what's the tangible difference between 0-16 and 2-14?
Dallas had 13 Pro Bowlers, a peacock proud owner and a ton of talk about how this was the season for its first Super Bowl since 1996.
Instead it was a train wreck of melodrama, mistakes and misplaced priorities. For Dallas to finish 9-7 and out of the playoffs with that much talent is an epic failure.
"We've got the best talent in the NFL, but that doesn't always get the job done," cornerback Terence
Newman told the Dallas Morning News.
At midseason, owner Jerry Jones even mortgaged some of the team's future to get more talent. He traded a first-, third- and sixth-round draft pick
to Detroit for receiver Roy Williams. Like most of Dallas' moves, it didn't pan out. Williams caught just 19 passes in 10 games.
It wasn't as bad as Jones putting his personal reputation on the line in taking Pacman Jones off Roger Goodell's suspended list. Pacman not only didn't produce – he was terrible Sunday – he served a six-game
midseason suspension after fighting one of the bodyguards Jerry Jones hired to keep him out of trouble.
(Pacman's signing would rank as the single most embarrassing moment of the NFL season if not for the fact that New York mayor Michael Bloomberg gave Brett Favre a "Broadway" street sign, among other gifts, just for signing with the Jets. After 22 interceptions
and a season not even Favre's media sycophants can spin, Bloomberg ought to ask for it back.)
The Cowboys holdovers meanwhile weren't much better. Tony Romo continued to fall apart after Dec. 1 (he collapsed in the shower postgame due to what was believed to be a rib injury). Terrell Owens created some drama and began showing his age. The defense often seemed confused and slow.
After a promising 3-0 start,
the team finished 6-7. Yet Jerry Jones says coach Wade Phillips will be back.
Dallas was a fantasy team coming to life this season. Jones kept adding stars without concern for chemistry. He expected them to coexist, cooperate and conquer the way the 1990s Cowboys did. That was a different group though, and too often this season the big names came up small.
There's physical talent and winning talent and they aren't the same.
"We've got to start all over," Owens said. "[Guys] have to look in the mirror and go back to the drawing board and ask themselves, 'How can [I] get better in every aspect of their game.' That starts with me."
Owens got wistful at one point and talked about the Eagles, who won four of their last five games and entered the weekend with long odds to make the playoffs only to secure the final spot.
"I know the makeup of that locker room," Owens, the former Eagle, said. "I know the makeup of that coach [Andy Reid] and he had them ready to play."
Left unsaid was that the Cowboys weren't, whether because of Phillips or a group of players that just expect success to happen.
Repeated late season collapses – the Cowboys have lost their last nine regular-season finales
and have done nothing in the playoffs – are in this team's DNA. Jones might have added what looked like talent, but the mental toughness and leadership remains elusive.
Sunday he wasn't willing to admit that, though, which cuts the likelihood of meaningful offseason change.
"I saw this team come back in some pretty trying situations this year," Jones told reporters. "That showed good mental toughness. I don't know. I would point to turnovers. I would point to missed tackles. I would point to things like that before I would mental toughness. I would look for technical things."
Dumb turnovers and lazy tackling is mental toughness. It is leadership. It is chemistry.
Dallas had too little of it this season. It had none of it on a must-win Sunday.
"A shameful way to go out," Owens said.
A telling one though for the team with too much talent.