There were some bad losses on Sunday — New Orleans getting thrashed by Washington, Seattle coming up short at home against Arizona, Green Bay suddenly forgetting how to run a functioning offense for 55 minutes while hosting Detroit — but was the Cowboys losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers maybe the saddest of them all? I don’t know. That would require one to feel some sort of empathy for this pathetic season Dallas has put together, and that’s probably all but impossible given the current circumstances.
For the Cowboys, what continues to plague them in a non-football sense is the most violent, abusive and ill-tempered circumstance of them all, one Greg Hardy, who has been a net-negative in both football and life. His contributions in Tampa Bay amounted to a single tackle and a moment when he was openly trying to taunt the fans inside Raymond James Stadium. His continued employment remains a mystery, although his teammates, by all public accounts, support his presence in the locker room and on the field. If you’re looking for reasons why this Cowboys team resembles some marketing department creation specifically designed to assemble the most unlikable sports team ever devised, look no further.
As painful as these last few weeks of football have been — Dallas is 0-5 since Hardy came back from his suspension — the season effectively came to an end with the final passing play of Sunday’s loss. With a deep ball to the end zone, Matt Cassel did a reasonably effective job of getting into the range of Dez Bryant’s reach from about 55 yards out. Bryant didn’t hold up his end of the transaction, choosing to essentially give up on the play once he felt the slightest touch of a hand on his shoulder from Bucs third-year safety Bradley McDougald. Bryant is taller, has much muscle, and is more experienced than McDougald. Maybe he was banking on some benefit of the doubt. And yes, there was contact from McDougald and his hand perhaps pushed Bryant’s upper body in a given direction. But there was absolutely no fight from Bryant to catch that eminently catchable ball. The ball had not even come to rest and Bryant was lobbying for a pass interference call. He gambled that the refs would go for his theatrics, they did not, and the Cowboys lost, 10-6. Not a single touchdown against the team that just picked No. 1 overall.