Cowboys prove they just can’t be trusted in most embarrassing loss of week

Let the meltdown at Jacksonville serve as a fresh warning for the legion of rabid followers in Dallas Cowboys Nation who believe through thick and thin.

Your team just can’t be trusted.

The Cowboys blew a 17-point, second-half lead in falling to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, dousing a good measure of the momentum that seemed to be building for the potential of a deep playoff run.

Not only did the Cowboys blow their chance to clinch a playoff berth with a win while suffering their worst loss of the season – worse than the mid-November stinger at Green Bay – they clearly qualified for consideration to claim the most embarrassing setback of all during the NFL’s Week 15.

Now that’s no easy feat. The New York Jets bungled their clock management in crunchtime while falling to the Detroit Lions. The Baltimore Ravens couldn’t score by air, ground or foot in leaving so many would-be points on the field in Cleveland. And how can any team top the Indianapolis Colts? Indy gagged to enable the biggest comeback in NFL history as the Minnesota Vikings rallied from a 33-point deficit.

Follow every game: Latest NFL Scores and Schedules

Yet the Cowboys are in that worst degree of ignominious conversation after losing 40-34 in overtime when Rayshawn Jenkins returned a Dak Prescott interception (aided by Noah Brown’s mishandling of the pass) 52 yards for a touchdown and final dagger. The Jags, who had lost 20 consecutive games to NFC opponents, sent it to OT when Riley Patterson nailed a 40-yard field goal as the clock expired in regulation.

The Cowboys have one of the NFL’s best defenses, right? Backed by strong stats and an impressive highlight reel of big plays, the defense has the makings of something special. But that rep didn’t seem to matter as the Jaguars rushed for 192 yards and juiced their comeback by scoring TDs on three consecutive possessions (including a real quick one marked by Zay Jones’ 59-yard score). And Jacksonville went 41 yards in seven plays for the game-tying field goal.

If the immortal Vince Lombardi were on the Dallas sideline as all of this went down, he might have uttered his classic rant again: “What’s the hell going on out here?”

Despite the meltdown, Dallas (10-4) can still dream of extinguishing its 26-year drought since last winning a Super Bowl. (Hey, the Colts were once clobbered 44-17 in a December game at Jacksonville and a few weeks later wound up winning Super Bowl XLI).

Then again, for as well as the Cowboys can sell hope, it’s fair to wonder whether they overlooked the rebuilding Jaguars. Much of the buzz linked to the Cowboys over the past week, aside from the prospects of adding star receiver Odell Beckham, Jr., to the mix, had to do with the bulletin board material that Micah Parsons provided the Philadelphia Eagles.

Surely, Parsons had a purposeful message when he questioned whether Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts was worthy of NFL MVP honors. Parsons added a significant voice for the cause of defensive players to be MVP candidates as the award has essentially become a QB-only honor for the bulk of the past couple of decades. His point was actually spot-on.

Still, the optics of Parsons’ theme were not so good for the Cowboys. Especially now, with this big, fresh L in the books. Sure, the showdown against the NFC East-leading Eagles is on tap for Christmas Eve at Jerry World – and it will probably break another viewership record.

One week at a time? Now they can look ahead to Philly.

Parsons, by the way, provided some big plays, as usual, against the Jaguars. He had a sack, a fumble recovery, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hurries. But he’s also the leader of a defensive unit that couldn’t protect a huge lead.

It’s the bigger picture that fuels caution. A week before Sunday, the Cowboys almost lost to the worst team in the NFL on their own turf. They survived against the Houston Texans with a goal-line stand and a 98-yard TD drive in the final two minutes. Whew! Turns out that near-loss wasn’t enough of a warning.

Now here’s another wakeup call: For all of the star power, sizzle, hype and hope, the Cowboys are still a long way from proving that they can be trusted when it matters most.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY