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Ugly? Put lipstick on it - I'll take it to the prom.

Tim's picture

When Eli Manning plays a bad game but wins anyway, and Tony Romo plays a great game and loses (see here for an example of both in one game.) I get kind of agitated because I know I have to listen to how Eli is the December, clutch, awesome quarterback and Romo just doesn't have what it takes. When Romo has a bad day and wins anyway? I'll take it.

I don't have a ton of player-specific commentary here, just a little that I'll save until the end. Let me start with the broadcast team of Thom Brennaman and Brian Billick. Billick was fine – he actually brings occasional insight, which not many broadcasters do. As for Brennaman…well, he made me miss Niles Crane, and that's saying something. I am not complaining about bias, because a) I don't think he was biased (despite growing up in Cincinnati as the son of long-time Reds broadcaster Marty Brennaman,) and b) a biased TV announcer has no effect on the game anyway.

What bothered me was his complete incompetence and stupidity. Examples? Sure, I've got 'em:

He described a pass to AJ Green on the sideline as a "dangerous throw" even while the ball was in the air. I think this is one of those phrases that people who prefer not to actually watch the games they are broadcasting have on some kind of checklist. Nile Crane says this a lot, too. For the record, Green was wide open; Dalton was running that direction; the throw was high and to the outside shoulder where nobody else could get it. It was a really nice throw and decision (dang it.) Billick explained it correctly, without busting Brennaman's chops for being a dumb-ass.

On a 52 yard field goal, Brennaman exclaimed "that would have been good from 60!" Again, checklist commentary, on the list for all 50+ yard attempts. The kick snuck into the lower left corner of the goal. Had it been from 60, it would have been either wide left or short, probably both. And it takes nothing away from the kicker who made a clutch 52 yard kick (dang it!) to say that it would not have been remotely close from sixty.

"And Slow-mo…uh…Romo is slow to get up." 'Nuff said.

Entering the fourth quarter, he called it the "final stanza." Later, he referred to the second half as the "second stanza." Keep your metaphors straight. Even when they sound idiotic. Just be consistent.

I could go on, but I won't. I just get so tired of these guys who come loaded for bear with a list of cliches to spit out, rather than just watching the game in front of them. What I would give for a play by play guy who can simply tell me 1) who carried/caught the ball, 2) who made the tackle (or missed it,) and 3) what yardline the ball is on.

How about the defense? At one point in the game, after Claiborne and Ware had left, I counted four actual Cowboys starters on the field. I didn't even try to count the number of players who were beyond third string – let's call them "couch string." I hate excuse-making, and I have a lot of questions about Rob Ryan, but at some point the injuries actually ARE an excuse.

Third and long, in what has become a season long pattern against this defense, was almost automatic for the Bengals. Fortunately, in the second half, most of the third downs were medium yardage, and Bengals receivers kept dropping passes, or Dalton threw behind them, or somebody fell down. It was a Cowboys-like offensive performance. Still, it became apparent during the course of the game that Cincinnati's offensive mistakes and miscues were the Dallas defense's 12th man.

Well, except for that actual 12-man penalty. And what was Ryan thinking with the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty?

But here's the weird thing: entering the fourth quarter down by two scores, the Dallas defense somehow stiffened. In their two possessions, Cincinnati first went four and out, with two big penalties and a Dallas sack on third down (nice to see you again, Demarcus Ware.) On their second drive, they never attempted to run, despite a 7.7 per carry average for the day. Another third down sack, this time by Spencer, who will get some big money someplace next year, forced a punt from the Bengals 26.

On the other side of the ball, Tony Romo, who had been having a tough day, and also faced a lot more pressure in the second half, was a different player in the fourth quarter. In that last period, he went 12 of 15 for 129 yards, one touchdown and the game-winning field goal drive to win it - his 18th game-winning drive of his career and the fourth this year. I have never thought Romo had great arm strength, but the TD throw to Bryant was a bullet.

Murray also was a different player in the fourth. Only 21 for 53 in the game, he was 8 for 29 in the fourth, but picked up three first downs, including a critical third and five conversion to set up the winning field goal. More importantly, he never lost yardage, which really mattered on those final, crucial downs.

I am not sure how to rate the coaching. On defense, the complete MASH unit that Ryan has to field easily poses a bigger challenge than any opponent. The offense has no such excuse. Other than Phil Costa, who has hardly played this year, all the starters were in the game. They were slipping, falling, dropping balls, holding, and making terrible throws, but they were on the field. I wish I could blame the play-calling, but today at least, it was all execution.

On special teams, Harris got robbed of a TD on the fake reverse, because he was not down, and the officials didn't even blow the whistle until after he'd left the pile and started running again. Moorman was terrible, but his blocking wasn't any better than his kicking. Fortunately, Pacman Jones still runs backwards on punt returns.

Was it an ugly win? Sure. Was it a legitimate win? Yes. When Dallas beat the Browns, I got a little annoyed by people who said only after the fact that the Browns were better than their record. They aren't. We went into this game on the road against a team with a better record, that was leading the league in sacks and scoring more points than the Cowboys.

Ugly? Put lipstick on it - I'll take it to the prom.