Kick to the Ditka

There is no looking back for Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs
There is no looking back for Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys. Photo Courtesy: Darryl Briggs

By Will Martin

Nineteen years ago on Halloween I can recall a Monday night at Soldier Field where there was going to be a special halftime induction for two of the most famous Bears of all time. Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers.

A game played in a driving rainstorm that would be won handily by gunslinger Brett Favre in a 33-0 whitewash of Da Bears. Favre threw for one touchdown and ran one in from about 40 yards out. It was ugly.

With Mike Ditka getting the honors this night in the Windy City you’d forgive me if I wished for the same?

The local hot button topic amongst the experts and radio heads is how ‘It’s that month again. Now the sh*t hits the fan!’ That ten day break after the Dallas Cowboys took care of their business against the Raiders and Giants before an eleven day break.

Would this be the night Tony Romo began to take the necessary steps to silence all the naysayers of the NFL and fans worldwide on what would be the second coldest regular season game in Cowboys history?

In the words of Stone Cold Steve Austin that would be a big, ‘Hell No!’

Everything appeared to be in line for a win. That opening drive with Tony Romo mixing up the run with the pass and getting out to a 7-0 lead…many of my friends were so confident they turned off the TV and went to bed assuming the best, only to learn the worst. DeMarco Murray with a 146 yard night on the ground, no picks for Tony Romo and what many believed would be a weak Bears defense frigid cold or not.

“We ran the ball well. That’s what we focused on, and we thought we could kill them there,” Dez Bryant said.

The Cowboys became only the second team in NFL history to have been a part of two games where neither team punted (the 1981 Packers). This happened earlier in the October game against the Denver Broncos. Just like both Mannings and Drew Brees would absolutely shred the Cowboys secondary Quarterback Josh McCown would do more of the same completing 27 passes of 36 attempts for 348 yards and a passer rating of 141 as the Bears would score on each possession in a 45-28 trouncing of the Dallas Cowboys.

Half of those passing yards went to Alshon Jeffrey (84)  and Brandon Marshall (100) who burned the Dallas secondary time and again.

Tony Romo in November is 24-5. With Monday night’s loss in December Romo is 12-17. Simply put the Bears did a great job of playing keep away with time of possession (over 36 minutes) and knocking out 28 unanswered points which commenced with a minute left in the first half. Chicago: 38 plays 294 yards and 19 first downs. Dallas in that same time frame: 13 plays 34 yards and 2 first downs.

That just won’t cut it.

“It’s the NFL, and you know you’re not going to be able to run up and down the field like that all day,” said running backs coach Gary Brown. “We felt good about the plan. Coach Callahan put a great plan together – we’ve just got to execute.”

DeMarco Murray only touched the ball five times in the second half as Chicago pulled away with big contributions from Earl Bennett, Alshon Jeffrey, Matt Forte, and Michael Bush. To Josh McCown’s credit he was great about spreading five touchdown passes to those four receivers.

Matt Forte did the lions share of the grunt work with 102 yards running on 20 carries with another 84 in the air. No answers for that player.

“We lost the game and we played terrible,” said Sean Lee. “We got dominated. We have to play better and it starts with myself. It’s all about execution and we’re not executing. We gave up too many big plays tonight.”

Jerry Jones offered a simpler verdict.

“They gave us a lot of problems – they’re a good offensive team,” said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “We suffered because of it, and they took us out of our offense. That’s the story of the game.”

Keep in mind the local Chicago media has been ready to kick Coach Marc Trestman and the whole team off into Lake Michigan before this game. Now both the Cowboys and Bears are 7-6 with playoff aspirations building or being questioned. For Dallas the Packers return to Arlington with or without Aaron Rodgers.

“They certainly took us out of our plan, offensively, that was working good for us,” Jones said. “The fact that we couldn’t get them stopped made us change what we were doing offensively.”

Game time temperature was 8 degrees with a wind chill of -9. Packers fans will remind you that when the Ice Bowl was played 12/31/67 it was -13 below BEFORE you added the wind chill.

“We didn’t play very well on defense,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “No question about that. You give them credit, but we need to make the corrections. Whatever emotion you’re talking about, I think we all have. You’re disappointed in a lot of things.”

Of concern to the Dallas Cowboys is the health of Sean Lee. He was cleared to play this night and would leave with a neck injury. We now know that he won’t play in Sunday’s game with Green Bay.

Tony Romo was 11 for 20 passing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Cowboys running amassed 198 total yards. On any other day we are applauding the effort. Just not on this night in December.

“I thought we were doing some good things on offense, but it became one of those ballgames where you had to match serve every time, and we weren’t able to do that,” Garrett said. “They went up by a score and then by another score and the game got out of hand.”

The game began with two straight 12 play drives where Dallas struck first on a two yard toss to Dez Bryant as DeMarco Murray ran for 52 yards. Chicago answered right back with a drive of their own as McCown tossed for 47 yards on three passes and with all time in the world inside the pocket. Matt Forte would get three touches for 20 yards to tie things up at 7.

The second period became more of the same as Josh McCown engineered a 10 play 65 yard drive that he would take for a seven yard draw for a 14-7 lead. Back came Team Romo with a 7 play 68 yard drive as Murray rushed five times for 33 yards and Jason Witten would score from ten yard out on a catch and a solid stiff arm game tied 14-all.

Right before halftime things began to turn sour for the Silver and Blue as Chicago added a field goal for a 17-14 lead. Dallas then failed to run out the clock and with 17 seconds left Alshon Jeffrey made an unbelievable catch in the corner of the end zone over BW Webb and Jeff Heath for a 24-14 halftime lead and in essence your ball game.

Thus began a litany of scores that got to 42-14 before the Cowboys got on the board again on a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Cole Beasley.

The running game if it does this Sunday what it did Monday night in Chicago should present problems for the injured secondary of the Packers. Green Bay comes to Arlington with a 6-6-1 record and a scant chance of being in the playoff hunt.

Three games left in 2013. Will we see 8-8 again for a third straight season? Does Dallas and the defense somehow bounce back? Will December continue to display an ever ugly trend of fading away? Are we seeing Jason Garrett’s tenure in Big D wind up?

It’s all possible so stay tuned. Kickoff this Sunday is at 3:25 pm. Green Bay NEVER won in Dallas when Favre was at the QB helm nor Aaron Rodgers for that matter. Neither one is around now.