By Jay Skurski
NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
1. Tony Romo’s injury submarined the season. It’s hard to remember, but the Cowboys actually started the season 2-0. But a broken collarbone suffered by the starting quarterback in Week Two was the beginning of the end. Romo missed the next seven games, all of which the Cowboys lost. After returning for a win over Miami in Week 11, Romo got hurt again on Thanksgiving against Carolina. The Cowboys lost that game, and two of three since then. The latest came Saturday night against the New York Jets, officially eliminating Dallas from playoff contention in the watered-down NFC East. The Cowboys have been tied or in the lead in the fourth quarter in eight games without Romo and lost seven of them. Dallas had been keeping Romo on the active roster in the hopes they could get him back if the team made a miraculous playoff run, but can move him to injured reserve now.
2. They might have a new starting quarterback Sunday. The Cowboys’ acquisition of Matt Cassel in a trade with the Buffalo Bills earlier this season has been a disaster. He has a 1-6 record in seven starts, and has thrown just five touchdowns and seven interceptions. Cassel bottomed out Saturday against the Jets, going 3 of 8 for 37 yards and an interception before getting benched in favor of Kellen Moore. The pick was particularly unsightly, as Cassel appeared to be trying to throw the ball away out of bounds, but didn’t get enough on it. Moore threw a touchdown after replacing Cassel, but was also intercepted three times. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett chose not to name a starter after the loss to New York.
3. Dez Bryant has been a victim of the bad quarterback play. The Cowboys’ No. 1 receiver has lost his cool several times in what has been a miserable season. A broken foot suffered in the season opener against the Giants knocked Bryant out of the lineup until Week Eight. Since returning, he’s struggled to find any sort of chemistry with Cassel. Bryant has just one 100-yard gain game, and more than 50 yards in a game just once since Week 10. He scored Dallas’ lone touchdown Saturday, but also missed time in the third quarter because of dehydration.
4. Darren McFadden has found the Fountain of Youth. The Cowboys’ eighth-year running back reached 100 yards for the fourth time since Week Nine on Saturday against the New York Jets. Entering Week 15, he was tied for the most 100-yard rushing games in that span. McFadden now has back-to-back 100-yard rushing games for the first time since Weeks 14 and 15 of the 2010 season, when he was with Oakland. He set his career high with 1,157 yards that year, the only season in which he’s topped 1,000 yards. McFadden needs 102 yards over the final two games this year to do that again.
5. Greg Hardy’s presence has been a season-long distraction. The Cowboys’ decision to sign Hardy, who was arrested for domestic violence while with the Carolina Panthers, has been derided from the minute it went down. The outrage over Hardy’s presence on the Cowboys intensified last month when the website Deadpan released police photos of Hardy’s victim. The shocking images rightfully revolted people, but Dallas has stood by Hardy. Owner Jerry Jones even spoke earlier in the season about how much of a leader Hardy has been, and how the team would like to work out a contract extension with him. After sitting out the first four games of the season because of a suspension, Hardy has made 31 tackles and has 5.5 sacks in 10 games.