Huddle Up

NFL News and Analysis with Andrew Perloff

  • 10:54 PM ET  12.06
Don't blame Tony Romo for the Cowboys' latest setback.

A weekly NFL column that heads in the opposite direction of your average pro football analysis.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Observations from the Meadowlands, where the Giants saved their season by beating the Cowboys 31-24.

1. The beginning of a potential December swoon may seem like the biggest concern for the Cowboys, but Sunday's loss may speak more to their inability to beat decent teams. Dallas is 7-0 against teams currently .500 or below and 1-4 against winning teams. So if they fall to San Diego, New Orleans and Philadelphia later this season, it's not because of the calendar -- it's because they can't beat good teams.

2. It may be difficult with his job on the line, but Cowboys coach Wade Phillips needs to take the team's chronic December problems with a grain of salt. He seemed aggravated with questions on the topic. "I don't think it's a mental block," Phillips said. "I think it's something you made up. You said something about Tony [Romo] hadn't lost a game in November. Well, we lost one in November." Phillips might as well let go and try to have fun with the rest of the season, even if his job is on the line. If he tightens up, it's not going to help his team.

3. Michael Vick's triumphant return to Atlanta may have a nice ring to it if you don't have a problem with the controversial quarterback, but that doesn't mean he had any meaningful impact on the Eagles' 34-7 victory or is going to help; this team moving forward. The Birds could have inserted a high school quarterback and still beat the decimated Falcons. The Eagles won't take the ball out of Donovan McNabb's hands in a close game or when they're behind. Philadelphia still hasn't done anything to prove a change-up quarterback helps win games. Interesting to note the Eagles gave playing time to Vick and Kevin Kolb during the fourth quarter. They're setting up what could be quite an offseason with three potentially expensive quarterbacks.

4. Tony Romo has been the face of the Cowboys' late-season failures, but their running game and defense have been just as guilty the past couple of seasons. Romo proved playing in the Northeast on a chilly afternoon wasn't a problem on Sunday. "I've built up a turtle shell for positive and negative," Romo said. "Your never as great as they think you are when you play great. You're never as bad as they say you are when you play poorly." If you separate all that comes with being a Cowboys quarterback away from Romo, he's doing just fine.

5.  Giants defensive end Justin Tuck said after the game that defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan has been unfairly criticized this season and pointed out the Giants held the Cowboys to just 45 rushing yards Sunday. Nevertheless, New York's defensive line didn't scare Dallas and Romo looked way too comfortable en route to 392 passing yards. The great Giants defensive line of the 2007 season just doesn't seem to exist any more. That has something to do with injuries, but has to have a least a little to do with the defensive coaching staff. The fate of the Giants will likely come down to their ability to rush the passer.

6. Giants running back Brandon Jacobs had surprising comments on their 34-31 overtime win over Atlanta in Week 11 after the win over Dallas. "I thought we were supposed to blow them out," Jacobs said of the Falcons. "But we still played a terrible football game, but we happened to come out with a win." That statement proves two things -- Jacobs thinks New York is still an elite team and Atlanta, who still had a healthy Matt Ryan at the time, is an also-ran. The rest of the season could prove that to be true with all the Falcons' injuries.

7. The Steelers have never lost four games in a row and made the playoffs that season. That will change this season if they get healthier down the stretch. Pittsburgh's four-game skid has been almost as fluky as possible -- two came in overtime, one in the final minute, and it didn't let up an offensive touchdown in the other. If the Steelers can make it into the postseason at 9-7 with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu (two big ifs, obviously), they could are the kind of team that could follow in the Arizona Cardinals' footsteps and reach the Super Bowl with a record barely above .500. The Steelers went from 7-5 to a Super Bowl title in 2005.

8. Bill Belichick looks bad with his aggressive fourth-down strategy right now. But the bottom line is he is smarter than us, even if we don't want to admit. A last-second loss to a divisional rival like the Dolphins on the road certainly doesn't disprove that. Belichick-haters better get their licks in now, because the Pats are probably could easily win out. The close the season vs. Carolina, at Buffalo, vs. Jacksonville and at Houston.

9. Redskins fans should be psyched about their team's 33-30 overtime loss to the Saints. The last thing this organization needs is a few big wins late in the season that might convince them not to blow things up from the top down and start over fresh. Although it's been a lost decade in Washington, the 'Skins have always hovered around .500 and haven't had the incentive to completely change. Like the 1-15 Dolphins who turned to Bill Parcells in 2007.

10. Remember when running and defense was the key to winnning games in December? On Sunday, 12 starting quarterbacks had a rating of over 100. Indoor stadiums, retractable roofs, rule changes and possible climate change have made late-season smashmouth football obsolete. The eventual Super Bowl winner's only outdoor game will very likely be in Miami for the Super Bowl.

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