One week after taking it on the chin from rival Washington Redskins at Texas Stadium 26-24 that revealed a chink in Dallas' armor, the doubts linger. After a loss, it's always good to go out and flatten the next opponent. Coaches and the fans like that. Instead, the Dallas Cowboys survived a terrible and winless Cincinnati Bengals team 31-22. After going up 17-0 on their first three possessions, the lead shrunk to one before a series of defensive stops restored some sanity.
But the questions remain. If anyone saw Terrell Owens sob on the sideline after his touchdown you know something is seriously wrong when those tears aren't for a Super Bowl title. From pre-season favorites to win it all (go ask Michael Strahan too), well, they're still there but all of a sudden those Giants from New York look mighty like them New England Patriots when they were tearing up the NFL.
So how should teams come out? When is a win a win?
The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls answered critics for their 1995 play-off crash. They went 72-10 and begun their second troika of championships. Every time they suffered a loss during the regular season, in the following game, the crushed the opposition by at least 20 points. So you knew they were driven. You know... a bump in the road.
This past UAAP season, Ateneo went 16-1. There were games when the Blue Eagles didn't thrash the opponent and had they not built a sizeable lead in the early goings they might have been beaten. A lack of a killer instinct, bemoaned many. Yet they still won a title as they closed out their last four games in convincing fashion (as if 16-1 isn't convincing enough).
Even when you win, sometimes you feel like a loser. Ask Fabio Capello who lead Real Madrid to two La Liga titles in each of his two years in Spain but got fired the year after for his pragmatic style of football play.
In Major League Baseball, the worst-to-first Tampa Bay Devil Rays pooh-pooh their great goings heading into the ALCS with Boston. "The best record doesn't mean anything anything until you win a title," one player said referring to the California Angels who won 100 games but folded against the Red Sox who had all sorts of issues this year. But for sure, tell that to the 1998 Seattle Mariners who won a record 116 games (out of a total 162 matches in a season) yet were sent home for the fall by the New York Yankees that same season.
There's that infamous taunt by another school about winning the games that matter. But doesn't every game matter? Doesn't every win put one in a position to advance further? Last year's New England Patriots made it to the Super Bowl where they ran into a hungrier New York Giants team. I guess what makes the Patriots fall even more ignonimous because of their undefeated record heading into the Super Bowl.
At the start of this NFL season, those same New York Giants (minus the retired Strahan) beat the Redskins 16-7. The new look Washington team entered NY territory three times during the game and the last one was in the final minute. Chatting with a friend from Virginia who is a die-hard Redskins fan, she said that the team didn't look good. I said it was too early and I thought there was a lot to be learned from that game. And true enough, the Redskins went on a three-game tear entering this weekend and everyone is signing Hossanas to first year coach Jim Zorn, and his leading cast of Jason Campbell, Santana Moss and Clinton Portis.
So when is a win a win?
Sometimes it's when you lose and get back up. After all, you can't make an omelette without breaking an egg. Sometimes it's flashing that deadly form and kicking butt all the way. Yet in reality though it's only in hindsight where we can truly analyze it.
As for the Dallas Cowboys... well, we have to wait for this next weekend when they face the 3-2 Arizona Cardinals and the resumption of the soap opera between Tony Romo and TO. So maybe then we'll know whether the win is really a win.