IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Once the Dallas Cowboys ran out of ways to
make the playoffs about an hour before their season finale, the
only question left was whether they'd have any fight left against
the St. Louis Rams.
"I think we were a little deflated mentally, especially our
offensive group," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "We just
seemed to not be on edge in light of what happened today,
The game was rendered meaningless when Washington beat
Philadelphia and eliminated Dallas from the wild-card chase. A
Carolina victory over Atlanta earlier in the day cut off another
potential path to the playoffs. A long-shot scenario had fizzled
when the New York Giants won Saturday night.
Despite all the Cowboys (9-7) had done to prepare for this game
in case they were playing for a playoff berth, they showed none of
the "spunk" Parcells praised them for having only a week earlier.
"The atmosphere tonight was totally different," safety Keith Davis said. "If I told you it wasn't, I'd be lying. But it wasn't
the Eagles, it wasn't Atlanta -- it was us. We were in too many
close games all year long. I don't point the finger at anybody but
the Dallas Cowboys."
Dallas went 6-5 in games decided by a touchdown or less. This
one was headed to balancing that slate until St. Louis' Jeff Wilkins kicked a 20-yard field goal with 1:05 left, making this the
second-worst margin of defeat for the Cowboys all season.
Now the wait begins to find out whether Parcells is coming back
for the final season of his 4-year, $17 million contract. He
wouldn't say what he's doing or when he'll meet with team owner
Jerry Jones to discuss it.
"I just got to get away from it a little while," Parcells
Jones told ESPN during an in-game interview, "I hope that we
can continue what we've got started here." In the somber locker
room afterward, Jones said, "You know how I feel about the job
Under Parcells, the Cowboys are 25-24 in three years, a big
turnaround from 15-33 the three previous seasons.
St. Louis (6-10) ended a four-game losing streak and won for
only the second time in its last eight games. It may be a
going-away present for Marshall Faulk, who got his first start of
the season, and coach Mike Martz, who has missed the last 11 games
because of health problems and is believed to be on his way out.
"The guys played with a lot of passion," interim coach Joe
Vitt said. "They practiced well the last four weeks and had
nothing to show for it. I'm proud that they got this win."
The Rams came in averaging a league-worst 27.9 points per game
and were near the bottom in total defense and run defense. They
didn't look like that this time, holding Dallas to 271 yards and a
season-low 57 yards rushing.
The Cowboys scored an early touchdown, but couldn't do much
right for long after that. They went sack, fumble, sack on a
second-quarter drive, then started a third-quarter possession with
a false start; a holding penalty that wiped out a decent run; then
a sack by an unblocked defender on third down. Many fans missed
that play, however, because they were doing the wave.
All Dallas could get over the last 3½ quarters was a 22-yard
field goal by Shaun Suisham with 3 seconds left in the half that
tied the game at 10. He missed way right on a 47-yarder with 9:28
The Rams got a 49-yard field goal by Wilkins, an 8-yard
touchdown run by Cason, who hadn't taken a handoff all season until
this game, and a 1-yarder by Harris that made it 17-10 early in the
Cason and Harris got so much prime action because Steven Jackson
was inactive, the same reason Faulk started. Cason gained 65 yards,
Faulk 25 and Harris 15.
Faulk said afterward that he hasn't given any thought to whether
he'll be back next season.
"I think it's unfair to even speculate on any decision because
I haven't made one," he said.
Dallas' Julius Jones gained 35 yards a week after gaining 194.
He fell 7 yards shy of 1,000, missing the chance to join his
brother Thomas of Chicago, and to be the first Cowboys player to
crack that milestone since Emmitt Smith in 2001.
Drew Bledsoe finished his first season in Dallas going 18-of-39
for 242 yards, giving him the second-best season in team history
(3,639). However, he also lost his NFL-worst eighth fumble and
threw two interceptions, the first setting up Wilkins' final field
goal, the last coming on the Cowboys' final snap of the season.
Keyshawn Johnson caught five passes for 97 yards, then was
the last player to leave the Dallas bench, a sour look on his face.
... Wilkins hit the left upright on a 27-yarder and narrowly missed
from 53 yards after a strange intentional grounding penalty tacked
10 yards onto the attempt. ... St. Louis beat a winning team for
only the second time.