October is the month for Halloween and with it, a focus on all things scary. As Dallas goes to play at Detroit Sunday, I can’t help but think back to their meeting in October 2011, where the outcome came back to haunt Dallas at the end of the season.
I looked back in detail at that game and how it eventually kept Dallas out of the 2011 playoffs in a blog HERE.
Let’s look back briefly on that very scary game for Cowboy fans. Dallas was leading the Lions 27-3 in the 3rd quarter when Romo threw an interception (pick 6), to former Cowboy first round pick Bobby Carpenter. Carpenter was the LB Dallas drafted in 2006, who looked like Tarzan but played more like Jane.
The momentum of the game completely turned on that one play. The very next possession, Romo threw another pick 6 to Chris Houston from Austin. Or was it Chris Austin from Houston? Anyway the Lions caught fire and the game got away from Dallas very quickly and they lost that game 34-30.
I pointed out in the earlier blog that had Dallas held on to their 24 point lead and won that Lions game in 2011, both teams would have finished 9-7 and the wildcard tie breaker would have gone to Dallas since they won head to head. That means Dallas would have gotten the wildcard but instead it went to Detroit.
Wednesday morning Lions coach Jim Scwartz was asked about how this meeting Sunday could have playoff implications later in the year. He said,
“When it comes down to the end of the season there’s tiebreakers and things like that could come into play. We can’t worry about that stuff now. The Dallas Cowboys coming to town is enough things to worry about. They’re leading the NFC East. They’re coming off two wins in a row after having a tough loss to Denver, so I think they’ve really responded well there.”
Pretty much an obligatory NFL coach response to the question that would make Belichick envious. But could a loss Sunday come back to haunt Dallas or Detroit later? Schwartz may avoid answering that question but I will tell you that yes it potentially could, but not for Dallas if they take care of business in the East.
After defeating the Eagles Sunday, Dallas is in first place in the NFC East. If they take care of business in three remaining divisional games, then Dallas will win the East. I believe that even an 8-8 record will be enough to win the puny NFC East this season. Before the season began, I felt Dallas would go 8-8 yet again this season and at this point (4-3), I still believe that will be the case.
However what if Dallas stumbles against a team in the East coming down the stretch and finds themselves in yet another runner up finish in the East? Then they could possibly find themselves behind the Eagles and into what I refer to as “the wildcard pool” of teams. That’s where this Detroit outcome Sunday could have significant playoff implications.
I believe the Packers are still the team to beat in the NFC North and that will put the 4-3 Lions in the “wildcard pool” if they can’t win their division. The Lions have already lost to the Packers. Schwartz may choose to not admit it now, but they are fighting for a wildcard spot.
So it’s possible that at the end of the season, Dallas and Detroit could be fighting for one NFC wildcard spot as the other wildcard spot will likely go to the NFC West runner up (either S.F. or Seattle).
How Romo takes care of the ball could once again play a huge role in who wins this game and possibly even who wins a playoff spot later.
So far this season, Romo has taken care of the ball pretty well as he has 15 TDs and just 5 INTs. However two of those INTs came last Sunday against the Eagles, who failed to capitalize on them. But those kind of mistakes Sunday in Detroit, could get the Lions home crowd going and result in another scary finish for Dallas.
As we have seen before, what happens in October can come back to haunt the Cowboys in December.