Cowboys Still Control Fate Despite Loss

Wednesday, November 23rd 2005, 8:16 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ Bill Parcells wasn't ranting and raving. No matter how disappointed the coach was after another agonizingly close loss by his Dallas Cowboys, he kept the big picture in perspective.

``I know we are going to have a chance to play the team that is closest to us next time out,'' Parcells said after the Cowboys' 24-21 overtime loss to Denver on Thursday. ``I told Mike (Shanahan), I think his team has a chance to do things, and I really do think we do, too.''

The Cowboys (7-4) still have a chance to control things in the NFC East after losing for only the second time in seven games. Both losses came against division-leading teams on last-play field goals.

Plus, after three games in an 11-day stretch that wrapped up Thanksgiving Day, they have more time to rest and prepare for what could be the most important game of their season: Dec. 4 at the New York Giants.

``We have a game for first place in our division in 10 days,'' Drew Bledsoe said after throwing two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Broncos. ``We'll put this one away as quickly as we can and get ready.''

New York (7-3) plays Sunday at Seattle with a chance to take the NFC East lead. But even if the Giants win, Dallas could pull even again next weekend and claim a vital tiebreaker with a season series sweep. The Giants lost in overtime at Dallas last month.

``We have to focus on winning the division now,'' defensive tackle Jason Ferguson said.

Dallas never led the Broncos, but Bledsoe tied the game at 7 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson; at 14 with a 1-yard plunge on fourth down; and at 21 with a 4-yard TD pass to Jason Witten.

The Cowboys had a chance to go ahead midway through the fourth quarter, but Billy Cundiff _ just four days after kicking a franchise-record 56-yard field goal in his first game back _ was wide left on a 34-yard attempt.

``I missed it. ... It was completely my fault,'' Cundiff said.

``Obviously, we are very disappointed in this game,'' said Bledsoe, who was 29-of-44 _ both season highs _ for 232 yards. ``We fought hard against a very good team and had our chances to win it.''

AFC West-leading Denver (9-2) won the coin toss to start overtime, then needed just three plays to win. After a 7-yard pass and Ron Dayne's 55-yard run, Jason Elam kicked a 24-yard field goal.

Until the big run in overtime by Dayne, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner who was filling in for injured Dallas-area native Tatum Bell, the Broncos had been held to just 89 yards rushing, about half their season average.

Dallas had won three straight since its 13-10 loss Oct. 23 at the NFC-leading Seahawks (8-2), who got Josh Brown's 50-yard field goal as time expired after Bledsoe threw an interception that was returned 25 yards.

The Cowboys' four losses are by a combined 13 points.

``I told the players it is not going to be without a bump in the road here or there,'' Parcells said. ``I would have liked to have this one, but we didn't get it. So we just have to regroup and get ready to try to play better next time.''