A week ago when the Dallas Cowboys played their very last game at Texas Stadium and lost 33-24 to the Baltimore Ravens, former Cowboy running back great Emmitt Smith, the franchise’s honorary captain, was interviewed during the closing ceremony of the stadium and was asked what he thought was wrong with the Cowboys.

Without hesitation pro football’s most prolific running back blurted out, “They lack discipline.” Anybody who wondered exactly what he meant saw many examples of it during Sunday’s finale at Philadelphia in which the Cowboys were blown completely out of the stadium by the Eagles 44-6, their most lop-sided loss to Philadelphia in franchise history.

It all starts at the top with Idiot owner Jerry Jones whose idea of improving the team is to bring in players nobody else will tolerate because they either get in trouble with the law (Tank Johnson & Pacman Jones) or are stuck on losing teams (Roy Williams).

Then he hires an easy-going, laid-back coach like Wade Phillips and spouts off all summer about winning the Super Bowl. The Cowboys were fortunate to be in the playoff picture the final week of the season. They lucked out the week before when Philadelphia and Tampa Bay both lost, meaning all Dallas had to do was win Sunday and they were a wild card.

Philadelphia, on the other hand, thought they had blown their last chance at the playoffs with their putrid performance at Washington (10-3 loss). The Eagles didn’t pop back into the playoff picture until after kickoff time Sunday when the scoreboard revealed that both Tampa Bay and the Chicago Bears lost.

That put them in the same boat as the Cowboys for Sunday’s game — win and you’re in. The score was tied 3-3 when the Eagles realized they could land a playoff berth with a win over the hated Cowboys. They became very focused and disciplined and proceeded to reel off 41 straight points and extended their season at least for another week.

It was another late-season collapse for the Cowboys, who are 5-8 with Tony Romo as their starting quarterback in December and 22-4 in other months. And the Eagles had another strong finish late in the season under Head Coach Andy Reid, going 52-21-3 in November and December since 2000, including 11-3 in the final month over the last three seasons and six straight December victories over the Cowboys.

Dallas finished its season at 9-7, which will sometimes get a team into the playoffs as a wild card. However, the Cowboys have now gone 12 straight seasons without a playoff win.

The Cowboys were only one win better than the upstart Houston Texans, who knew going into the final week of the season they were already eliminated from the NFL playoffs.

So the Texans did the next best thing — prevented the Chicago Bears from any post-season activity by beating them 31-24 at Reliant Stadium Sunday to finish the season by tying the franchise’s best record of 8-8.

“I think we’re a better football team than we were last year,” head coach Gary Kubiak said after the game Sunday. “We have the same record. It was important that this team didn’t step backward today.”
The wild card playoff schedule kicks off Saturday at 3:30 p.m. with the NFC West champion Arizona Cardinals (9-7) hosting the Atlanta Falcons (11-5). The Cardinals will be hosting their first playoff game since 1947, when they were based in Chicago.

Indianapolis (12-4), the fifth-seeded team in the AFC, will play at San Diego (8-8) at 7 p.m. The Colts are in the postseason for the seventh-straight year, which is the longest streak in the NFL. Both games will be shown on NBC.

The Baltimore Ravens (11-5), seeded sixth in the AFC, will play at AFC East champion Miami (11-5) at noon Sunday on CBS while the Philadelphia Eagles (9-6-1) will travel to Minnesota to meet the NFC North champion Vikings (10-6) at 3:30 p.m. on Fox.

The following weekend will see the AFC and NFC’s top two teams host divisional round games. The Tennessee Titans (13-3), the AFC South Division and the conference’s No. 1 seed, will play against the lowest seed, either Baltimore or San Diego, Saturday, Jan 10, at 3:30 p.m. on CBS. 

The NFC 7:15 p.m. game Jan. 10 will be hosted by the South champion Carolina Panthers (12-4) on Fox with their opponents either Arizona, Atlanta or Minnesota.

The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants (12-4), the NFC East winners, will have the home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and will play the lowest seeded team—either Arizona, Atlanta or Philadelphia—on Sunday, Jan. 11 at noon on Fox. 

The final divisional contest at 3:45 p.m. Jan. 11 will be at Pittsburgh (12-4) with the AFC North champion Steelers hosting Miami, Denver or Indianapolis on CBS.

However, one of the NFL’s hottest December teams, the New England Patriots, was the odd-team out despite winning their last four games and finishing with an 11-5 record. The Pats are the first 11-win team to miss the postseason since Denver in 1985.

And the Detroit Lions became the first team in NFL history to go winless through a 16-game season. The 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-14) were the last NFL team to complete a season without a victory. This can be directly attributed to Matt Millen, president of the Lions from 2001 until he was fired Sept. 24.

KWICKIES…Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson led the NFL in rushing in just his second season in the league while New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees passed for 5,068 yards to become only the second player in NFL history to top 5,000 yards. He missed Dan Marino’s record by 16 yards. Peterson became the fifth player in NFL history to rush for 3,000 yards in his second season in the league. He joins Eric Dickerson (LA Rams) Edgerrin James (Colts), Earl Campbell (Oilers) and Clinton Portis (Broncos).

New York Jets’ coach Eric Mangini became the first casualty as he was fired shortly after the Jets’ 24-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins Sunday. The Jets were at 8-3 and then won only one of the final five games, losing to Denver, San Francisco, Seattle and Miami and barely beating Buffalo. The 37-year-old Mangini was called by owner Woody Johnson one of the league’s up-and-coming coaches, but went 23-26 in three seasons in his first head coaching job. He had another year remaining on his contract.

JUST BETWEEN US…The Houston Astros have been busy signing free agents and re-signing relief pitcher Doug Brocail to a one-year, $2.75 million deal. Former Astro lefty Mike Hampton signed for $2 million, outfielder Jason Michaels for $750,000 and infielder Aaron Boone for the same amount. Former Astro shortstop Adam Everett signed with Detroit for $1 million, Mark Loretta signed with the LA Dodgers for $1.25 million, infielder Mike Lamb signed with Milwaukee for $400,000 and outfielder Willy Taveras signed a two-year deal with the Cincinnati Reds.