There are no moral victories in professional sports.
You've probably heard that about a million times over the course of your life as a team valiantly tries to win a game before winding up a loser just as surely as if they were beaten by 30 points. And, so, we won't try to make you believe that the Cowboys picked up a victory of any kind on Sunday. It was right there in big, bright numbers on the JerryWorld scoreboard for all the world to see: 37-34 Saints in overtime.
No moral victory, then, but a rather insignificant loss. Once the Redskins won, the Cowboys were going to have to beat them in Week 17 to be guaranteed of a playoff spot. Once the Giants lost, the Cowboys were guaranteed of the same outcome even after the Saints' winning field goal fluttered through the uprights.
And it's not like something happened in this game to make you change your impression of the Cowboys team we've seen up to this point in the season. It didn't even change your impression of the team that had won five of the previous six games.
The Saints grabbed a lead, the Cowboys rallied back in the fourth quarter and the bounce of a fumble went against the Cowboys in overtime to give the Saints the game. The offense, defense and special teams performed pretty much as you'd expect and no new flaws revealed themselves over the course of the proceedings.
It was just the same maddening, exciting, agonizing, exhilarating Cowboys team that you've watched do this over and over again in 2012. It might not wind up paying off with a playoff spot, but Sunday's loss won't be the reason why. Hopefully that made it a little easier to enjoy a wild, wild ride.
Here's the good, bad and ugly from that ride.
GOOD: How high does Dez Bryant wind up rising if this is how he plays when he needs to have surgery on his finger? How much better does it get than the twin 58-yard touchdowns in the first half? Is it even fair to NFL defenses if there's greater heights to come?
GOOD: You can't recognize Bryant without the man putting him in the position to make us believe the latest No. 88 has a chance to be the best of them all. Romo said this week that he felt the team could always win if they were within two scores in the fourth quarter and he proved he's a man of his word with the way he played in just that situation. This is the best of Romo on a weekly basis and it is a sight to see.
BAD: Fumble recoveries are generally a game of chance, but you can put yourself in position to be lucky. Jimmy Graham out-hustled the Cowboys in overtime and that helped him wind up with the ball. Should it have been ruled a catch? Maybe, but that's not an excuse for not playing to the whistle.
UGLY: Another fumble for DeMarco Murray. That's the one thing you can't do as a running back and Murray's done it twice in two weeks. A hat trick would not be good for the Cowboys.
GOOD: Jason Witten deserves a tip of the cap for setting the single-season record for catches by a tight end. It is amazing that this season started with questions about his health given the way it has turned out on the field.
UGLY: We won't pile on Rob Ryan or any individual players too much, but the defense is just frightful right now. You'd expect it given the amount of players missing from the lineup, but expecting it and enjoying it are birds of two very different feathers. The hope right now is that the good things up top outweigh the ugly down here at the bottom because that's the only way the Cowboys smell the postseason.