IRVING, TEX., NOV. 27 -- How's this for America's Team?

The Dallas Cowboys are about to miss the playoffs for the third time in four years. The quarterback virtually cries after blowing the game. The home crowd boos as much as it cheers.

Not counting the strike replacement games, the Cowboys have lost 13 of their last 16 games, including Thursday's 44-38 overtime thriller to the Minnesota Vikings that left Dallas fans with indigestion and the team as glum as its been since the franchise started in 1960.

The Cowboys (5-6) have about as much chance of earning a wild-card spot as they do of catching the Redskins (7-3) in the NFC East. "Before the game we talked like this was a playoff game, and in a way it was," Dallas safety Bill Bates said. "But we're not a good enough team to be in the playoffs right now."

Several of the Cowboys and Coach Tom Landry talked about the possibility of winning their final four games of the season, but as wide receiver Mike Renfro pointed out, "We haven't even won two in a row all year long, so I don't know."

Now, the Cowboys have perhaps an even bigger problem, what to do about poor, battered Danny White. Rarely has a quarterback been so abused by his hometown fans.

White, en route to one of the best statistical days of his 13-year career, rallied the Cowboys three times from 14-point deficits. His fourth and final touchdown pass of the day, with two minutes to play, tied the game, 38-38, and sent it into overtime. White completed 25 of 41 passes for 341 yards, and broke Roger Staubach's career record for passes completed.

But after throwing an interception with 36 seconds left in regulation and another in overtime that set up Darrin Nelson's game-winning 24-yard touchdown run for Minnesota, White tearfully took the blame and indicated he may not recover from this experience the rest of the season. White has said in the past the team has lost confidence in him. And one must wonder whether it will happen again in the remaining weeks.

"There are some games that the instant it is over, you know it's going to be with you for a long time," White said. "I can't really remember a game that has been as disappointing for me."

Or for the Dallas fans. Rarely does a quarterback alternately play so well and so horribly and just as rarely are the mistakes magnified so much by a merciless home crowd.

Late in regulation, with Dallas facing a desperate third-and-12 situation deep in its own territory, White completed a first-down pass, then two more beauties, only to be booed loudly when he threw an incompletion in the same series.

There were the four touchdown passes, plus a one-yard touchdown run in the first half. But there also were six sacks, three interceptions and two fumbles. The biggest mistake of all was the interception by Vikings linebacker Scott Studwell in overtime, which thwarted what might have been the Cowboys' game-winning drive.

White was treated so shabbily, that even some of the Vikings felt it necessary to speak on his behalf. "These fans are so spoiled," said Vikings linebacker Chris Doleman, who sacked White twice to force the two fumbles. "Danny's not getting a fair shake here at all. He played great and they just went after him. Is he supposed to be responsible for getting sacked, too?"

White was nearly as hard on himself as the fans were.

"There's no question about the fact I lost this game," he said. "I got too brave too many times . . . We had some great plays and some great moments, but I was poor at the end . . . to lose at the end on one stupid play . . . It's a huge burden to carry as a quarterback, to be responsible for something like this when it affects so many guys."

White feels he has let the team down, especially Landry, "who gave me a vote of confidence when he decided {during pregame warmups} to start me {over backup Steve Pelluer}."

While White continued to whip himself, linebacker Eugene Lockhart stood nearby and said, "It hurts beyond hurting. All I know is it's going to be a long 10 days {until the Cowboys face Atlanta}."

Defensively, cornerback Everson Walls said this morning on his radio show that several players were shocked over at least one of the plays called by defensive coach Ernie Stautner, which resulted in a Minnesota touchdown pass at the end of the first half.

"He called a double blitz, which isn't that hard to pick up," Walls said. "He said later it was a mistake to call it, but he didn't have to tell us; we already knew that."