Last week, I had to talk some of my friends down from Dallas Cowboys euphoria. The Dallas Cowboys were 5-1 and had just beaten the Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks. Many Cowboy fans could not contain their glee. Look, I’m a Dallas Cowboys fan. I’ve been a Dallas Cowboys fan since 1966 when I went to my first Dallas Cowboys game back in the Cotton Bowl. Collectively, we need a group hug. We also need to remember that the Dallas Cowboys have let us down time after time… after time. We’ve seen the Dallas Cowboys go 8-8 over the last three years. In the four years that Bill Parcells was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, we lost in the wild card game twice and didn’t make it to the playoffs twice. We’ve seen November/December collapses from the Cowboys on numerous occasions. Our best season in the last decade was in 2007. We had Tony Romo, Marion Barber, Terrell Owens and a host of offensive weapons. We controlled the ball. We held Eli Manning to only 163 yards passing. Yet, somehow, we lost that playoff game. This was our last, best chance to get to the Super Bowl. If you remember, that team was 13-3. They were favored to beat the Giants.
Fast-forward to yesterday. This wasn’t simply another hard-fought divisional game, but unlike what we saw in the last two or three years, the Dallas Cowboys have proven (gulp) that they can overcome adversity. After going up 7-0, the Dallas Cowboys fell behind 14-7. The defense, which I’ve been worried about all year, again proved to be porous at best. It seems that every other play there was a flag for defensive pass interference or illegal contact. We generated absolutely no pass rush. We had no sacks. Not one! Eli Manning was 21 of 33 for 248 yards and three touchdowns. He had no interceptions.
The New York Giants played the run. It was tough sledding for DeMarco Murray. Yet, once again, the Cowboys stuck with a run and were rewarded in the fourth quarter. (Congratulations to DeMarco Murray for 7 straight games with over 100 yards, breaking Jim Brown’s mark of 6 games.)
Eli Manning made his typical come-from-behind charge in the fourth quarter. For those of us who are longtime Cowboy fans, we’ve seen Eli Manning look terrible for 3 1/2 quarters and then shred the Dallas Cowboys defense for a victory. The Dallas Cowboys won this game in the fourth quarter. They were up 28-21 with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter. Eli Manning and the Giants just scored quickly on 11 play drive in which the Dallas Cowboys defense looked completely hapless. Now, the Dallas Cowboys offense needed to seal the game. This is where we’ve failed, time and time again, in past seasons. Our first play from our own 20 was a run up the middle by DeMarco Murray. He was stoned for a 1-yard loss. On second and 11, Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant for 10 yards. Third and one. This is where the Dallas Cowboys would falter, crash and burn, spontaneously implode. Instead of coming up with some gadget or trick play, they handed the ball to DeMarco Murray who went off the right tackle for 8 yards and a first down. The next play, we handed the ball to DeMarco Murray for 17 yards. The Cowboys ran the clock and ran DeMarco Murray. There was one more pass to Dez Bryant for 13 yards. The Cowboys moved the ball into field-goal range. Dan Bailey, formally our most viable player, kicked a 49-yard field goal with a little over one minute left in the game to make it a 2-score game. The game is over.
This is what I find most impressive. The Dallas Cowboys are actually forcing their will on opposing defenses. It is wonderful to see. I would encourage Dallas Cowboys fans to have reserved optimism. The Cowboys still have a lot of problems. Too many penalties. No pass rush. Inability to cover receivers. I will start getting excited when the Dallas Cowboys start winning in December. 🙂 For now, it’s just good to have the Dallas Cowboys winning.