I'm sure I'm stating the obvious, but Sunday's victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was the most important win of the Dallas Cowboys' 2012 season, and may be the biggest since they beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2009 playoffs.
Of course, the Cowboys would give the W back in order to erase the events that took place earlier in the weekend, with nose tackle Josh Brent—allegedly drunk—flipping his car in a Dallas suburb Saturday morning, resulting in the death of passenger and teammate Jerry Brown.
It also goes without saying that incidents like those make football secondary, if not irrelevant. But the show had to go on Sunday, and at least the Cowboys can feel a sense of pride in the way they battled and eked out a one-point walk-off victory over the Bengals.
Considering the full circumstances, the effort was phenomenal. No Brent, of course, but also no Jay Ratliff. In other words, no true nose tackle against one of the hottest running games in football. All of those injuries on defense, and all of that emotional strain in the locker room, on the road against a team that had won four in a row.
They made it happen, though, and now they've won four of their last five. The incident involving Brent and Brown won't be forgotten and will stick with this edition of the team forever, and it's possible that the Cowboys somehow draw inspiration from the loss of a teammate and a friend and a 25-year-old man who had his life stolen far too soon.
If that's what the Cowboys have done, and they're able to keep winning over the final three weeks, they'll have overcome a tragic loss in a special way. It might not make a difficult situation easier to handle, but the team is now one step closer to its first playoff appearance in three years.
Nothing was pretty about Sunday's victory, but this hasn't been a pretty season. Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and the rest of the offense sputtered for much of the day, but they got it done anyway. That depleted defense limited Andy Dalton, shut down A.J. Green and made big plays in some big moments, particularly when it was third down.
As a result, the Cowboys are above .500 for the first time since Week 3. These are the types of games the 'Boys lost earlier in the season, but they've grown from those tough experiences.
Their experience this weekend was as hard as it gets, but it looks as though this Dallas team is still growing.