Following a somewhat unlikely 20-19 win over the hot Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, America’s Team finds itself with seven victories to six losses. It’s only the third time this season that Dallas has been above the .500 mark.
Most important is that Dallas remains just one game behind the New York Giants for the NFC East division lead.
The matchup between the Cowboys and Bengals was intriguing not so much because these two teams came in fighting for their playoff lives, but mainly because of the Bengals’ defensive side of the ball. Cincinnati defensive coordinator and former Cowboys assistant Mike Zimmer came in with the most sacks in the NFL and the team also features two former Dallas cornerbacks in Terrence Newman and Adam Jones.
But Newman still can’t hold onto interceptions and Jones made no impact.
Just about nobody picked Dallas to win this game and for very good reason—it almost didn’t, as it turned out.
But you have to give it to the Cowboys following this win under highly unusual circumstances.
And talk about a necessary win!
With both the Giants and Washington also winning their games, Dallas hangs on for another week in a division that could be won with a completely average record.
True, a win is a win, but the Cowboys are a banged up team that seems to have to wing it just about every week. If today’s stakes weren’t already high enough, the Cowboys had to immediately process Saturday’s events surrounding nose tackle Josh Brent and practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown.
And try to win a football game on the road against an opponent who has won four straight.
Nothing comes easy for this football team and this will not change for the remainder of the season—at least not where personnel is concerned.
Guys like linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter aren’t coming back this season and defensive tackle Jay Ratliff may not be able to contribute that much this season, as his health just doesn’t seem to even out. That happens with ankle injuries and big men.
It’s safe to say that Brent’s NFL future is highly questionable, if not over.
Despite running the football as poorly as ever, Dallas found a way to overcome all of the odds and circumstances in keeping not just its Wild Card hopes alive, but also its chances for winning the NFC East.
Optimists are always welcome, but the Cowboys have to claw and scratch—just like they did against the Bengals—to win their remaining games. A record of 10-6 would put Dallas in the postseason for the first time since 2009 and who really knows what could happen from there?
The Cowboys still don’t run the ball well and too many passes get dropped. If not for Cincinnati’s insistence on dropping more passes than the Cowboys, the Bengals would have easily won this game.
But that’s why they play the games.
As the regular season winds down, the teams playing the best football during the month of December make the most noise in the postseason, possibly going so far as winning the Super Bowl. We saw this kind of ride last year with the Giants, who were a meager 9-7, but played their best football when it counted most.
It matters much less what your team did in September through November so long as you’re not far from .500 and your team is getting healthy at this time of year.
We certainly can’t say that the Cowboys are getting healthy, but in the NFL today, anything is possible.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant scored another touchdown, as he continues to look more and more like the Pro Bowl receiver he was expected to be.
Running back DeMarco Murray leaves no question that, if Dallas improves its offensive line, he can be the feature back for the Cowboys—provided he stays healthy.
And if anybody watching quarterback Tony Romo lead the Dallas offense in this game still thinks that he’s the problem, go back and watch again. Without the play of Romo—despite his frustration with being beat up and watching his passes dropped—Dallas would have been blown out by the Bengals.
Romo’s lone interception really cost nothing, as it came just before halftime and was thrown deep enough that the Bengals didn’t pursue anything further knowing they would have the ball first to begin the third quarter. It was basically a thrown punt.
Yes, Newman dropped a sure pick in the first half, but if Romo’s receiver hadn’t have stumbled on his break on the ball, it would have been a catch for a first down. In other words, it takes two guys to complete a pass.
As the Pittsburgh Steelers come to Arlington next weekend, the Cowboys have to find a way to generate more than 60 yards on the ground from their top two running backs. If this happens, then the following matchup against New Orleans will have some true meaning.
Otherwise, Dallas will be trying to reach a .500 record for the sixth time this season against the Saints and can forget the playoffs.