Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Cowboys haven't played flawless football recently, but they've won two straight and have gotten to 7-5 with consecutive well-rounded performances.
DeMarco Murray scored three touchdowns in the win over the Oakland Raiders, and the defense made a handful of big plays for Dallas.
NFC East Lead Writer Brag Gagnon identifies the positives on both sides of the ball for the Cowboys:
Tony Romo and Dez Bryant get all or most of the love for what the Dallas Cowboys are doing as they revive their season entering December, but Dallas wouldn’t have staved off the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving had it not been for an underrated, opportunistic defense and a running game that is quietly becoming more than respectable.
Monte Kiffin’s defense got two big turnovers right when it needed them most, first recovering a fumble inside the Oakland five-yard line to eradicate any moment the Raiders had gained by way of a touchdown on the opening kickoff, and then later intercepting a Matt McGloin pass in the end zone.
That pick, from $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr, was pretty much a game-clincher in the final quarter, and it was the Cowboys’ 25th takeaway of 2013. Only the Seattle Seahawks have reached that mark faster than Dallas.
Yeah, that defense has had some embarrassing lapses this season, and they’ve surrendered more total yards than anyone in football, but the turnover battle is so critical, and this D continues to make big plays despite a slew of injuries at all three levels. As a result, the ‘Boys walked away Thursday with the second-best turnover margin in the NFL.
And while Romo was 12-for-12 in the second half, he had to split Phil Simms’ silly turkey-related MVP award with running backs Murray and Lance Dunbar. Because, unbelievably, the Cowboys were actually so solid on the ground Thursday that they were eventually—and this might sound foreign to some of you—running to set up the pass.
Murray and Dunbar finished with 145 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries. And during Dallas’ mini two-game winning streak coming out of that Week 11 bye, they have 251 yards and are averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Throw in decent pass protection, some solid run blocking and DeMarcus Ware’s continued improvement, health-wise, and this Dallas team is as complete as its been in years. Consider that Sean Lee and Morris Claiborne have been missing and should soon be back and there’s no reason to believe these guys can’t make a run.