After the 24-23 Cowboys win over Washington, the wind patterns might have changed due to the collective sigh of relief let out across the DFW metroplex.
Because it was one of those games it seemed the Cowboys ripped from the jaws of defeat, despite not playing great football. It just kind of felt like a win that needs to come with a qualifier...
'It wasn't pretty.'
But what was it that made the game seem that way? Tony Romo played a fantastic game outside of one interception. DeMarco Murray had a solid day and, despite just three third-quarter carries, was given the chance to make an impact in the second half. The defense gave up just 297 yards (121 below its season average).
And yet, it came down to Romo's 23rd career game-winning drive and a heroic effort on fourth-and-goal to pull off the win and keep the Cowboys' playoff hopes alive. A breakdown of the one-point win, including the positives, the negatives, and a glass-half-full outlook:
It would've been perfect irony had Romo not made that heroic play to find space and save the season (really only for a week, but hey, You the Reader deserve 'save the season' after the last two debaucheries leading up to this one). The complaint from all of us pundits yes, that includes me has been that the 'Boys need to run the ball.
Seriously, every week. Go back and read the weekly 'First Response' installment on this esteemed website and check it out if you don't believe me.
But on Sunday, Murray almost took the narrative and smashed it to pieces. He failed to score from about six inches out on a second-and-goal, and then ran for a LOSS of nine yards on third-and-goal, setting up fourth-and-goal from the 10.
No. 29 had just 11 carries through three quarters, and it felt like the same ol' story. He was rushing at a five-yards-per-carry clip before the nine-yard loss late. Murray had 11 carries in the fourth quarter, and Dallas put one in the win column. Shocker, I know. Maybe Bill Callahan and the other brainiacs behind the Cowboys' offense will realize that isn't a coincidence.
Romo made his critics look like buffoons on Sunday. With the third-quarter interception under his belt, the stars were aligned for a late-game failure and cause for Romo haters to blame the loss and thus, the season on no. 9. But all he did was throw for 92 yards and a touchdown on the Cowboys' final drive that took just two minutes and thirty-one seconds.
He eluded the pressure, stepped into clean field, and patiently found an open Murray for the go-ahead score. And it wasn't the only time he did that. Romo danced around the Redskins' pass rush on several occasions to find his receivers for big plays one of which being a 14-yard scoring toss to Dez Bryant.
Oh, and the game-winning drive was his 11th since 2011... which leads the NFL.
The defense hasn't earned a lot of real estate in the 'positives' category in my First Response articles this season, but week 16 bought them a place here. Sure, they're the worst defense on the planet... But they actually had a solid game Sunday, all things considered.
Washington's two touchdown drives were from 33 and 47 yards out, after back-to-back turnovers in the third quarter. The 'Skins also had field goal drives of 19 and 23 yards. They only had two total drives go more than 50 yards, which ended in a field goal and an interception.
So they weren't put in much of a position to succeed all game. And while the defense was about as resistant as a wet paper towel to Alfred Morris's ground game on one TD drive, holding the 'Skins to three field goals and under 300 total yards is nothing to hang their heads about. Orlando Scandrick had a big day that included a crucial pass deflection to get the ball back in Romo's hands for the game-winning drive. Scandrick's lockdown coverage of Pierre Garcon late in the game was a huge change for Dallas.
In French, 'garcon' means boy, but Pierre Garcon looked like a man among 'Boys (get it?) on Sunday. I'm actually not entirely sure if it was an especially good game for Garcon, or if it was an especially bad game for Brandon Carr. Garcon shredded Carr all day and finished with 11 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown. No disrespect to Garcon, but he probably shouldn't be made to look like an MVP.
And at six feet tall, he doesn't even qualify for the all-tall-receivers-will-succeed-against-the-Cowboys category, like Oakland's 6-foot-4 Andre Holmes did (7 grabs for 136 yards on Thanksgiving). The aforementioned switch of Scandrick onto Garcon was the only thing that slowed down the Redskins' leading receiver.
For instance, if you asked me or anyone who watches sports who would have a standout game between Dez Bryant and Pierre Garcon, the answer probably would've been the former. But Dez hauled in only four passes on 11 targets. One of those catches was a leaping touchdown grab, so one can't say Bryant played a bad game... But I have an inkling he'll need to be a bigger factor in week 17.
It's difficult to be optimistic when Tony Romo is 0-3 in do-or-die week 17 games. And because the Cowboys seem to be destined for .500, and stand at 8-7 after the penultimate game of 2013.
And the fact that the Eagles obliterated the Chicago Bears to the tune of 54-11 on Sunday night is cause for some concern. I probably don't need to, but I'll remind you here that the Bears put up almost 500 yards and smoked the Cowboys 45-28 on Monday Night Football a couple weeks back...
The Philly offense looks great, but it also looked great before the first meeting between the two teams in week 7, and the 'Boys shut it down. Dallas is pretty much the only team that has shut down Nick Foles this season. The Eagles were averaging 30 points per game entering week 7, and Foles was near perfect in his two starts. But the 'Boys held Philly to three points and Foles got benched.
Philadelphia's defense is also dreadful, and if Bill Callahan can remember that DeMarco Murray exists, the Cowboy offense will be better than the one that beat Philly earlier this year.
If nothing else, we'll see a lot of points next Sunday night.
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