I wrote about this last week. The Giants and the Cowboys do basically exactly the same every year, except the Giants win that one extra game to sneak into the playoffs and the Cowboys lose it to sneak out. And this last one is typically the one they lose.
What about this game didn't seem like a completely typical Cowboys loss? A game where they have the lead, a two-score lead, at a moment, when one of their chief rivals is on the brink of a lost season. A game that would give them an important tiebreak and maybe keep some of the last few games from being absolutely crucial, for once. A game where they have a few minutes left and need everything to go right when it really matters.
And it did really matter, as far as sports ever matter, because the Cowboys are 6-5, the Giants are 4-7, the Cowboys have secured the tiebreak against them, and if they had managed to lose this one they would both have 5 sins and there would be no tiebreak.
Surefire loss. Right?
But then Dez Bryant made two huge catches, on 3rd and 7 and 3rd and 5, and the Cowboys pulled it out.
(Well. Dez made three huge catches, but the zebras decided one of 'em wasn't real. Didn't matter).
Dez's place in the current hierarchy of WRs is an obnoxious debate that no one cares about. But here's the exactly one important thing to take away from this: Dez's playmaking ability changed the math on an otherwise completely typical Cowboys game.
That's all that matters, really.
Now, if they play even their average level of good, they stand a good chance of putting a little more distance between themselves and .500.
It's not that they can't lose to the Raiders, it's that they really shouldn't. The silver and black are 4-7, same as the Giants now, and they're a monstrous rushing menace (140.6 a game), but other than San Diego, they don't exactly have impressive wins on the resume (Jacksonville, Pittsburgh and Houston aren't impressing anybody). Their pass defense sucks, their pass offense sucks more. Someone named Matt McGloin seems to be their starter. Good news, Cowboys secondary.
If they just take care of business, they'll face the Bears, who may not have Cutler back, and the Packers, who are likely to be starting J.R.R. Tolzien or The Ghost of Matt Flynn at the time, with a chance to put the 8th and 9th wins on the board. The cart is well before the horse here, but the schedule is favorable and if the 'Skins continue limping along, the Boys could face the Eagles in the last game of the season with as many as 10 wins already. How would you like that?
I mean, it's possible. But first, of course, they have to get past a team they should beat, but which nevertheless has some weapons, on a pretty short week.
There are two ways it goes, successfully enough, from here. There's the third way, where it doesn't go successfully, but we don't need to talk about that yet. Either they struggle to the finish, but beat the Eagles in Game 17 and limp, backwards, into the playoffs, or they win enough games between now and then that they get in regardless and for the first time in recorded history the Cowboys don' t have a chance to blow the last game and fall out of the playoffs that way. It'd be nice to see them do the second, wouldn't it? Starting Thursday, there's a chance to take that road.