Cowboys Developing Character
Could it be that we were wrong? That virtually every member of the Dallas-Ft. Worth media, state-wide media and national media got it wrong during the pre-season when we all said the Cowboys might win 7 or 8 games? As a matter of fact, with each passing pre-season game this summer, the predicted Cowboys win total seemed to drop. By the time the opening game with the 49ers was within a day or two, many “experts” were closer to 5 or 6 wins for the Cowboys this season. I have to say that remained steady with my thought that Dallas could win 8 or 9 and have an outside chance at a playoff appearance. Now that they’re halfway there, maybe I and the rest of the fools will admit that we got it wrong.
Sunday’s dramatic 20-17 overtime win over Houston not only improved the Cowboys to 4-1 on the season (for the first time since 2008) but showed that they have learned to win in different ways, a critical component for a successful team. In last week’s victory over New Orleans, the Cowboys jumped all over the Saints and put them away early. The win over the Texans was different, a low scoring struggle filled with too many turnovers, but one in which they hung tough, grabbed a 10 point lead in the second half and then watched it all go away.
In the not too distant past, the Cowboys would have folded like a burrito when Houston tied the game in the final minute. The Cowboys did almost everything wrong in the final 5 minutes; allowed Houston to convert a desperate fourth down play to keep a drive alive and give up a field goal which cut the score to 17-10. Get the ball back needing to run most of, if not all, the time off the clock and secure the win. Instead Dallas’ potent offense ran three plays for minus 6 yards and saw just 28 seconds run off the clock. Houston gets the ball back and in just 3 plays, scores the tying touchdown. Dallas gets one final chance but Dan Bailey (having kicked 30 straight field goals) missed from 53 yards at the end of regulation.
All of that happening in the final two and a half minutes of the game would have been more than enough for the Cowboys of 2011 or 2012 or 2013 to pack the tents and talk about how it’s only one game. But not this team, not this year. The constantly improving defense forced Houston to punt on its first overtime possession and thanks to an answered prayer from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant, Bailey got another shot. Those are some of the late game facts that led to the Cowboys win, but I’m talking about the seismic shift in the teams attitude. Remember, the past three seasons the Cowboys have come down to the final game of the regular season needing a win to move into the playoffs. In each of those years, the final game wouldn’t have been necessary if they’d only pulled out one of several close games and got a win. Sunday was one of those wins. A game they could have let slip away but didn’t.
It’s a long way to the end of the season and plenty of Seahawks, Cardinals, Eagles and other nasty birds to get past until it’s over but finally this team has some character – some moxy as The Great Gatsby would say. Who knows, there just yet might be something magical about this year’s Cowboys.