Welcome to a satisfied edition of What They're Saying. After all the turmoil of the past few weeks, what the Dallas Cowboys - and the fans - needed more than anything else was a win. That's just what we got on Sunday. Satisfaction guaranteed. Now, I will say this satisfaction is just a short-term meal, kind of like eating Chinese food. I think it goes without saying we're going to need a little more offensive production next week to knock off the Giants. But that's for later this week, let's just sit around and rub our stomachs and enjoy the dish the Cowboys served up on Sunday.
Wade Phillips has been taking a lot of heat recently, not unwarranted I might add, but he definitely got his charges ready to play this week. Of course, as is usual with Wade, he gave the credit to the players.
"I think our players definitely stepped up," Phillips said. "I think they were frustrated that we haven't won in the last two weeks and that was part of it."
We're with you on that one, o' white-haired Buddha. (I'm not even going to call him the Pillsbury Dough Boy this week, even though I seem to be on a food theme.) We were also kind of frustrated with the losing.
"I think everyone knows after the bye we we're going be a lot stronger," Phillips said. "We've just got to get to the bye and try to win some games here. That's what we did this week, and we're going to try to do the same next week."
Yup, earlier this week I called it an almost must-win game.
T.O. went one step further.
Said receiver Terrell Owens: "We felt this was a must-win game for us. Losing wasn't an option."
So here's to Wade for getting it done this week.
"I'm so proud for him," said [Jerry] Jones, who said he doesn't remember ever giving another head coach a game ball. "I know the players are too. When you have tough times and in the NFL that is losses, it gives you a way as a coach to establish how you can turn it around, how you can make a difference. Wade did his job today."
I'll tell you else did their job and that was a fired-up and scrappy defense that kept the Bucs from hitting pay-dirt all game long. Especially at the end of the game, when it was so tense I was about to lose my lunch, but on fourth down in the redzone, they needed to make one more play.
"One play," [Zach Thomas] shouted, lifting his index finger each time. "One play."
That was his message to each player on defense before that final play. They came through. You can't talk about this game without discussing our secondary. For much of the end of the game, we were playing Mike Jenkins, Orlando Scandrick, Alan Ball and Courtney Brown along with Ken Hamlin. Wow, imagine that thought at the beginning of the year! Hamlin was the master chef who got his line-cooks prepared to play.
When the Cowboys lost Henry in the third quarter to an ankle injury, Hamlin gathered the young defensive backs in the huddle.
"I told them that I believed in them and that we all had to execute," he said. "And those guys stepped up."
"You look back there and see a bunch of young guys in the secondary, you might get worried a little bit," linebacker Bradie James said. "But they stepped it up. That's what we had to have. They didn't give up anything. We had to have it and they made the plays."
I'm telling you, I was very impressed with their play. Mike Jenkins played a better game this week, Orlando Scandrick made some impressive tackles and Alan Ball didn't bite on a double-move but stuck right with his guy. Alan Ball! Man, I can't believe I'm sitting here writing about Alan Ball, but when Anthony Henry went down in the third quarter he had to come in and play. This had to be a big confidence builder for all of those guys.
Much praise for an all-around defensive effort, whether it was Wade Phillips or Brian Stewart making the calls. Whatever it was, they played with energy and emotion.
There's plenty more food at the buffet table, so click the link below.
Now, the offense had its struggles, that's for sure. A lot of it centered on Brad Johnson's inability to hit passes downfield. But the offense didn't lack for emotion or energy either. Marion Barber ran like a barbarian. But you have to give a huge shout-out to Marc Colombo, who started mixing it up with some Bucs players when they thought they might push the Cowboys around.
"He didn't take anything from anyone," said right guard Leonard Davis, who lines up next to Colombo. "I guess you could say he's a fighter. He likes to mix it up. Sometimes you have to turn it into a fight."
You have to break some eggs to make an omelet, and sometimes you have to bust some heads to get a win. Desperation can make a team stand up and fight.
"Sometimes when your backs are against the wall, you have to come out fighting," center Andre Gurode said. "I thought we did that today."
Hey, that's what I said the other day Andre, play like your back is up against the wall. I know that's not very original, but it gave me some satisfaction to hear it said by the team. And while I'm on a minor self-congratulation trip, was Nick Eatman giving me a shout-out when he wrote this?
Definitely staggered and wounded this week, the Cowboys flipped the script.
The title of my article on Saturday can be seen here. Eh, maybe not. But enough about me.
Now every win has to have a little bad news. And the offensive production on the day was definitely not good news. If we are going to win next Sunday, we need a little more from that unit, starting with Brad Johnson. On the positive side was this:
"You protect that ball and play it close to the vest," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "That is Brad's game - no turnovers."
True that, no turnovers was key. And dink and dunk is Brad's game.
"We understand if that's what it takes to get Ws," Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton said, "that's what we're going to have to work with for a little while."
Still, we're going to need him to be a little better about getting the ball downfield on occasion next week. If not, the Giants are going to sit on the short routes and send every imaginable blitz at us all day long. But don't tell Brad that.
"We knew it was going to be an ugly game," Johnson said. "Sometimes when its third and 20, check it down and let the fans boo you. That's no problem for me. That's what you sign up for. This was an emotional win for our team. It was emotional for me."
OK, Brad, but if you do that and lose, it's not quite as easy to write it off.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Cowboys home debut of Roy Williams. He proved to be a difference-maker by scoring the only TD of the game.
"We can draw that one up in the backyard," said Williams, the native Texan who wore a black cowboy hat and boots after the game. "That's pretty much what we did anyway. It's what I do. What I've been doing since I was in high school is catch the fade."
Hook ‘em, Horns.
We did get a few injuries in the game. A quad contusion to Anthony Henry and Jason Witten hurt the ribs. (Mmm, ribs!)
"I thought it was going to be fine," Witten said. "I have really been fortunate not to have to deal with any injuries in five years here. I just have to fight through it and hope I can get back next week."
So do we big guy.
Along with the no turnovers the Cowboys finally managed not to kill themselves with penalties. How'd they do it?
"Attention to detail. Just fine-tuning things," defensive end Marcus Spears said. "When we lost, I told you that was the problem."
Well, that sounds simple enough. Why haven't we been doing that for the past few weeks?
Another interesting aspect of the game was Wade gambling on fourth down a couple of times. That last one in the fourth quarter was a HUGE gamble.
"He has 31 years of experience and has a sense of when a gamble shows confidence and when it shows a lack of confidence," Jerry said. "Nobody deserves the game ball more than Wade deserves it."
"It didn't surprise me that we went for it a lot in this game," said right guard Leonard Davis. "They were coaching like we needed to win this game - and we did."
So a great win for the Cowboys though not without problems. The defense played one of its finest games in a long time. And when you consider the kids playing in the secondary at the end, it was even more amazing. The special teams didn't hurt us today, we didn't turn the ball over and we kept the penalties to a minimum. All good signs going into next week. Now, if we can just get the offense cranked-up, it could make for an interesting game against the world champs next weekend.
Or we could just turn loose our secret weapon, Sam Paulescu.
The Cowboys defense had a heck of a performance in Sunday's win over Tampa Bay, but a 189-pound punter delivered the game's most brutal hit.
"My neck's going to be sore tomorrow," Sam "The Punisher" Paulescu said. "I know that."
Feast on that, Cowboys fans.