It was the first game in the 50-year history of the Dallas Cowboys to end with a score of 7-6 … yet it was so impressive (to some) that Roy Williams opened his mouth (if not his hands) to declare that the win over the Redskins means "This football team is good enough to win the Super Bowl.’’
Well, yes. It can. But … well … let’s do first things first, starting with FISH on FOOTBALL’s Top 10 Takes on Sunday’s victory:
1. "First things first’’ means the Raiders on Thursday, then some long-awaited success in December, and then using this 7-3 start as a springboard into a first-round playoff win. Honestly, all of that is a far cry from being on a level with NFC leaders New Orleans (no losses) and Minnesota (one odd last-second loss at Pittsburgh). While the Cowboys struggled against their have-not foe the Redskins, New Orleans played have-not Tampa Bay and Minnesota played have-not Seattle and each dismissed their challenge with ease.
Still, Roy insists, "We're playing Super Bowl defense right now. And, it may not look like it, but on offense we're real, real close."
Me? I would suggest that all of that represents a "goal,’’ not an "accomplishment.’’
2. I said it, you said it, Daryl Johnston said it, and apparently Jerry Jones said it, too. I’m assuming offensive coordinator Jason Garrett ignored those first three but paid attention to the authority of the fourth and after only 11 handoffs to running backs in a loss to Green Bay, recommitted himself to some power football. For whatever issues remain following this win, the running game isn’t one of them, as Dallas rushed 33 times for 153 yards.
3. I support this approach – and most importantly, Jerry indicated he is supportive of this choice … but the weirdest attitude about the Cowboys’ offensive that emerged Sunday came from Fox’ Troy Aikman, who I think tried to be subtle in his support for buddy Garrett … but wasn’t subtle at all.
Troy was trying to say that ultimately, running the football really isn’t all that important for a Super Bowl team. It was clearly a notion he’d gleaned from last week’s pre-Cowboys-game preparation and meetings with coaches at Valley Ranch.
Really, Troy? Since when did you start thinking that running the football really isn’t all that important for a Super Bowl team? Did you just start thinking that on, say, last Friday? Because you certainly don’t think it based on 1992, 1993 or 1995, I can tell you that.
Let me gently suggest that Troy seemed to be saying something to cover the backside of Garrett in case the running game didn’t work. … but when it did, the whole thing seemed even more disingenuous.
4. Tony Romo might have a problem with his hip and he might have a problem with his back but all he has to do is tape some aspirin to his hip and rub some dirt on his back and get through four more days of pain before he gets a nice, long, post-Thanksgiving rest. As always, the Cowboys’ participation in the Thursday event means 10 days before the next game.
5. Are we a little nervous about Nick Folk yet? Dallas has a leg up with a healthy Mat McBriar punting and has another leg up with rookie David Buehler kicking off but seems one leg shy of being fully balanced in the kicking game now that Nick has missed five field goals this year – two fewer than he missed in the previous two seasons combined.
Of course, as any football player who doesn’t kick will tell you … they are kickers. They are funky and fluky and lost in this win is the fact the Washington’s Shaun Suisham (a former Cowboy) missed two FGs, including a late-game one that would’ve put the Redskins up 9-0 and rendered the Romo-led comeback meaningless.
So. … kickers miss. But Shaun Suisham hadn’t missed all year until Sunday.
So … kickers miss. But Nick Folk is kind of missing a lot of them.
6. It certainly looked to me that the Cowboys’ final drive – on which they completed seven of eight passes to drive 60 yards – was a product of Tony Romo’s innovative and creative abilities. That is certainly the case with the final play; you can’t really diagram how the QB is supposed to twirl away from from Redskins’ pass-rush monster-in-training Brian Orakpo and you can’t really diagram how Patrick Crayton is supposed to freelance his way to an open spot and then screen away a defender from the ball.
That sort of football is instinctive and fun … one of the reasons Romo obviously enjoyed it so much.
7. I give up on trying to figure out when the Cowboys Stadium roof is supposed to be open. Sunday in North Texas featured football weather the way we all envision it: Sunny and fresh and 68 degrees and glorious … I guess I don’t care, except it seems like a waste of, what, a few hundred million?
8. The Cowboys were 3-of-11 on third downs on Sunday, very reminiscent of what they did in Green Bay. Want a whipping post? Seriously, how is this not pinned on Roy Williams? If this was a high-school kid, and passes were repeatedly hitting him in the hands and then he was dropping them while complaining that he lost the ball in the clouds or whatever, the high-school kid would be benched … or at least criticized.
Of course, it takes all kinds. On the flip side of Roy Williams' high-profile/low-level contributions there is Doug Free. He was so solid that we barely missed the absence of Marc Colombo. And isn't that the best kind of offensive lineman? One who, like a good referee, a good accountant and a good Mom, you come to take for granted?
9. You know how at the end of blowout games, coaches of young teams go ahead and call timeouts and continue to manage the game in hopes of teaching good habits, developing winning traits and simulating pressure situations? Fate has allowed the Cowboys to do some of that twice in the last two fourth quarters of games.
Of course, the drama against the Redskins that produced Tony Romo’s game-winning toss to Patrick Crayton for Dallas’ game-winning and lone TD wasn’t "simulated.’’ But the late TD in Green Bay the week before was "meaningless.’’ … except when you put the two together, maybe you really do have the development of "good habits,’’ "winning traits’’ and "success in pressure situations.’’
10. So maybe the NFC East isn’t the most muscular of powerhouses right now. But surviving it must be the foundation goal here.
Dallas winning the Super Bowl? First things first, I say.
Let’s start with Dallas winning a very winnable NFC East.