Top Ten Takes from a Cowboys Turkey Day that features pizza, cigars and Bugs Bunny. (Yes, in my house we celebrate Thanksgiving in a decidedly unorthodox fashion!)
1. We're all concerned about December. These Cowboys have tried to do that month in a Bill Parcells way and they've tried to do that month in a Wade Phillips way and ... we should worry about December when it gets here.
Granted, that's in, like, 72 hours or whatever, but ...
First, the Cowboys should be congratulated on vaulting from a dubious 2-2 to an impressive 8-3. Part of that is Dallas' November success, best exemplified, I think, by Tony Romo's career record in this month.
Romo's career record in November is 15-2.
Jimmy Johnson used to say that there is no reason to be nervous about a test if you know the answers. I don't know if the Cowboys "know the answers'' in December. But they clearly pass their November quizzes and that's a start.
2. Some observers want the Cowboys to be able to grind it out. Other observers want the Cowboys to be able to be explosive.
Can't this be like Deion Sanders' pizza order? You know. ... both?
The Cowboys were good for 10 plays of 20-yards-plus, an impressive showing from an arsenal of guys -- Miles Austin, Tashard Choice, Jason Witten, Felix Jones - that you KNOW can do this. ... but have been waiting to see your confidence justified.
I still say the foundation of it all is being able to run for 195 yards on 25 carries ... and that the explosiveness is an extension of that.
But whichever comes first ... I'm greedy. I want both.
3. I hear a lot of people - including players themselves - saying that you don't have to like the guy next to you to succeed.
To which I respond by borrowing a line from Bugs Bunny: "It couldn't hoit.''
Maybe it was just my heart having been softened by Thanksgiving, but I thought it was cool to watch Austin and Witten repeatedly approaching one another on the sideline to offer congratulations for their respective big days. Austin was happy for Witten. Witten was happy for Austin. The effervescent Austin would look up at the JumboJerry and wave at fans. ... and then he'd go back over to Witten and pat him on the butt again.
It couldn't hoit.
Then there was offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, who sought out Marion Barber as the running back came off the field for a final time. Garrett and Barber are both very skilled at keeping the lid on their public emotion. But in one brief moment, the two of them exchanged an out-of-character chest bump.
How meaningful was it all? Does mutual respect and maybe even friendship equate to wins?
"A close-knit group," Phillips says of his team. "Our guys are not selfish. They are very focused. ... They are the kind of group you love to coach. It is not a big ego group, but it is a group that pulls together and pulls for each other offense, defense and special teams."
Yup. And it couldn't hoit.
4. "Close'' finally became "cigar'' for outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, who recorded two sacks - his first two of the season - after three months of almosts.
Of course, a Sunday can't go by without Spencer notching an "almost'' of some sort. So let the record show that he came within a whisker of an interception, too.
5. We said in this space a few weeks ago that Roy Williams is a perfectly acceptable non-No.-1 receiver ... and all that needs to happen for that to be fully realized if for Roy himself to realize it.
And now ... it is so.
Williams is gifted, but erratic and not fully dependable ... not unlike plenty of other No. 2 receivers in the NFL. So when he hangs onto a slant pass, or when he contributes a touchdown catch (he did both against the Raiders), it's a nice bonus.
Meanwhile, on the other side, the No. 1 receiver gives you seven catches for 145 yards and a TD.
Does Roy not want to go over the middle? Fine. Miles Austin will do that.
Can Roy not run away from defenders? Fine. Miles Austin will do that.
Will Roy not hold onto the ball in traffic after the catch? Fine. Miles Austin will do that.
Rafael says the targets went: 10 to Miles, three to Roy. Sounds about right to me.
Roy Williams played like a solid No. 2. Miles Austin pretty much carried this team's luggage and was in charge of buying the donuts for the first month of the season but is almost certain to be a 1,000-yard receiver in this breakout season.
That's a No. 1 receiver. ... who in this case is tied for the NFL lead with 15 catches of 20-yards-plus. ... and it doesn't matter what his name is or where he came from.
6. The roof was open. Lovely! I've heard 100 different lame justifications for why it hasn't previously been open and they all sound as bogus as Jerry Jones' explanation for why there weren't American flags inside the stadium ... until this week.
Sometimes, we overthink these things ... and then we fib about our overthinking.
Cowboys Stadium has a retractable roof. Retract it.
The Cowboys are America's Team playing in America. Display America's flag.
7. I'm going to defer to Rafael on the research on this one ... I'll just throw out what I think I saw: Did the Cowboys play much of the game with such disregard for the Raiders' passing game that Dallas used five linebackers and three defensive backs? I've seen that done in high school; what NFL offense is so crappy that it cannot exploit a three-DB defense?
8. Here's hoping that previous to Thanksgiving the reason Jason "I Want To Be A Weapon'' Witten has looked a step slow, hasn't been able to get downfield, hasn't been able to get open at all, really, is related to that bum foot. Here's betting, though, that for the rest of his career, when the medical staff informs him that maybe he shouldn't go, Witten will rub some dirt on it, play, and look fresher on a bum foot than he's looked since camp.
A 37-yarder? A 44-yarder? His two longest gains of the year?
Seriously, if you had Witten on your fantasy team, did you even sweat for a moment whether or not he'd play?
9. Thanksgiving home games are obviously an advantage. An otherwise historically awful Detroit franchise flirts with .500 on Thanksgiving. And Dallas? With Romo at QB, the Cowboys have won four straight Turkey Days, beating their foes by a combined score of 130-29.
10. Did CBS's Jim Nantz really say during the game that the Cowboys are experiencing a successful season while "under the radar''? Is that what the broadcasters from over in the AFC think? That the Cowboys are suddenly now underpublicized, under recognized and under-scrutinized?