Here's today's FISH on FOOTBALL Cowboys Top Takes, five items that should get your hamstrings loose as you ready for Saturday night's Eagles-at-Dallas re-re-re-match ... So just how rare are all these Cowboys shutouts? ... The real value of being "on a roll.'' ... Troy and Tony and when a QB should exit a blowout win. ... And let me drop this extra nugget on you regarding whether it's truly difficult to beat the same team three times:
Which would you rather be?
The 2-0 team that knows it can win?
Or the 0-2 team hoping that it's "due'' to win?
1. Consecutive shutouts? Cowboys boss Wade Phillips really has been masterful at helping to assemble talent, at making it mesh with his system, and in clutch-time execution. I mean, consecutive shutouts?
How many times does that happen?
Well, in Cowboys history, until Mr. Fix-It came along, it's never happened.
In fact, tossing up multiple skunks in the same season has only happened twice in the 50-year history of the franchise.
Remembering that the Eagles came into last weekend averaging 31 points per during their six-game win streak, and knowing that overall, Dallas gives up an average of just 16.5 points, that regular-season-finishing stoning is something quite substantial for Dallas to hang its gray "NFC East Champions'' caps on.
2. You'll get no whining from me on tight end Brent Celek's success against the Cowboys linebackers, for the same reason Philly fans needn't waste their tears on the Eagles' inability to cover Jason Witten.
A quality tight end is supposed to be damn hard to guard. That's why they invented the position, intersecting the skillset of a tackle, a pulling guard and a split end all into the same human.
The Saints' backup tight end, David Thomas, proved to be a tough cover for Dallas, just as Chargers superstar Antonio Gates was. Celek is a stud. Witten is a stud. They're both going to get theirs, and the likes of Bradie James and Jeremiah Trotter are pretty helpless in stopping that.
It's almost like it's not James-vs. Celek and Trotter-vs.-Witten, but rather like it's Celek vs.Witten.
I like Dallas' chances there.
3. So when should the winning QB exit a blowout game? Did Tony Romo remain in for too long against Philly?
I'll say this about my man Troy Aikman: In expressing his views on the subject, he truly has transformed himself from quarterback to analyst:
Sometime early in the second half (by my reckoning; feel free to pinpoint the moment in your comments), Joe Buck and Aikman began calling for Tony Romo to ballcap it. That is, to be removed from the dangers of the pocket to instead recline on the bench, to savor the victory, and to do so without a helmet ... and instead, that unmistakable sign of in-game retirement, the wearing of a ballcap.
It's like Red Auerbach's victory cigar ... only atop one's head, and without the ashes and stink.
So the Fox boys are telling me that they gotta get Romo out of there. Troy actually suggests that Jerry Jones has a "BatPhone'' that will allow him to buzz Wade Phillips and to order the coach to make a change.
They were probably right ... but it's funny. ...
Troy - and I've spoken to him about this 100 times in the last 20 years - NEVER wanted to come out of blowout wins.
"You worked so hard to make it a blowout,'' he'd tell me, "you want to stay in there and enjoy it.''
Why did Tony Romo stay in for the whole enjoyable deal? Maybe he feels exactly like Troy used to feel.
4. More somebody stuff:
Somebody was going to have to be productive out of the backfield ... and to be specific to make the point, eventually, it couldn't be three somebodies.
So at this moment, Dallas is riding Marion Barber as the starter and Felix Jones as the, well, as the other starter. And I agree with Rafael: There is reason to believe the Cowboys will continue to trend that way.
Against Philly, Barber had 14 carries and a catch for 105 total yards. Felix had 15 carries and three catches for 94 total yards.
Which one, how many, whozit this and whatzit that ... As I said yesterday, it doesn't matter. At this point, all I care about is that after Felix' electric 49-yard sprint to the end zone, the first guy to intercept him on his way back to the sidelines was the celebration-minded MB3.
5. Are the Cowboys "on a roll''? And does it really matter?
I've long made the argument, dating back to the early ‘90's while covering the team for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, that coach Tom Landry's belief that an NFL team must be "on a roll'' entering the playoffs was bogus. (Forgive me, Coach!)
It's nice ... it helps playoff seeding, of course ... and it's Viagra for the confidence ... but "rolls'' are fragile and therefore temporary and therefore a mirage.
We know that the Cowboys approached last week's regular-season finale against Philadelphia as "the NFC East Championship Game,'' as a pseudo-playoff contest ... and we know the results that make Dallas a 3-2 team in December.
Which, in terms of winning the next game somehow means they'll be 4-2 in December/January? Nah.
There is no real evidence that a team has an advantage if it entered the NFL Tournament "on a roll.'' It feels better ... but a team can easily look bad in Week 17 of the regular season and then be a different club in Round 1 of the postseason.
Do we not have a clear series of snapshots from the NFC in Week 17 that prove this?
Minnesota wasn't on a roll. It beat the Giants 44-7. Now Minnesota's on a roll.
Arizona -- in a "statement'' game. -- was on a roll. They lost to Green Bay 33-7. Now Arizona's off its roll.
Philadelphia - in their own "statement'' game - was on a roll. Six straight wins bulling through November and December and into January! They lost to Dallas 24-0. Now Philly is off its roll, as the Eagles wanted to make a statement ... and in their own way, I suppose they did.
But each team, regardless of how it got to Saturday, now has an equal shot at restating its statement.