Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
The Dallas Cowboys are down to the last two games of the season and find themselves in position to make the playoffs. There were a few significant accomplishments for members of the team in their win over the Pittsburgh Steelers that are worth notice.
The Dallas Cowboys are finally stacking the good games on top of one another. With the first three game winning streak of the season, they have planted themselves firmly in the race for the NFC East title and a wild card spot. And along the way, there are some milestones of various kinds that have been reached.
First, Tony Romo went over 25,000 yards passing for his career. It was good to see him get the record in a game that looms so large in the drive to the post-season. Romo is the engine that is driving the success of the Cowboys over the past six games. He has a 106 passer rating in those games and has 12 touchdowns with only 3 interceptions. He has brought the team back from three fourth quarter deficits in those six games. He has proven his leadership.
Romo has had his share of detractors, but they pale in comparison to those that have slammed Anthony Spencer over his career. Now, the player that has pretty much locked up my vote for the Cowboys' defensive MVP is showing emphatically why the team felt it had to use the franchise tag to keep him around. For the first time, he has reached double digits in sacks with 10, and the last one he got in the Steelers game was a huge one. Dallas unquestionably has the bookend edge rushers so many have been hoping for. And Spencer is getting some love he richly deserves.
Witten has accumulated 97 receptions and needs five more to tie the single-season NFL record for catches by a tight end held by Tony Gonzalez.
With two games to go, are you going to bet against the Senator? I didn't think so.
These are big individual accomplishments, but there was a smaller one you might not have noticed. Bryan Broaddus of DallasCowboys.com did.
Suddenly, Dallas does not just have three receiving targets for the opponents to worry about. Add in James Hanna's two catches, and the defenders facing the Cowboys now have playmakers coming from all wide receiver and tight end positions, plus the backs coming out, to worry about. All can catch the ball, and as the team gets down to crunch time in the season, they are bearing down and delivering. At the beginning of the season, there was a great deal of concern about depth at wideout. Now it looks like all of the wide receivers, and anyone else who goes out for a pass, has Romo's confidence. That is significant.
A little more subtle is the turning point reached by Dez Bryant last week.
Garrett said he was amazed by Dez Bryant's attitude and maturity the entire week regarding desire to play with broken finger and approach— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) December 17, 2012
A lot of people kept wondering what would happen with Bryant if he ever grew up. It looks like it has happened. Other writers talked about the leadership that Dez is manifesting in the locker room. That 88 on his jersey is starting to look very natural.
Another milestone is a little different.
Cowboys beat the Steelers today with a defense missing Lee, Carter, Coleman, Ratliff, Brent, Church, Claiborne, Scandrick. Read that again.— Carlos A. Mendez (@calexmendez) December 17, 2012
Think about that. Imagine if someone had told you the Cowboys would face the Steelers without those players at the start of the season. How many of you would have expected Dallas to win? Those that say you would have, remember that lying is a sin.
There are some questions about Rob Ryan's performance as defensive coordinator, but his job in putting a defense together with duct tape, super glue, and parts he literally is finding on the street has been remarkable.
Another milestone was reached by Jason Garrett. He has now assured that he will not have a losing season as a head coach to this point in his career. Has there been another NFL coach that has never had a losing season in his career that sees so many calls for his firing? Dan Graziano of ESPN can't understand why.
When you watch this year's Cowboys, you see a team that has bought into the program. Dallas is missing half of its starting defense, played without its starting running back throughout October and November and has one of the worst-performing offensive lines in the entire league, and somehow the Cowboys have managed to win five of their past six games and tie for first place in the NFC East with two games to go. If they win their final two games, the Cowboys will be NFC East champions in Garrett's second full season as their head coach. And whether they accomplish that or not, Cowboys fans have to like the direction in which their franchise is pointing.
And don't forget a major accomplishment that flies right in the face of one of the loudest memes out there about the Cowboys.
This will be a winning December for the Dallas Cowboys.
That's something that hasn't been said around these parts for a decade. The Cowboys haven't won the majority of their games in December since 2001.
These are some of the things that the Cowboys have managed to accomplish this year. But they are just what the title of this article says, milestones. The objective is to make it to the playoffs, and keep going. There is still a lot to do, but this team has exceeded what many expected just a few weeks ago. Let's all hope the trend continues.