Many people say "Perception is Reality", especially when it comes to sports. However your 2013 Dallas Cowboys are challenging that theory in many ways. When Monte Kiffin was hired, the perception was that they would be a base Cover-2 defense, (which hasn't been the case), the perception to many outsiders is that Valley Ranch is a "Country Club" and that players have no fear playing for a "Puppet" head coach, however, we've seen three starters benched in recent weeks for poor effort or performance on the field. Another commonly held perception about this team, is that they are an ultra-thin team that relies on the performances of their stars to win games. According to the popular narrative, the Cowboys can't run the ball and can't stop anyone on defense, so they depend each week on huge games from Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware in order to see favorable results.
If you were to tell people that DeMarcus Ware missed 2 1/2 quarters of the same game in which Romo threw for only 170 yards, and Witten, Austin and Bryant accounted for only 8 catches for 63 yards (Austin having 0 catches), and that the team gave up 433 total yards on defense, people would be very surprised that the Cowboys could win a division game many considered to be a "must-win".
But as we look back at Sunday, the key players in the Cowboys win over the Washington Redskins, were a 2011 6th-round pick (Dwayne Harris), a 2012 UDFA (Cole Beasley), a 2010 2nd-round pick who was a reserve LB all through that camp (Sean Lee), a 2011 3rd-rd pick of the Indianapolis Colts on his 3rd team since August, (Drake Nevis), and a reserve defensive lineman playing his first year in a brand new position (Jason Hatcher). No huge numbers from Romo, no TD catch from Dez, or 8 catches for 80 yards by Witten. DeMarcus Ware wasn't in the game to generate fourth quarter pressure against the Redskins exciting young QB, Miles Austin went catchless & they ran a total of two offensive plays from 6:03 remaining in the second quarter, to 5:16 in the third.
But they found a way to get it done. Harris was masterful returning any kick he could get his hands on and Cole Beasley was money on 3rd downs, while a rookie WR and a rookie RB (w/ an assist from a rookie center) both scored TDs. The Cowboys scored TD's on 75% (3 of 4) of their red zone possessions and the defense gave up only one long TD run to the opponent, allowing only three FG's in Washington's three trips to the red zone.
It is a good thing when teams find ways to win games in which their stars don't have their best games. There will be games down the stretch were Romo isn't as sharp as we are accustomed, or where Dez has coverage shaded his way every snap, but the team has to make enough plays to win. Those are the things good teams do that put them in position to make playoff runs. I'm not ready to put this Cowboys team in that boat at this point, but I like what I saw Sunday night from AT&T Stadium.