Welcome to a festive edition of What They're Saying. An 8-4 record, complete domination of a game and ungodly amounts of turkey produces that very satisfied coma of holiday bliss. Football is entering the stretch run when pretenders fade and contenders are made, and our Dallas Cowboys are finally playing some inspired, team-centered football. They've shown a little heart and enthusiasm recently, winning does seem to cure all in sports. So let's thank the Football Gods for their early holiday present, giving us the 49ers and Seahawks in a short week. Chalk two victories up on the big board and it's on to December, where we hope more holiday good tidings await.
Let's dispense with the bad news right away so it won't be a buzz-kill. Both DeMarcus Ware and Marion Babrber got injured. Ware's knee initially looked vulnerable to a long-term thing. But, after the game, he's been quoted as saying he feels good.
"I'm good," said Ware, who had three sacks and four tackles for loss. "I was scared. Injuries are part of the game, and they usually don't happen that way with me."
He also said the same while receiving his Gobbler award and states even though he's having an MRI done, he'll be ready for next Sunday.
"I'll be ready for this big game in Pittsburgh," Ware said.
As always, we must remain cautious until the MRI is read, but everything sounds positive now. Big bullet avoided if DeMarcus is good to go.
Meanwhile, Marion Barber dislocated his little toe but there is no break according to Dr. Jerry Jones.
Barber suffered the strange injury late in the second quarter and went to the locker room with less than a minute remaining before halftime. Owner Jerry Jones said X-rays were negative.
"That ought to be manageable," Jones said.
The Barbarian had this to say after the game.
Barber, as usual, said nothing. Jerry Jones said his star running back suffered a dislocated pinkie toe on his right foot.
"I don't want to speculate," Jerry said when asked about Barber's availability against the Steelers, "but there's no way I'll rule him out."
At least they're talking about Barber possibly playing next Sunday instead of debating something more serious. But again, we need to wait for the official word.
So both injuries considered, things look positive right now while we cautiously await official word.
On to the good news, after the jump.
It's on the field where the Cowboys are generating some holiday cheer. I won't bother recounting the ups and downs of this season in detail, suffice it so say that we've seen the mountain and the valley and everywhere in between. But winning three games in row and looking strong heading into a playoff run sure has put this team (and the fans) in a better mood.
"You can see how the climate can change pretty quickly," head coach Wade Phillips said of his 8-4 team, which would pull into a tie for the top wild-card spot if Tampa Bay (8-3) loses Sunday.
The Cowboys desperately needed a win streak and they've got it. That was only the prelims though, now the real chase begins as Tony Romo explains:
"We went through a rough patch there and we are still not out of it. We still have to keep going forward and putting together wins to get in the playoffs, but I do know that our confidence level is where I feel like on any given Sunday we can play with anybody."
Yes, the Cowboys are recovering a little of their swagger. Let's hope this time it doesn't go to their head.
We're starting to see the parts of this offense come together. With Romo back and the injury behind him, Jason Garrett's vertical passing offense looks healthy again. Thank the offensive line for a lot of that, Romo had plenty of time to throw on Thursday. Give Romo time to throw and put the weapons we have out on the field, and things can get ugly for a defense in a hurry. Even good defenses, like the string we're about to face, will have trouble with this offense as long as Romo gets time to throw.
"Offensively, we threw the ball really well," head coach Wade Phillips said, referring to the Cowboys racking up 331 passing yards. "We spread it out to a lot of different people. I thought Tony (Romo) had a really good game. I think we are starting to hit our stride. We've got a lot of weapons. Roy Williams (two catches, 51 yards) made another big play for us. Martellus Bennett scores a touchdown every game. We have a lot of weapons and our quarterback can get the ball to them."
Romo's been progressing well since the he returned to the field and the next game he won't even be wearing the splint. He's gone from good at Washington, to great against San Fran to nearly perfect against Seattle. He praises the offensive line, too.
"We have a lot of options in this offense," Romo said. "When you've got that, and your offensive line gives you time, you can just wait a little longer (in the play) for something to develop. I think we did that."
One option that had been quiet recently exploded back onto the scene.
"They unleashed me today," [Jason] Witten said with a smile, in reference to a certain comment made by Terrell Owens on Sunday.
Nice. Witten is the epitome of a tough player.
"I'm not 100 percent," he said. "Still with the broken rib there, but I'm feeling better. It's part of it; it is what it is. There is nothing you can do to change it."
I think Romo has a man-crush on him.
"Jason Witten is the absolute perfect tight end in all ways," Romo said. "He runs good routes. He's a good run blocker. His timing is impeccable. On top of that, he's a tough guy and a high character guy."
While the return of Tony Romo has helped the offense enormously, the defense has been slowly but surely turning itself into a unit that can win ball games, too. From the Tampa Bay game to the Seattle game, only the Giants were able to put significant points on the board. The Cowboys defense has yielded 9, 10, 22 (most of that in garbage time) and 9 points in their past four non-Giants game. They've been keeping teams out of the endzone and are sacking QB's and creating turnovers. Is this defense finally becoming an aggressive, attacking D?
"D-Ware was D-Ware," Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. "He's definitely one of the purest pass rushers in the game, made plays when it counts. That's what we need from him, that's his role and he did what he was supposed to do."
But don't slight yourself Bradie, you had a superb day.
"I've been pressuring a little bit more this year. Now I'm getting there, actually beating guys, so that helps," James said of being able to blitz more on the nickel defense. "I knew I had to capitalize because I knew if I didn't get the quarterback down D- Ware would."
Yes, actually beating guys does help. Right now, the Cowboys defense is beating people and it's getting turnovers, something we didn't see a lot of earlier in the year.
Dallas is also receiving an infusion of fresh blood from the rookies, even with its two first-round picks unavailable. Felix Jones is done and Mike Jenkins is on the shelf, but that didn't stop this draft class from contributing.
Martellus Bennett has turned into a TD machine with his third straight scoring game.
"I'm feeling like the Lakers with a three-peat," the 21-year-old Bennett said.
Tashard Choice had his best game and is showing he can help lighten the load on MB3.
"I've been working hard," Choice said. "Just continue what I've been doing, just go in there and give the coaches confidence."
"From Day One, when [Choice] got here, he had an uncanny knack for finding the soft spot in the defense," [Skip] Peete said. "He has good vision, runs with good balance. He's a hard-running back."
Orlando Scandrick was active in the game and on the stat sheet, continuing his impressive rookie campaign.
We also got help from a new player, not a rookie, but an experienced vet. Montrae Holland looked pretty good to me on the first watching, of course the Film Review will tell me more, but at first glance I liked what I saw. So did Jerry Jones.
"I had my eye on [Holland] specifically tonight," Jerry Jones said. "He had a good day. He protected well, he didn't turn anybody loose. I think when they review and grade they're going to find out he didn't have any penalties. I don't know if he made any mental errors. It looked like he played well."
The Cowboys are having a little fun again and building some team camaraderie along the way. Exhibit one; The Turkey Dance. After each sack, some Cowboys defender would flap those wings celebrating the play and the holiday. And with seven sacks among them, they had plenty of opportunity. Jason Hatcher started the idea in practice when he was showing the guys his Billy "White Shoes" Johnson impression. It was decided all of them must perform the dance or suffer a fine. Even old-guy Greg Ellis had to give in.
"I had to do it a little bit, because they said if you didn't do it, you were going to get fined," Ellis said. "Didn't want to get fined by the guys, so I did it a little bit and just left it alone."
Now we get to wait a while to play again, in the meantime we can root against NFC playoff contenders. Also, we wait on definitive word about Ware and Barber.
The Cowboys have righted the vehicle and are pointing towards a playoff run. Splattering a lesser team on the windshield is the first step.
"We did what we were supposed to do," Bradie James said. "And for once, we finished the game. We're getting our swagger back."
"If you can put your foot on someone's throat, that's what championship teams do," Romo said. "We've tried to stress that for a long time, and this team is doing a good job of when an opportunity comes, take it."
They know what's ahead of them.
"It's going to be hard," Romo said. "This is the time to put your head down and go forward because every week will be a tough, grind-it-out defensive team we're going against. It'll be a challenge for us getting in the playoffs, but we feel very confident in our ability to win football games. I like our chances."
I'm starting to like our chances, too.