First off, I'll begin by telling everyone Happy Thanksgiving. I'll continue by saying that I think we're all aware that it will be just a bit of a happier day if the Dallas Cowboys can grab sole-possession of first place in the NFC East when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.
We all know the importance of this game, and let's not lie to ourselves, we've been preparing for this matchup for weeks now. The Cowboys are fresh off of a huge comeback win against the New York Giants, winning 31-28, thanks to a game-winning drive that was completed with just over one minute left. The Eagles, on the other hand, recently put on an impressive performance in their 43-24 win over the Tennessee Titans.
While much of the focus is on the huge upcoming game, let's take just a few minutes to look at what the Cowboys, and their fans, should be thankful for to this point in 2014.
If anyone wants to question the job that Rod Marinelli has done, then you haven't watched any Cowboys' games in 2014. This defense has made a complete 180 from what we saw last year, and Marinelli is one of the biggest reasons for the turnaround. He's instilled a new mindset with this unit, and has them playing faster and harder than we've seen in years. The numbers don't lie when looking at the improvement:
|Total YPG Allowed (NFL Rank)||Passing YPG Allowed (NFL Rank)||Rushing YPG Allowed (NFL Rank)|
|2013||415.3 (32nd)||286.8 (30th)||128.5 (27th)|
|2014||355 (16th)||247.8 (19th)||107.2 (13th)|
Cowboys' nation should be incredibly happy to have Marinelli as the new defensive coordinator.
The "Big Three"- Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant
How else can you truly put it? Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant have been the leaders in terms of production, but also have stepped up consistently throughout the year when it matters most. A specific bit of love needs to be pointed towards Murray, as he's currently rushed for 1,354 yards and seven touchdowns through only 11 games. Murray has yet to have a "down" game, and even when the Cowboys didn't have Romo against the Arizona Cardinals, he still managed to rush for 79 yards with a 4.2 YPC average.
For Romo and Bryant? What can you say about the connection that these two have built. Bryant even publicly stated that he missed Romo in the game against the Cardinals. Through the 10 games with Romo, Bryant has put together 61 catches, 864 yards and nine touchdowns. Lastly, Romo has proven time and time again that he's not only the leader of this team, but also that he's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, hands down. He's posted numbers of 2,519 yards, 22 touchdowns and just six interceptions in the 10 games he's played this year.
The Offensive Line
This group has been slowly pieced together over the past three years, and kudos to Jerry Jones (more below) for creating a monster line for Romo and Murray to work behind. Life has been made much easier for this offense with guys like Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, Doug Free and Ronald Leary holding down the fort. Simply look at the fact that this line gave Romo 7.5 seconds on one play and eight seconds on another during the game-winning drive on Sunday night, and that alone will tell you the story.
Yes, Jerry Jones. Jones gets a lot of flak for the decisions that he's made in the past. With that said, though, do you realize how hard it had to be for him to NOT draft Johnny Manziel in the 2014 NFL Draft? Instead, the Cowboys' pick Martin has turned into a huge asset. Jones is making the right calls currently, and Cowboys' fans have to be happy with the decisions he's making. He is one of the biggest reasons why Rolando McClain decided to come out of retirement, which is making him look like an absolute genius. McClain has been stellar in 2014, with 55 total tackles, one tackle for loss, four pass deflections, two interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Let's also not forget the signing of Henry Melton, which has paid off nicely, as Melton has five sacks, two tackles for loss, two pass deflections and two fumble recoveries to this point in the season.
An 8-3 Record
What's not to love about an 8-3 start? The Cowboys are off and running, and this team is playing with more confidence than we've seen in years. While many will talk about the fact that the Cowboys lost a tough game to the Washington Redskins in which they were dealing with Romo's injury, and also the fact that they lost to the Cardinals while playing without Romo, it's all just part of the game. Sure, the Cowboys have a (realistic) argument for how they could be 10-1 currently, but the fact is simple, through 11 games this team has already matched their total number of wins from last year, as well as each of the two years before that.