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Cowboys News & Notes: These Aren't The Same Old Cowboys

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Yes, things are different in Dallas.

One definitely good thing about the Cowboys playing at home.
One definitely good thing about the Cowboys playing at home.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

It was simply a huge win, but there is still a lot of work to be done. And lots of news to cover.

Cowboys Injury Updates: DeMarco Murray Status Unknown, Doug Free, Zack Martin Don't Have High Ankle Sprains - Blogging The Boys

The injury situation on these three major components in the running game is the elephant in the room. Check out the latest update from our own Dave Halprin if you haven't already.

The Colts are terrible against the run, so the Cowboys might not be in that difficult of a situation if Murray can't go. It might be more important that Free and Martin can play this week than Murray. That would have the first-team offensive line blocking for the substitute backs, hopefully opening the huge holes that Murray has seen much of the year. And it would give Tony Romo some piece of mind in the pocket.

Tony Romo confirms these aren’t the same old Cowboys | For The Win

The old meme about the Dallas Cowboys fading in December is taking some major hits this year.

This isn't a perfect Cowboys team. But it is a complete team. They've experience highs and lows, but have managed to navigate to 10 wins and are the only team to go undefeated on the road this year.

There's grit and desire that hasn't existed in the past four years. There's a confident quarterback, an explosive running game, and dangerous receivers.

This Dallas is different.

Eatman: With Game, Division & Perhaps Season On Line, Cowboys Finished the Fight | Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett's theme for the Cowboys this year was a simple one: Fight! Against the Eagles, they lived it, especially when they answered the Eagles taking the lead with a touchdown drive of their own to go ahead to stay.

How's that for an answer? See, we love to look for major differences between this year and the last few years. And other than this team's overall record, or definitely the road record which is now 7-0 for the third time in franchise history, it's moments like that go-ahead drive that we need to really focus on.

The old Cowboys aren't battling back like that. They're not going to take those series of Philadelphia punches, stay upright, and then come back with shots of their own.

Cowboys Execute Gameplan Against Eagles " CBS Dallas / Fort Worth

Every week, Mike Fisher puts out five "Fish Tips" before the game, and then goes back to see how he did. He certainly hit one of them square on the head.

2. There was a "why'' to my reasoning regarding DeMarco. And it had to do with my belief that Dallas would be more "pass-first'' than its been all season. Tony Romo's health, his numbers, and specifically his success on the road were reason enough for me.

RESULT: Romo was 22-of-31 for 265 yards. Very good. But get this: with his trio of TD throws and no picks here, he's got 18 touchdowns and just one interception in seven away games. That's a huge reason why 10-4 Dallas is 7-0 on the road, by far the NFL's best record.

The pass set up the run. And the victory.

Week 15 Wrap-up: King of the Road "

A lot of people (maybe me included) have worried about the next game against the Indianapolis Colts being in AT&T Stadium, which is the only place the Cowboys have lost this season. This article at Grantland.com takes a look at that from a logical and historical viewpoint, and comes to some conclusions that may put at least a few of those worries to rest.

But even then, the anecdotal stuff that's happened in those games breaks down the logic of the argument. Did the Cowboys really design that crazy kickoff on purpose, knowing it wouldn't work when they played the Eagles in Texas? Did they really have an adoring fan base rooting them on in Philadelphia yesterday that might qualify as some sort of hidden road-field advantage? Did they somehow time the Romo injury to occur during Dallas's three-game homestand, causing him to miss crucial time in the losses to Washington and Arizona?

Of course not. It's just randomness. The Cowboys have been better on the road than they have been at home, but that's not caused by anything and it's not going to tell us anything about how Dallas will play going forward.

Dallas Cowboys have to fight on if DeMarco Murray can't go - ESPN

Obviously, the next game will be played even if DeMarco Murray is not able to play. Joseph Randle would be most likely to get the starting call if he can't.

Jason Garrett, like every NFL coach, has preached a next-man-up philosophy. The NFL won't cancel Sunday's game because of Murray's injury. The Cowboys will need to fight on without him and there are some at Valley Ranch who believe Randle is a more than capable replacement.

DeMarco Murray's game filled with dirty yards - Dallas Cowboys Blog - ESPN

While Murray's night was less than spectacular, the Philadelphia Eagles may have sacrificed too much in committing to stopping him.

Murray did not reach 100 yards against the Eagles, but he was able to grind out 81 yards on 31 carries while scoring two touchdowns, picking up the dirty yards as coach Jason Garrett calls them. 

"It was a damn good D-line, a damn good defense," Murray said. "These kind of games, you've just got to fight and claw. They won a couple of times but we were able to get a couple wins as well."

Bob Sturm’s Morning After: Cowboys make Eagles pay for tactic that’s failed before | Dallas Morning News

The price that the Eagles paid for loading up the box to stifle Murray was to go with man coverage on Dallas' receivers. And Tony Romo used those receivers, most notably Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, to make them pay. Big time.

Why would the Eagles stay in base coverage?  Because they want to make DeMarco Murray's day difficult by keeping 7 "bigs" in the box and sometimes walking in Jenkins to make it 8.  They figure if they go to nickel, then Murray will have success and they want to make Romo have to beat them.  Well, they did make Romo beat them, and he did without looking too terribly taxed to do so.  Once again, 3rd and 10 with 12:55 in the 4th was the kill shot, and it was a near instant replay of the play in the 2nd Quarter.  Leave Bryant on an island with Fletcher, and Romo calls the "warm-up drill" play again.  Instant Replay touchdown.

Eagles LB praises Tony Romo: ‘He moved a lot better; you could tell the rest helped him’ | Dallas Morning News

The headline says it all. Just pointing it out.

Who’s laughing now? Philadelphia newspaper runs ‘choking hazard’ cartoon mocking Tony Romo | Dallas Morning News

From the article:

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Some receivers came up big in the game, of course.

Dez Bryant backs up bold words - Dallas Cowboys Blog - ESPN Dallas

Dallas' passionate and very talented receiver was fired up well before kickoff.

Bryant, the Dallas Cowboys' emotional, electrifying receiver, and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins met on the logo and exchanged heated words, heads bobbing as they jaw-jacked while wearing shorts, T-shirts and stocking hats. They briefly went their separate ways before Bryant went back for more. And Bryant returned one more time for a third round of trash talk.

Bryant, of course, backed up his words on the field.

Tony Romo: Jason Witten was ‘incredible’ in the passing game vs. Eagles | Dallas Morning News

The Cowboys' tight end with the Hall of Fame worthy resume had been quiet as a receiver the past few games. He wasn't against the Eagles.

"Jason was incredible, just the way he ran his routes today," Tony Romo said. "His ability to use leverage, he had some juice and showed some speed. He made it difficult on them.

"The way they wanted to call the game had to change a little bit just because of his ability to beat his man, and that was just great to see because he's been outstanding for so long, just to have it on a night like tonight where he was a guy that gave us such big third down key plays was great to see."

Meanwhile, not all receivers made much of a contribution, like Riley Cooper.

Eagles' Cooper coming up small

On the Eagles' first play from scrimmage, Cooper was set up with a screen pass. He ran one way, and then another, and then into a Cowboys defender and flopped to the grass for no gain. It was his lone receiving contribution until a 17-yard reception with two minutes left in the game.

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Cowboys Excited About Win, But Players Know Nothing Has Been Accomplished Yet | Dallas Cowboys

The 10-4 record has exceeded all but the wildest expectations for this team, but with the tie-breaker situation, the Cowboys still have work that has to be done.

"We have two games to go, and we've got to stay focused. That's what it's all about," said Dez Bryant. "We've got to just pay attention to each other - we can't get caught up in what's going on around the league. Focus on what we're doing, and that's exactly what we're going to do."

That'll be music to Garrett's ears, as many of his players adhered to his oft-repeated mantra during the scrum of the postgame locker room. Regardless of any other NFC scenarios, defeating Philadelphia on Sunday means the Cowboys will make the postseason with two more wins.

Andrew Luck: The NFL’s Most Perplexing Trash Talker - WSJ

The Colts have a talented young quarterback who the Cowboys will try to figure out. Apparently, he is a little, well, different.

Luck has become famous for congratulating-sincerely and enthusiastically-any player to hit him hard. Any sack is met with a hearty congratulations, such as "great job" or "what a hit!" He yells it after hard hits that don't result in sacks, too. It is, players say, just about the weirdest thing any quarterback does in the NFL.

When New England pass rusher Rob Ninkovich pulverized Luck last month in a Patriots' 42-20 win, he got the customary congratulations. As Ninkovich tells it, he found himself paralyzed with confusion by the well-wishes, so he blurted out "Thanks for...uh...accepting that hit?" before running back to the huddle.

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A couple of offbeat stories to end up with. First, an update on what America's Sweethearts were up to while the Cowboys were out of town.

Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders visit Yokota - Pacific - Stripes

This was one stop on their current USO tour.

And this last is just weird. Horrifyingly, terribly weird.

Troy Aikman, Eagles quarterback? Former Cowboy tells story about how close he came | Dallas Morning News

In 2003, Troy Aikman was working a broadcast in San Diego, when he got a call from Andy Reid. Donovan McNabb had just been lost for the season, and, well . . .

So I went outside. I had no cell service. I had to get out on the concourse there at Jack Murphy Stadium and I got him on the phone. He said, ‘Hey, did you hear what happened.' I said, ‘Yeah, we did a game break.' He said, ‘Well I want to talk to you about coming to Philadelphia.' I said, ‘Andy, we're in the middle of a broadcast. It's halftime right now.' He said, ‘I know, I'm watching the game.' So I said, ‘OK, I call you after the game.'

The most frightening part: Aikman actually had to think about it.

The mind reels.

Follow me @TomRyleBTB