I've been traveling quite a bit over the holidays, and didn't have as much online access as I'm used to. Which was a good thing; I got to avoid a lot of the (hindsight alert!), silly arguments over momentum, injury risk, etc. I got back to the land of high-speed Saturday night, just in time to prep for the game.
And what a game it was! It followed a lot of games this season in that most of what we talked about leading up to the game was rendered irrelevant and entirely new storylines emerged. Here are five thoughts after the Cowboys final win of the regular season.
1. Welcome to the New World Order: I never thought I would see a day when Emmitt Smith didn't own every major Cowboys rushing record. He was too good, the league had changed too much. But now a new name sits atop the Cowboys regular season rushing charts; DeMarco Murray owns the title after rushing for 1,845 yards, nearly 500 yards more than second place Le'Veon Bell.
Murray wasn't the only Dallas player setting records. Tony Romo just assaulted the record books, posting the sixth-highest QB rating ever, setting records for completion percentage, QB rating and more. The biggest record of course was passing Troy Aikman for most passing yards in Cowboys history. Not bad for an UDFA from Eastern Illinois.
In comparison Dez Bryant's record is kind of small. Maybe because it hasn't been in place for as long, or because it wasn't owned by Cowboys royalty, but Dez Bryant breaking Terrell Owens record for receiving touchdowns in a season, (with 16), just seemed fairly anticlimactic. But then I saw this little factoid and it put Bryant's season in perspective:
The Cowboys are 31st in pass attempts per game. Despite that Dez Bryant is ranked 10th in targets, 10th in receptions, 8th in yardage, and 1st in touchdowns. To quote Teddy KGB, "pay that man his money".
2. He Punched the Highlights Out of Her Hair!: One of my favorite movie quotes for one of my favorite plays of the year; Joseph Randle's 65-yard touchdown run with a little more than a minute left and Dallas up 20 points. Was it excessive? Yes. Was it sweet? Absolutely.
This is something that Randle has been doing all season long. Did you know that there have only been two players in the modern football era who have a higher yard/carry than Randle's 6.7 and at least fifty carries? Those two players would be Darren Sproles and Mr. Tecmo Bowl himself Bo Jackson.
Back to that touchdown. It was Randle's third touchdown of the year, and his longest carry. It also highlighted Randle's nitch this year; providing that deflating knockout punch. Randle has made a habit of big touchdowns late in games. Check it out:
TD 1 against Jacksonville. 3rd quarter, Cowboys up 24-7. 40-yard touchdown.
TD 2 against Bears. 3rd quarter, Cowboys up 28-7. 17-yard touchdown.
TD 3 against Washington. 4th quarter, Cowboys up 37-17. 65-yard touchdown.
Joseph Randle doesn't just steal underwear. He steals a teams spirit.
3. The Man Has Alligator Blood: Let's talk a little bit about Anthony Spencer. An afterthought coming into the season, (who knew if he would ever recover from his micro-fracture surgery?), Spencer played one of his best games of the year this Sunday. The stats don't tell the story as he only had one tackle, one pass defense, and one QB hit. But he provided constant pressure on Robert Griffin III, set the edge well, and of course returned a fumble for a touchdown. Almost Anthony never quite lived up to his promise. But he epitomizes what this defense is all about; hard-working, professional grinders who get the job done.
4. Mr. December: No, not Tony Romo, although he owned December this year. Rather I'm talking about our very own Brandon Carr who has been playing his best football over the past four games. Think about it; did you yell Brandon Carr's name at your television set on Sunday? I didn't, and that by itself is a Christmas miracle!
In all seriousness though, Brandon Carr has been very good the past few games. From the Chicago game forward Carr has been targeted 19 times and given up 10 receptions, (including no receptions this last game), for 174 yards. That's 43.5 yards/game. And it hasn't been scrub passing games we've been up against. Over the past four teams the lowest ranked passing offense we've played was Chicago at number 15, and the Colts are ranked number 1.
The best part of his game is that he's been limiting yards after catch. Over the past four games he has given up 86 yards per game, and 60 of those came on one play against the Eagles. He hasn't given up a touchdown in the last three games. Like Anthony Spencer, Brandon Carr isn't the player we wanted, but he's peaking at the right time and is currently playing his best ball.
5. Coffee is for Closers: And Jason Garrett deserves the whole pot. However you feel about the decision to play our starters it is now obvious in hindsight that Garrett had his finger on the pulse of this team. He challenged them and the team responded. How about that onsides kick call? I never expected to see a Garrett coached team do something like that. But this is a different Garrett than the one we're used to. We've talked a lot about how Romo, Witten, and a few of the older players are playing with an edge, as if they know this might be their last chance to do something special. Garrett is coaching with that same edge. He's coaching to win, instead of coaching to not lose. Jason Garrett knows his ABC's...Always Be Closing.
- I'm worried some about the Anthony Hitchens injury. It's frustrating, but if that's the worst we have going into the playoffs let's consider ourselves lucky.
- Is Bruce Carter a front runner? He seems to step up when he's needed, but plays passive when he has good players around him.
- I'm not worried about the Lions. At all. They seem to be collapsing at the same time we're playing our best ball.
- That offensive line. Wow.
- Ditto Tony Romo.
One last thing to say Cowboy Nation. HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS!!!