The game against the New York Jets was the first game I watched this season where I felt completely at ease. It had a serene feel and even though it turned out to be a lot closer than I expected, never was I overwhelmed with the typical Cowboys anxiety that has vexed me all season. Just like they did in the game against the Green Bay Packers last week, they'd start off guns a-blazing with an impressive first drive. Oh, I bet they wanted us to get excited, but there's an old saying in Texas, "Fool me once, shame on.....shame on you. If you fool me, I can't get fooled again." So nice try, Dallas, but you're not getting me to bite this time. And right on cue, the moment where you thought something great was about to happen, reality would rear it's ugly head and it would return to a regular Cowboys game.
While my family enjoyed the holiday season in the background, completely oblivious to the travesties that is the Cowboys 2015, I remained an unyielding structure in front of my television. And here are the five things that stood out to me the most.
1. The quarterback situation
I found myself torn as to what would be the most ideal situation for the team. There's this whole part of me that still wanted to see Matt Cassel be successful. This idea that he wasn't here during camp and showing up mid-season may be the reason that he's struggled so much. But with each new pass, it is clear that he's just horrible. I've never seen a quarterback get flagged for an intentional grounding penalty, yet botch it up so bad that it still manages to get picked off. Like many fans, watching Kellen Moore trot into the huddle was a welcoming feeling.
Moore did okay. He threw three picks, including one of them in the end zone that blew a scoring opportunity. Even with those mistakes, it still was promising to watch him make good progressions and get the entire quartet of receivers involved.
2. The other Boise State guy
All the talk is about Kellen Moore. He's the shiny new toy that Cowboys fans want to see. But it was another kid from Boise State that was turning heads on Saturday night. Cowboys' defensive end, DeMarcus Lawrence, was showing up play after play. He got another sack, and now has six sacks over his last six games. He leads the team in sacks with seven. Even more impressive is what he's doing in the run game. Against the Jets he had seven tackles, with four of them behind the line of scrimmage. Power runner Chris Ivory would have Lawrence in his face on two key short yardage plays.
The Cowboys gave up their third-round pick in 2014 in order to move up to select Lawrence 34th overall. It looked like a pricey investment, but with the way he's been playing, Lawrence is starting to show people why the Cowboys wanted him so badly.
3. Forget about Patmon
The release of Tyler Patmon came to a surprise to some as the Cowboys don't have an abundance of depth at the cornerback position. And with the release of Patmon came the promotion of Terrance Mitchell from the practice squad. The Cowboys new corner wasted no time making a splash. He picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the third quarter. Mitchell now has one more interception than every single cornerback on the team.
4. Dan Bailey must be getting bored
The Cowboys have the highest percentage field goal kicker in NFL history as Bailey has knocked them through at a rate of over 91%. Of course he is fortunate to hold the top spot after flirting with some near misses this season. Bailey tied the game up with a 50-yard field goal late in the fourth quarter, but it was a close one. For the third time this season, Bailey got the good fortune of a nice bounce off the goal post. As creative as he's been, the Cowboys kicker has been the most reliable player on the team. He is 28 for 29 on field goals this season, he's yet to miss an extra point (where so many kickers have this season), and he's a perfect 4 for 4 in kicks of 50 yards or more.
5. Darren McFadden is working out just fine
While the offense has been a giant train wreck this season, the running game has been respectable. McFadden rushed for 100 yards on Saturday, reaching the century mark for the fifth time this season. Only Adrian Peterson has done it more times. McFadden has rushed for more yards than any of the other 2015 free agent running back, including that one guy in Philadelphia that has a sock drawer full of money now. He's only 102 yards away from 1,000 yards, which he's reached only once when he had his career season in 2010.
The most impressive part of his 100-yard performance was that it came against the top rushing defense in the league while playing for an offense that offers up very little in the passing game. The Cowboys will be shopping for a new running back in the 2016 draft, but McFadden's resiliency this season makes him a solid option to get some carries next season. Not just anyone can run behind this offensive line, but McFadden appears to a guy that can.