This young team is on an 11-game win streak and as impressive as that might be, the real feat is how they have gotten there. Sure, you can talk about the Lions' finding ways to win in the fourth quarters of games, they've trailed in the fourth quarter in every game this season and just won their seventh game. However, who cares about the Detroit Lions? The Dallas Cowboys have won 11 straight games after losing by one point in week one against their next opponent, the New York Giants.
No win for the Cowboys has been the same, every week there is a new challenge and this team deserves credit for how they have answered the bell. When you are trying to build a championship-caliber team, you have to be able to win some ugly games. The Dallas Cowboys proved that they have "true grit" to fight and claw their way to victory as was on display Thursday night.
The Minnesota Vikings are as tough a defense as the Cowboys are going to have to play and they gave Dallas everything they had. Just about nothing was working offensively for Dallas and when they would find a crease, the Vikings would close it quickly. What makes it challenging to play a defense like the Vikings is their speed. They rarely are out of place and if they are, the defensive backs and linebackers have the speed to cover up their deficiencies. Say what you will about their offensive woes but that defense has the Mike Zimmer touch all over it. It took everything the Cowboys had just to put up 17 points and thankfully that was all it took.
This hard-fought victory might have been a little too close for our cardiovascular health but it was needed. Narrow victories help to breed toughness and a relentless approach. It's those teams that are able to win in a multitude of ways that ultimately become the greatest of success stories. We know that this team is a special one but we have no idea what the future holds, we're just along for the ride. Still, this team is drawing similar comparisons to the1992 Dallas Cowboys team. That team was very young too although they had Troy Aikman (in his fourth year) and Michael Irvin (in his fifth year).
Their youth energized the team that Jimmy Johnson was building and you could see with every week that they just kept checking off boxes. They had some tough low-scoring grinders against the Phoenix Cardinals and some barnburners like the 31-27 win over the Denver Broncos. This 2016 rendition of the Dallas Cowboys is similar in ways to that young team in the 1990's. No matter the task, the Cowboys stick together and take it one step at a time.
One of the veteran leaders on the team, Dez Bryant, was asked by the NFL Network Gameday Crew about his role in the offense and of course all he cares about is winning. On a night where he tied Michael Irvin's franchise touchdown record he only cared about that unity and showed his exemplary leadership:
"We’re a football team, and that’s the most beautiful thing that we got," he said. "We stick with one another throughout the good and the bad, and y’all witnessed that tonight. Those are the type of things that we care about, is putting out victories like this."
As the Vikings defense clamped down on the young rookie leaders, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, they never wavered and found ways to get things done. Coach Garrett was very impressed with the rookies resolve and made that clear at the end of the game:
"Those guys, I thought, handled themselves well tonight when it wasn’t quite so easy. And trust me, it’s never easy," Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. "But when you have dirty runs and the coverages are hard and there are people around you in the pocket, for the running back and the quarterback to handle themselves, it was impressive to me.
"And again, it says a lot about who they are as people and how mentally and physically tough they are as players, and there’s no question at different times in this game, they made the critical plays that allowed us to go ahead and win this ballgame."
This was a defensive slugfest by every definition of the term and that wasn't something this Cowboys' offense was accustomed to. Thankfully, their own defense was up to the task and kept the Vikings at bay while the Cowboys special teams unit really won them the game. It was Kyle Wilber who forced and recovered a fumble on a punt return that gave the Cowboys a short field that Bryant capitalized on.
"It was really just our punt team," Wilber said. "L.P. (Ladouceur) gave me a pick. Everybody was out and running. (Vince) Mayle got there first, tried to get him by the knees and I just tried to get the ball out. That’s what Coach emphasizes: take away the ball, make a play on special teams that makes a difference. Just trying to do my job."
Wilber credited his linebackers coach Matt Eberflus for teaching him those instincts to punch the ball out and bring on the extra possession for the offense.
"(Linebackers) Coach (Matt Eberflus) emphasizes punching the ball out, going for the ball, hitting and punching the ball out," he said. "That’s kind of what we’re trying to do. Defensively, Coach tells us to go for the ball during the whistle and after the whistle, so just keep it on your mind at all times."
So, we have seen this team win games by blowing out their competition. We've seen them win a game having to do so in overtime. We have seen their defense win them extra possessions at Lambeau by forcing turnovers. We have seen them win with last-minute drives in the fourth quarter. Now, we've seen the Cowboys win a game against one of the best defensive units in football while not playing all that great. This team, like many great teams before, continue to build character by showing they have the will to win no matter the circumstances. For a team that is led by very young talent, they are showing that they just "get it" and that they belong among the top teams in the NFL.