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The myth-busting Cowboys

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After the wild card win, a lot of things everyone knew about Dallas are turning out to be not very true.

Discovery Communications TCA Winter 2015 Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Discovery Communications

The Dallas Cowboys are still alive in the NFL playoffs. And that is confounding a lot of people.

It is not just that there are a lot of people who just hate on the ‘Boys, or Jerry Jones, or Jason Garrett. It is that the win just didn’t fall in line with so many expectations. And not just in the fact that they got to the next round. The way they did it flies in the face of much of the “conventional wisdom” about Dallas. And it really extends back to how they got into the playoffs in the first place.

For fans of the team who are reveling in having a divisional round game against the Los Angeles Rams, it is really rather fun to look at some of the myths, memes, and media pronouncements that are being assaulted. So sit back and enjoy while we go into some of these.

A lot of people just couldn’t see them winning in the first round

Our umbrella network, SBNation, has been doing a series of polls this season, and it was pretty obvious that not many who participated gave the Cowboys much chance at all against the Seattle Seahawks.

Seattle was just seen as a better team that was also hot at the end of the season, winning six of their last seven games. And they simply owned Dallas in recent years, having won four of the last five matchups prior to Saturday and the last three in a row, including the 24-13 win at home back in week 3 of the regular season. But for a variety of reasons (some of which we will gleefully look at later), the Cowboys defeated them in a win that was not really as close as the final score indicated.

Admittedly, the pros in Vegas saw what was coming, having Dallas as an exactly right two-point favorite going into the game. But for many analysts, the Seahawks were the pick, including all six of the people on the SBNation panel predicting the outcome of the round.

The Cowboys have a head coach that just doesn’t win the big games

Jason Garrett does not have a great reputation among many (although he is widely respected within the league). He has been called at various times a Jerry Jones puppet, too conservative, and there is of course the widely-known meme of just being a guy who claps on the sidelines. And he was going up against the much more respected Pete Carroll (forget that refusal to give the ball to Marshawn Lynch against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LXIX).

But that didn’t happen when they went head to head in AT&T Stadium. Despite the obvious failure of the plan to use the run to bludgeon the Cowboys, Carroll refused to get away from it until it was too late.

One reason for Garrett’s poor rep is that it overlooks what the real job of the head coach is, which is building his roster, creating a culture, and getting them prepared for the challenge week in and week out. That was fully on display in the 7-1 run that got them the NFC East crown, and the wild-card win was just an extension of that. Even his controversial decision to play Dak Prescott for the entire game against the New York Giants when they were locked into the fourth seed seems to have been important in having the team ready for Seattle. Garrett is very good at what he does, and as close to a perfect fit for the unique organization under Jerry Jones as exists.

Dak is just not a true franchise QB

As a fourth-round draft pick, Prescott has had to overcome a lot of low expectations. And he had one of his finest games in the latest win, including a truly signature play. Some people are belatedly beginning to realize what his team has. He is just a winner.

The Cowboys’ offense is just not capable of putting up points and yards the way the elite teams do

Well, all they did last weekend was score the most points of any team. And put up the second-most yards. Part of that may have been the presence of two of the best defenses in the league (Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears) in other games, and Dallas is also a top-ten defense statistically, but the fact remains that the Cowboys had one of the strongest performances of the teams in the round. And at least for the past couple of weeks, they even seem to have solved their red zone woes. Punching it in three times inside the 20, including two times with a goal-to-go from the one, is something we haven’t seen all season (except for that “meaningless” season finale).

If they can continue to do those kinds of things, they could have a real shot against the Rams. And the hated Philadelphia Eagles may have done them a huge favor in that regard, given how the Cowboys focus on the run game to make things work.

Ezekiel Elliott may need two spoons again to do all the eating.

Scott Linehan has to go

Let me caution you: Throwing things doesn’t gain anything. Keep that in mind before reading further.

I have been railing against the offensive coordinator all season. But his game plan and play calls certainly were good enough. More importantly, he got a not insignificant vote of confidence.

Unlike his father Jerry, Stephen Jones tends to be pretty direct with what he says. And like Jerry, he is elbow-deep in the day-to-day operations of the team. If he is saying that, it likely comes from a pretty good understanding of what Linehan did to prepare for the game and how he conducted things during it. We all knew that Jason Garrett needed the win to help ensure his future with the team. As much as it may rankle and rile you, Linehan may have taken some major strides in being back for another go.

AT&T Stadium has no real home field advantage for the Cowboys

This is one that has shown a significant change all season, with Dallas now 8-1 in their own house. And multiple reports had it being exceptionally raucous during the wild-card game.

Now, we don’t want to be counting them chickens while they are still in the shell, but there is now a very real (if somewhat slim) chance that the NFC Championship game could be in Arlington. That will require Dallas to take care of business in LA (where there are always a BUNCH of Cowboys fans in attendance) and the Eagles to get another win. That latter thing always inspires mixed emotions for us, because, Eagles, but just imagine the atmosphere if it does happen.

So a lot of preconceived notions about the Cowboys have taken a huge hit, and I could go on. But these five paint the picture. America’s Team is confounding fans and media types alike. It reflects that the team that walked off the field with the dub last weekend is not the same one that started the season.

Now the Cowboys have opened as a seven point dog for the Rams game. But they were clearly underestimated by many, even most, going into last Saturday. Now they just have to show everyone again that this is a team you sleep on at your peril.